LOS ANGELES Mondays 2-0 Sharks loss in Los Angeles featured the return of two players to the active lineup Justin Braun, who hadnt played since Nov. 20 in Dallas, and Frazer McLaren, who was seeing his first NHL action in over a year.
Neither of them will mark the date down as one to remember.
Braun was especially noticeable, and not in a good way. His turnover in the defensive zone led directly to the Kings first goal, even though Niemi should have harmlessly swatted the shot away. Braun appeared to be looking to leave the puck for a teammate in the corner, but instead Los Angeles Ethan Moreau was the only player in the same zip code. He threw it on net and was fortunate when Niemi allowed it to deflect off of his glove for Moreaus first goal in 59 games.
In the third period, Braun was the happiest guy inside Staples Center when an apparent marker by Dustin Brown was questionably waved off. The Kings captain skated the puck into the offensive zone where he spotted Braun, directly in front of him. Brown made a dazzling, highlight-reel move around Braun in the faceoff circle, though, and found Slava Voynov alone in front of the net.
Niemi made a pair of impressive pad stops on Voynov, but Brown swooped in and appeared to knock the third rebound into the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice, but a lengthy video review determined that Voynov actually kicked the puck into the net even though it may have hit the heel of Browns stick as he was swiping at it underneath Voynovs skate.
Kings coach Terry Murray questioned the ruling.
Thats a call, that in my opinion should have gone the other way, because it was called a goal on the ice by the official, he said. The explanation then to me was that it was inconclusive by the video replay judge as to whether it was kicked or a stick. But, actually, it is a goal by that explanation, it has to be conclusive that it is kicked. The video was inconclusive, so it should have been a goal.
Of course, it didnt matter in the end, as the Sharks were unable to solve Quick and lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Oct. 15-17.
Braun was playing for just the second time in the last six games, after it appeared he was just starting to get comfortable, playing five straight from Nov 3 to Nov. 12. He was removed from the lineup at that time in favor of Jason Demers, who was scratched against the Kings.
McLaren was in a much different situation than Braun, as the big winger had just returned from a conditioning assignment from Worcester after offseason hip surgery. He only played because Michal Handzus was out sick, forcing McLellan to make some lineup changes.
He played just 4:35, which isnt surprising, when you consider his role, the fact that it was his season debut, and that the Sharks were trailing for most of the game.
In that time, though, McLaren did take an avoidable penalty. At 16:06 of the first period, Quick froze a loose puck just outside the crease. McLaren came barreling in and gave the Kings goalie a snow shower well after the whistle, earning an unsportsmanlike conduct minor. The Kings failed to capitalize on the ensuing power play.
If anything, McLaren now has a point of reference in which to build upon. Todd McLellan seems like hes willing to let McLaren work his way back to game speed.
The guys trust him, we trust him, said the coach on Saturday. His injury really set him back and hes worked hard since training camp, and actual hockey, on-ice stuff in the last month to six weeks.