LOS ANGELES – Raffi Torres is on his way to New York, and the chances he suits up for Game 2 on Thursday at Staples Center are slim to none. A suspension is virtually inevitable, and it could be a lengthy one, as the league requires in-person hearings for bans that last six games or more.
The Sharks, meanwhile, voiced their support for their teammate, whom they think should not only not be suspended, but shouldn’t have been penalized for charging the Kings’ Jarret Stoll at 19:02 of the second period. Stoll had his head down and was hunched over when Torres made contact.
[RELATED: Kings react to Torres hit]
The Sharks’ captain was the most vocal.
“We were kind of shocked today to hear he has to fly to New York for the hearing,” Joe Thornton said. “We didn’t see anything wrong on the play.”
“It almost seems like the player getting hit has no responsibility at all right now. In that case, I think Jarret probably wasn’t expecting to get hit, and it just looked like a clean hit. It seems right now that the responsibility is on the hitter, and not the receiver right now.”
Do you agree with that?
“No,” Thornton said. “The way I was brought up was to keep your head up. Just keep your head up. When I was six years old, I was taught that.”
Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski backed Thornton.
“I was on the ice basically right beside it, and thought it was shoulder-to-shoulder, clean hit,” Couture said. “Obviously, [Stoll] was injured on the play so you hope the other guy is ok, but from what I saw, it was a clean hit.”
“It’s a hard call in our book,” Pavelski said. “We’ve seen Raffi hit guys a lot harder than that before. As a player you feel like you get hit like that, it feels like every game. We were surprised [Stoll] was hurt on it. But, we support the game he played last night. That’s the type of energy he brings to our team, and it’s unfortunate he’s in the position he’s in right now.”
Todd McLellan said on Tuesday night that he, too, did not think Torres should have been whistled for a charging minor. He didn’t have a whole lot to add to that on Wednesday when asked about the situation, referring the media back to his postgame comments.
“We’re just getting ready for Game 2 right now. That’s where it ends for us,” McLellan said. “We’ve got a team to focus on right now. He has our full support, and we have a team to get ready for tomorrow.”
The potential loss of Torres for a game or two, or perhaps even the rest of the series against Los Angeles, comes at a bad time for San Jose, which is already down a pair of forwards in Adam Burish (right hand) and Marty Havlat (lower body). Burish will miss the entire second round, while McLellan all but ruled out Havlat for a Game 2 return despite Havlat skating again on Wednesday.
The Sharks were forced to dress journeyman Bracken Kearns in just his second NHL game of the season for Game 1. Tim Kennedy, who has played in just two games since March 10, is the likeliest candidate to get into the lineup in Torres’ place.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but if [Torres] is to miss some games, we’re going to miss him,” Couture said. “It’s another opportunity for guys to step up the physical play, and try to take over his role.”
McLellan said: “If Raffi can’t play, we’ve got other people that we can put in. We’ll look at our lines, how we can best use those people. … If it does come to that, we feel confident.”
Torres was suspended for 25 games (later reduced to 21) for his high hit of Chicago’s Marian Hossa in the first round last season while playing for Phoenix.
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Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said he didn’t know whether Stoll would play in Game 2. Los Angeles’ third line center did not skate on Wednesday with his team, according to LAKingsInsider.com.
Sutter called the hit by Torres “careless.” The former Sharks coach was asked if he thought it was worthy of a suspension.
“Who are we to even talk about that stuff? I totally leave it to the league and principals to look at those things. ... It’s just frustrating to see that, that’s all.”
Stoll has not missed a game this season. In 48 games, the 30-year-old had seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points and 28 penalty minutes. He has just one assist in seven playoff games.
Brad Richardson is expected to take his place in the Kings’ lineup for Game 2.