Injuries Put Onus on Younger Players

Times Staff Writer

Just call them the Los Angeles Monarchs. And the Manchester Royals. And the Reading Who Knows. The recent rash of injuries burdening the Kings -- currently totaling nine -- has set off a chain reaction of player movement throughout the club's minor league system.

The Kings so far this season have called up eight players from the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, six of whom are now with the big club. The latest to come to Los Angeles is Conner James, who was recalled Wednesday after center Eric Belanger was put on injured reserve because of a groin injury.

But there was one hopeful piece of news. Coach Andy Murray reiterated that forward Sean Avery, who has what is believed to be a shoulder injury, could return to the lineup tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes. Avery was held out of Monday's game.

The exodus of Monarchs to L.A. has forced Hubie McDonough, Manchester's director of hockey operations, to raid the Kings' East Coast Hockey League affiliate, the Reading Royals.

"We've kind of depleted Reading," admitted McDonough, a former player with the Kings and several other NHL teams.

Despite being down to their minimum of 17 skaters and two goalies, the Monarchs, like the Kings, have done well with their new players from Reading, winning two of three last weekend. If the Royals get down to 12 or 13 skaters, McDonough said, "We'll have to go somewhere else in the ECHL" for players.

"We may have to suit up [Monarch assistant coach] Derek Clancey," he joked.

Murray is realistic about his Monarch-laden lineup.

"We have no choice," he said. "We put players in there and expect them to play."

They must be doing something right, because the Kings are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and sit atop the Pacific Division.

"They know our system," Murray said. "We haven't changed how we've played in seven years."

In addition to James, other Monarch refugees on the Kings are Noah Clarke, Matt Ryan, Petr Kanko, Jeff Giuliano and Ryan Flinn (currently injured).

Giuliano, a speedy forward, has bounced between Los Angeles and Manchester this season in three separate call-ups.

"I've played 20 [NHL] games now, and I'm feeling more confident and having fun," he said. The point, he says, is to "try to stay" in the lineup.

Giuliano has played in 11 games since last being recalled.

"We like him," Murray said. "We like his energy and passion for the game."

How long Giuliano stays with the Kings, Murray adds, "is up to him."

"He's one of those obviously feel-good stories that you have as a coach," Murray said. "We've sat here a lot of nights watching video and are just amazed at his work ethic and determination and just hope that it rubs off on a few of our other players....

"The big thing for him is to make sure that he plays at that level all the time, because I don't think Jeff could be an effective player because of his skill set unless he played as hard as he possibly could."

Clarke, a native of La Verne who arrived Monday from Manchester, noted "a lot of familiar faces" from Manchester in the King locker room. "Any time you play an NHL game, it's a chance to prove yourself."

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