Finals: You make the call

The Stanley Cup Finals — you might remember them — start tomorrow in Detroit, so why not do a poll to see what everyone thinks will happen? I was hoping for a Chicago-Pittsburgh final, even though I predicted Detroit-Pittsburgh — really, I did, it’s somewhere in one of last month’s Hockey News editions — and now I’ll go with Penguins in 6. All things being equal, I’d go with Detroit, but the Wings are banged up and I like the Pens’ chances of stealing at least one of these weekend games in Detroit. What do you think?


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To Boyle, or not to Boyle?

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Given the lack of free agents on the Kings’ roster this summer, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of debate about which players should return, particularly among the restricted free agents. Jack Johnson will be back, unless his dad starts negotiating with a team in Outer Mongolia, and Teddy Purcell likely has done enough to at least earn a short-term contract.

Then there’s Brian Boyle. Perhaps no borderline NHL player in recent Kings history has generated more debate than Boyle. That’s because everyone seems to agree that Boyle has the physical attributes needed to be a NHL center. The questions seem to be whether Boyle will ever realize that potential and whether coaches are putting him in the correct positions needed to reach that potential.

So what would you do? The Kings have three established NHL centers in Kopitar, Handzus and Stoll. Then there’s a guy such as Trevor Lewis, waiting patiently for a spot. And there’s Andrei Loktionov, coming off a strong junior season. Do you give Boyle a shot, or move on?


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Playoffs are an “expectation”?

Dean Lombardi’s “letter” to fans this morning including an interesting quote about the Kings making the playoffs next season:

“I want to assure you that all of our end-of-season discussions with our players involved a clear message and understanding that next season carries an expectation that we will be playing playoff hockey.”

I wonder — and will ask, at the next extensive interview — how Lombardi reconciles that quote with the answers he gave on April 11 about making the playoffs…

Question: So let’s say we’re sitting here a year from now. You didn’t find that `piece’ you were looking for and the Kings have finished, let’s say, 10th in the West. What would that mean to you?

LOMBARDI: “I would look at it as, `Did we get better?’ and `Are we positioned to get better?”’

Question: So you don’t think this team absolutely has to make the playoffs next year?

LOMBARDI: “What is it, `You have to make the playoffs next year to save your job’? Well, if that’s the way you’re going to operate, how many teams have lost their way, and lost their plan?”

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Loktionov, Windsor still alive

For those with the NHL network on their satellite/cable networks, the Memorial Cup semifinal between Windsor — with Kings prospect Andrei Loktionov — and Drummondville will be televised today at 4 p.m. Pacific time. The Spitfires advanced to the semfinals based on Thursday’s 6-4 victory over Rimouski, a game in which Loktionov had three assists.

The winner of today’s game will face Kelowna for the championship on Sunday afternoon.

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Kings sign King

Not a typo… The Kings have signed 2007 draftee Dwight King to a standard three-year, entry-level contract. Here’s the release from the Kings…

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LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract with forward Dwight King, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today. King was the club’s fourth-round selection (109th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Per club policy, terms of the agreement were not announced.

King, 19, recently finished the 2008-09 season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he recorded 60 points (25-35=60), 51 penalty minutes and plus-9 rating in 64 regular season games. Of his 25 goals, four were scored short-handed (ranked first on the team) and eight were scored on the power-play (ranked second on the team). His 60 points ranked third on the club. The Hurricanes advanced to the 2009 WHL playoffs and in 11 postseason games, King, a 6-3, 218-pound native of Meadowlake, Saskatchewan, totaled eight points (1-7=8; ranked second on the team), two penalty minutes and plus-1 rating, with his seven playoff assists pacing the team.

King, the brother of St. Louis Blues prospect D.J. King, recorded 69 points (34-35=69), 56 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 72 regular season games with Lethbridge in 2007-08 while finishing third on the team in scoring. In addition, he tied for the team lead with 34 goals and 12 power-play goals while earning the title as Hurricanes Best Defensive Forward. During the 2008 WHL playoffs, King totaled 14 points (8-6=14), 12 penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating in 19 postseason games.

King, who won a gold medal as a member of Canada’s 2006 U-18 Junior World Cup team, recorded 44 points (12-32=44), 39 penalty minutes and a plus-8 rating in 68 regular season games with Lethbridge in 2006-07. The Hurricanes first-round selection in the 2004 WHL Bantam Draft was also a member of Team Western at the 2006 and 2005 World U-17 Hockey Challenges.

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Strength coaching change

Following up on yesterday’s confirmation that Chad Smith won’t return as the Kings’ strength and conditioning coach, here is Dean Lombardi’s reaction to the move (with parenthetical inclusions to turn a text message into English):

“(We’re) looking to put in place (a) more detailed format. We need to have (a) process where all the players on our reserve list (not just NHL team) are monitored. It is (a) huge job and requires more definitive structure. We have been working on putting this in place since (the) season ended.”

Lombardi, by the way, will be heading to Toronto for the draft combine, which officially starts Monday in Toronto and runs through Friday. A total of 104 prospects have been invited to the combine.

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