Kings center Jarret Stoll is greeted by teamates as he returns to the bench… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
So, Terry Murray, looking at center Jarret Stoll's numbers this season….
"What numbers?" the Kings' coach said before hearing the entire question.
Cruel, maybe, but accurate.
Stoll, a 20-goal scorer last season, had one goal this season — and none in 17 games — before the Kings faced the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night at Staples Center. Overall he had six points in 22 games.
The Kings have gotten solid contributions from their top two lines, solving a longtime problem, but to compete with the NHL's top teams they'll need more than they've gotten from their third and fourth lines. Stoll has the best credentials in that group and the biggest responsibility.
Clearly, his job changed when the Kings acquired Mike Richards and added scoring depth behind Anze Kopitar. Stoll's ice time is down from an average of 17 minutes nine seconds per game to 16:11 and he was bumped down from the second line to the third.
"I try not to think of it that way. I want to still chip in when I can," Stoll said after the Kings' morning skate in El Segundo. "I want to have some numbers and stuff."
His numbers have been dismal, even though the third line should be an ideal spot for him against non-scoring lines.
"I'm not just putting Stoll's line into the role of being the line against their top opposition. So the opportunity to play the game has not changed. His role has not changed," Murray said.
"We need everybody to be responsible on the checking side of it. We need him to go get the puck when we don't have it and get back on the attack and create in the offensive zone. And numbers just have not fallen in place for us from that line, and that's the balance we're looking for and the depth we need to get in our hockey club in order to become a good hockey club on a consistent basis."
Stoll said he couldn't pinpoint reasons for his futility.
"It's a struggle to score goals. Our line in general. Probably our bottom six in general," said Stoll, who recently has been flanked by Kyle Clifford on the left and Trent Hunter on the right.
"You haven't seen much from our bottom six, for sure. It's just creating stuff. There's some games we've had some chances. Some games there's not much there, there's a lot of neutral-zone back-and-forth. It's just finding that chemistry amongst your linemates."
Whoever those linemates may be.
"A lot of different ones. It's tough that way sometimes," Stoll said. "But you've got to find a way. You've got to communicate, talk with your guys — whoever you have in that night. Try to make things happen and know where they are.
"So far it hasn't worked, but you've got to stay positive and keep pushing and keep trying to win games. If you win games, that's the bottom line."
Murray said it's up to Stoll to make his wingers better.
"We want the puck in your hands. We want it on your stick on breakouts. You're the key guy in the middle of the ice to be available to create something on the attack, and that's just what we need to get from that line," Murray said.
"I think there's size. There's speed. Stollie's a shooter. Hunter's a shooter. We've got Cliffy on the left side, who is a puck-pursuit guy. He can recover pucks in the offensive zone and so he's really good with net presence whenever we do get possession of the puck and Stoll is a shooter. We just need to get some results out of them.
"We need a better shot mentality as a group. We've always talked about that and that still is a need that we talk about often in our meetings. If we just start with that and have people at the net, I think good things will start to happen with them."