For a player who has gone from minor leaguer to NHL top-liner in the midst of one of the tightest playoff races in league history, Kings forward Oscar Moller looked relaxed after practice Wednesday in El Segundo.
But the 22-year-old Swede understands that he is facing one of the toughest challenges of his career — a stretch of nine games that will not only determine whether the Kings make the postseason, but also affect his hopes of becoming an everyday player for the club.
"It's a very important time of year for this hockey club," said Moller, who was recalled from Ontario of the ECHL on an emergency basis to take over for injured Justin Williams at right wing. "It's a great opportunity to prove myself to management here and move forward from there."
Moller, 5 feet 10 and 189 pounds, is known for his quick hands and speed. He will play alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner now that Williams is expected to be out for three to four weeks after dislocating a shoulder Monday in a 2-1 shootout win over Calgary.
"This is a great opportunity for Oscar, and I think he's very aware of it," Coach Terry Murray said. "You've got to play with a playoff attitude, and he's going to be on a top line with lots of responsibilities to play five on five and also get on the special teams."
Moller, who has had stints with the Kings in each of the last three seasons, has 23 goals and 50 points in 59 games with Manchester of the American Hockey League. "He's worked very hard on his game in Manchester, and he's gotten better," Murray said. "You can see it in his jump, his strength on the puck, awareness on the ice.
"His time is now."
Stanley Cup bound?
After years of regular-season dominance followed by postseason disappointment, are the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks legitimate Stanley Cup material?
"They seem to be coming to their time right now," Murray said. "They've got a lot of experience, world-class players, a top-line, good back end. … It's their opportunity to put it all together."
The Kings would inch closer to the division lead with a win Thursday. But the Sharks have Dany Heatley back. The high-scoring forward served a two-game suspension for elbowing Dallas' Steve Ott in the head.
Don't expect to see Murray on Twitter anytime soon. He was caught off guard Tuesday when told that Moller had tweeted he was on his way to L.A. "I have no desire to keep up with those young guys," Murray said. … General Manager Dean Lombardi was named to the U.S. men's national team advisory group that will select staff and players for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship, which begins April 29 in Slovakia.