The NHL's effort to fast-track a proposed rule that would punish blindside hits to the head was welcomed Wednesday by Kings Coach Terry Murray, who has seen many similar ideas stall over the years, and by Kings center Jeff Halpern, who could influence the final form of the rule as a member of the NHL's competition committee.
General managers last week recommended banning hits that involve "a lateral, back-pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted." They urged that such hits result in a major or minor penalty and be subjected to review for supplementary discipline.
Their recommendations normally are discussed by the competition committee and sent to the Board of Governors for approval, but the memory of Matt Cooke's concussion-inducing hit on Marc Savard on March 7 has accelerated the process. Colin Campbell, the NHL's vice president of hockey operations, said Wednesday the league wants to establish the rule as soon as possible, though it would hold off on imposing penalties until next season.
For now the sanction would be subjecting the play to review for a possible suspension of the player who made the hit.
"I think both sides are anxious to make amends or to change the rules to protect against that kind of hit," Halpern said after the Kings' practice at El Segundo.
"They're moving. I would hope that something could be accomplished soon, within a week. Maybe sooner.… I think the players are pretty supportive of that. I think it's a step in the right direction."
Campbell said on NHL Live radio that the league is preparing a DVD package for each team, the NHL Players' Assn. and on-ice officials to illustrate which hits would fall under the new rule. "Key people need to understand what we propose," he said.
Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said the governors will have to approve the rule unanimously because the change would occur during the season.
Murray said he hoped the rule would take effect immediately and predicted that players would adapt quickly.
"This is an issue that has been around for quite a few years," he said. "I can remember going to the draft several years ago and watching these same clips from the league office in our coaches' meetings and asking for our opinion on it.
"It's a reckless, careless play. You know as a hockey player when you're coming up behind somebody and he's not aware of you coming at him full speed that you're putting a player at risk here. You know there's a possibility of an injury and I think the players themselves have to take a good look at the style of play that they're showing in those kinds of situations."
Murray also said Washington superstar Alexander Ovechkin's shove to the back of Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell on Sunday that resulted in Campbell breaking his clavicle and a rib was "an unnecessary play." The Blackhawks, who will face the Kings Thursday night at Staples Center, have lost the versatile defenseman for seven to eight weeks.
"I think that play, when I watch Campbell he's crossing the goal line," Murray said. "He still has his back foot touching the goal line and I think there's still an opportunity for a player to follow through, to get body positioning, especially a right-hand shot, to take a player out. But when you follow through with some kind of force high in the body, you know darned well bad things are going to happen. And it did."
The Kings will have a rugged fourth line Thursday night with Raitis Ivanans and Richard Clune on either side of center Jarret Stoll.
Clune nearly made the roster out of training camp but suffered a groin injury and went to Manchester of the American Hockey League to play himself back into shape. In nine games with the Kings he has two points and 24 penalty minutes — two more points than Ivanans has earned in 56 games, though Ivanans has a team-leading 117 penalty minutes.
Murray described the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Clune as "an energy player that can bring intensity to the game, change the momentum of a game." And change the odds if a teammate gets pushed around.
"He's there as a player that gives us a bit of an identity in that area, with Raitis, to give us protection and help our skill players feel comfortable," Murray said.
"Coming in with Chicago, they're going to have three or four guys that are going to be heavy and hard players. You just have to make sure that everybody's comfortable playing the game. You're playing at home. You don't want to see your team being pushed around in any areas. The lineup changes according to the opponent."
Stoll said he intends to keep things simple with his linemates.
"Playing with these guys you create some energy and be physical. Get in on the forecheck and try and get pucks to the net," he said. "That's probably our job. Just try and be as consistent as possible and play the game in their zone."
Kings radio analyst Daryl Evans, who ran his first marathon nine years ago at age 40, said he's considering running the L.A. Marathon on Sunday.
"I haven't done one for a couple of years because of the schedule, but I've trained a little bit this month," said Evans, who has run three L.A. marathons with a best time of 4 hours 24 minutes in his debut. "I'll make my decision Friday.… The body will be sore for a little while after but I'll give it a shot."
Defenseman Peter Harrold returned to practice Wednesday after being away for a day to be with his wife for the birth of their son early Tuesday.
"Everything worked out nicely," he said. "She battled through it."