LA Kings (11-12-4) vs. St. Louis Blues (12-12-3)
7:30 PST, Fox Sports West
Ted Purcell, Brian Boyle, and Matt Moulson were all expected to have a big impact on the Los Angeles Kings this season. All three had shown something during limited time last season and all were assumed to have a guaranteed spot with the big club this season. So far, that hasn't worked out. Whether because of talent or because they were the only players that could be sent down, the eldest three prospects in LA's system have found themselves right where the didn't want to be: back in Manchester. Ted Purcell has found his way back to the big club thanks to injuries, but it remains to be seen how much impact he will have. For his sake, and for the Kings', it better be huge.
Before the season started, most people (myself included) had Ted Purcell slotted in Mike Cammalleri's old slot on the 2nd line. Purcell had a great season in the AHL last year and won the Red Garret Award as the rookie of the year. Purcell, a great playmaker at even strength, was especially effective on the power play, accumulating 13 power play goals when up a man. Purcell did not fare so well in a 10-game call up to the NHL, however, scoring only 3 points while playing mostly with Michal Handzus. Still, it was a great first professional season for Purcell and he was named the Kings' 5th best prospect by Hockey's Future to start the season, ahead of other right wing prospects like Oscar Moller and Wayne Simmonds.
And yet it was Oscar Moller and Wayne Simmonds who beat out Purcell for a spot with the Kings in training camp by doing the things Purcell seemingly refuses to do: digging the puck out of the corners, hitting the front of the net, and playing responsible defense. Purcell's problem is that he plays a game similar to Alexander Frolov (a winger that has the puck on his stick most of the time), but he's not good enough to play that game in the NHL. If he's to stick in the big leagues, it's going to have to be because he is contributing without the puck. Purcell seems to have made a commitment to the weaker areas of his game this season in Manchester and has seen his scoring dip as a result. He will probably be expected to show marked improvement in his play without the puck in his stint with the Kings, otherwise it could be a short one. Purcell needs to have a good call-up, both for his sake and for the Kings'.
LA is facing a real problem if Ted Purcell doesn't stick with the big club. Purcell, Boyle, and Moulson are all older than Dustin Brown; if they aren't going to make the NHL this season, then when? It remains to be seen if those three are truly not good enough to make the Kings' roster this season or if they were sent down because they had 2-way contracts and guys like John Zeiler, Kyle Calder, and Derek Armstrong do not, but the fact remains that the Manchester Trio have not forced their way onto the roster like Moller and Simmonds have. The Kings are loaded with prospects, yes, but not so many that they can afford to have a whole batch of prospects fail to pan out. The only people that have succeeded from that 22-24 age range so far have been Dustin Brown and Tim Gleason (who has since been traded). That's why Purcell needs to force his way onto the roster this call-up. That's why the Kings better pray he does.
It's unclear where Ted Purcell is going to play this call-up because we don't know whether Derek Armstrong (hit to the head), Brad Richardson (cut himself with his own skate... sigh) and Raitis Ivanans (getting his ass kicked by the flu) will be able to play tonight. If both Armstrong and Richardson can't play then I imagine either Patrick O'Sullivan or Oscar Moller will play center tonight. Hopefully one of them can play so the Kings can re-form the Frolov-Stoll-Handzus line that has been dynamite in 5-on-5 play. What would I like to see? Assuming Calder is still anchored to Kopitar's line, I'd like to see a O'Sullivan-Moller-Purcell line. Sure, it looks kind of weird to have 4 right wingers on a line, but O'Sullivan and Moller are nimble enough to make it work. Plus, I think Purcell and O'Sullivan's games fit each other very well. Of course, Purcell is probably going to play with Zeiler and Ivanans and then get benched when he sneezes during Murray's locker room speech, so who the hell knows.
Prediction: Kings win, 5-3. Goals by Purcell, Kopitar (x2), Brown and Moller.