Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, everyone… Unless something big happens tomorrow, we’ll be back at it Friday looking ahead to Saturday’s game.
Oscar Moller had an assist in Sweden’s 5-0 victory over Russia today but left the game in the second period, apparently with an upper-body injury. There hasn’t been any official word — at least that I’ve heard — of the severity.
Sweden moved to 4-0 with the victory, and the winner of today’s USA-Canada game, which starts momentarily, also will be 4-0. Sweden and the USA-Canada will advance directly to the semifinals, to face the winners of the two quarterfinal games.
Here’s a story from TSN this afternoon about Thomas Hickey, Kings defensive prospect and Team Canada captain:
Probably not, but wouldn’t it be fun? With a nod toward tomorrow’s Winter Classic game between Chicago and Detroit at Wrigley Field, the Kings’ website looked back at the NHL’s first-ever outdoor game, the exhibition game played between the Kings and New York Rangers at Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace in 1991. There are some great anecdotes from Luc Robitaille and Jim Fox.
Kings no stranger to outdoor game
(photo courtesy of Kings website)
Also in the story, Fox and Kyle Calder give their ideas for a Winter Classic in L.A.:
“Maybe we could play one downtown at the Coliseum,” Calder said. “It could be against the Ducks, with a beach theme.”
“I think the ultimate Winter Classic game would be at the pier in Manhattan Beach,” Fox said. “That’s my goal for 2016. If we can get 100,000 people there for a beach volleyball tournament, we could get 100,000 people there for a hockey game.”
Some of you must have gone to that game in 1991, right? Any memories?
Just getting to this now, from a couple days ago…
It would be a massive understatement to say that Michal Handzus had a rough 2007-08 season. In the first season of a four-year, $16-million contract, Handzus struggled in his first year back from ACL surgery, totaled 21 points in 82 games and occasionally got demoted to fourth-line duty. Handzus has had a major turnaround this season. He had seven goals and 10 assists in 37 games and is a playing a valuable role as the center on the third line with Alexander Frolov and Wayne Simmonds. Terry Murray, who also worked with Handzus in Philadelphia, had this to say about Handzus’ play this season…
MURRAY: “I really like our veteran guys. That’s not really to pat one guy on the back, but the veteran guys have been tremendous on this team. Because I have been in scenarios where it’s been a divided locker room with those veterans and those young guys, and this has been pretty special here with the players like Michal Handzus coming here and going through a tough time last year, recovering from a couple of bad seasons and just not being on top of his game. But this is the player that I know. Very dependable, a guy you can rely on in key situations and who comes through for you, time and time again.
“Off the ice, and in the locker room, we’re seeing and hearing a much more involved player. He’s verbally saying the right things and encouraging players. He’s been a great mentor for Simmonds. He spends a lot of time talking with him during the games, and you can see that in Simmonds’ development. It’s been accelerated because of Handzus’ performance. He’s just a great person, a great leader and an important part of this hockey club.”
Here’s how the Jason LaBarbera trade story played up in Vancouver… With the Canucks facing back-to-back games Thursday and Friday, LaBarbera will get a start soon.
“I’m ecstatic,” LaBarbera told the Vancouver Sun. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, being from the Lower Mainland. It’s huge for me. It’s going to be a lot different than playing in L.A., that’s for sure.”
Here’s the story I filed for the paper regarding the LaBarbera-to-Vancouver trade…
By Rich Hammond
The Kings’ long quest to find stable goaltending took another twist Tuesday when they traded Jason LaBarbera to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2009 seventh-round draft pick.
LaBarbera, who had a 5-8 record, a 2.83 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage, fell behind Erik Ersberg (8-5, 2.38, .903) on the goalie depth chart and became expendable with the recent emergence of rookie Jonathan Quick (2-3, 1.72, .937).
Quick, 22, who has recorded two shutouts this season, and Ersberg, 26, are considered better long-term options than LaBarbera, 28, who will be a free agent next summer.
LaBarbera’s Kings career was filled with highs and lows. It started in the summer of 2005 when the Kings signed LaBarbera, who had been one of the top goalies in the AHL.
After a surprisingly strong training camp, LaBarbera split time with Mathieu Garon, but after some inconsistency, LaBarbera spent the 2006-07 season back in the AHL.
LaBarbera spent this summer working with a trainer and nutritionist, reported to camp in the best shape of his career and was designatd, by coach Terry Murray, as the Kings’ No. 1 goalie, but after 10 games, he was essentially supplanted by Ersberg.
The move to Vancouver might be welcomed by LaBarbera, who is a native of British Columbia. With No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo out with a groin strain, the Canucks have been going with Curtis Sanford and rookie Cory Schneider in goal.
Quick is expected to start when the Kings host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Also on Tuesday, the Kings assigned rookie forward Trevor Lewis to Manchester. In the next coupe days, they’re expected to recall forward Brian Boyle from Manchester.
Teddy Purcell’s time with the Kings this season has been an up-and-down experience, and now it seems to be trending upward again. Terry Murray said today that he expects Purcell to play right wing on the first line Saturday against Philadelphia. That’s where Purcell started out, after the Kings recalled him from Manchester in the middle of the month, but then Purcell got dropped down to fourth-line center duty. Purcell’s last two games, in particular, have been strong, and now he will get another chance up top. Purcell has one goal and four assists in 10 games this season. Here’s what Murray said today…
MURRAY: “I liked what I saw in Purcell. We all know he’s got skill and good vision, and we saw that on the power play he has good hands. But we also see some of that dig-in that is required to play in the NHL. He’s doing that on a regular basis. We did talk about it. We talked about how this is how he needs to play in the NHL, not just with the L.A. Kings. (He was told,) `This is how you need to play in this league. You have to make the decision, if you’re willing to pay the price to have a future in the league.’ He’s learning that part of it. He’s much more involved. He’s getting pucks in and going back and trying to forecheck. He’s going to the net and looking for good things to happen. I’d like to move him up on that (first) line.”
As you already know, Trevor Lewis got assigned to Manchester today. Lewis had one goal, two assists and an even rating in six games with the Kings. He started as the fourth-line center, then moved up to first-line right-wing duties. In Monday’s game, Lewis took only three shifts in the third period and didn’t skate in the final 10 minutes. Here’s what Terry Murray said today about Lewis…
MURRAY: “He had a good look. He gave us some energy at the start, he looked good and we liked the way things were coming along since the training camp. The opportunity we gave him on the top line was a fair look for him. There were a lot of positive things in his game, but as we move on, we’re getting players back and we need to make some decisions. We felt that as we saw the last couple games, his game was tapering off a little bit. Young players start to get exposed in certain areas and at certain times, so now he can go back and work on some things.”