Updates on Sturm, Parse, and media darling Rob Scuderi.

That collective sigh coming from El Segundo tomorrow morning will signal the end of the Kings’ brief layover in Southern California. After spending three full days at home, the last two of which included morning practices, it’s off to Pittsburgh and arguably the Kings’ toughest road trip of the season.

The six-games-in-10-days stretch includes games against four of the top seven teams in the Eastern Conference (plus the Islanders and the Blue Jackets).
Continue reading “Updates on Sturm, Parse, and media darling Rob Scuderi.” »

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Notes on Yutaka Fukufuji, Manchester Monarchs.

The most famous Japanese hockey player in Kings history – more accurately, the only Japanese hockey player in NHL history -was in the news again today.

Yutaka Fukufuji made 47 saves but took the loss as host nation Kazakhstan defeated Japan 4-1 in the gold-medal game at the Asian Winter Games. Fukufuji, who appeared in four games for the Kings in 2006-07, was named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament by the Tournament Directorate. The 28-year-old left North America two years ago and currently plays in the Asian League, according to Wikipedia.

A few notes from the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate:

Scoring his third goal in as many games Friday evening, defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov (12-25=37) holds sole possession of first place on the Monarchs with 37 points.
Voynov also leads American Hockey League defenseman with 37 points on the season and is tied for the lead among AHL blueliners with six power-play goals to his credit.

LW Bud Holloway recorded an assist as well as his team-leading 16th goal of the season in Saturday’s 4-0 blanking of the Albany Devils. He has 36 points (16-20=36) in 51 games to place second on the Monarchs in points. Holloway also assisted on the game-winning goal and added a power play goal of his own as insurance in Saturday’s contest against Albany.

Martin Jones stopped all 26 shots he faced to pick up his third shutout of the season against Albany. Jeff Zatkoff missed the game with an undisclosed illness. A night earlier, Jones absorbed a 4-3 shootout loss against the Worcester Sharks.

The Monarchs (31-16-1-4) have a tenuous two-point lead on Portland (30-15-4-1) in the Atlantic Division; Portland has two games in hand. Things could change in a hurry this week: Manchester plays four games in five days, all at home, beginning Wednesday.

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Kings 4, Calgary 3, SO.

Justin Williams’ seventh-round shootout goal capped a big day for the veteran winger and gave the Kings two points at the end of a long night in Calgary.

Williams picked up the primary assist on Rob Scuderi’s goal 39 seconds into the game, and on Dustin Brown’s goal at 6:17 of the first period after a Robyn Regehr goal had tied the game at 1. At 11:02 of the second period Williams scored to restore the lead again, at 3-2, before Alex Tanguay’s second goal of the game brought Calgary back at 3-3 in the third period.

Jonathan Quick made 32 saves through 65 minutes. In the shootout, he allowed a pair of quick goals to Rene Bourque and Alex Tanguay, then was credited with five straight saves (with help from a pair of goal posts).

The net result was the Kings’ fifth win in their last six games, a stretch in which they have gained 11 of a possible 12 points. They have hardly been dominant – two of the wins came via the shootout, and the other three came by 1- or 2-goal margins. The Kings were outshot again in Calgary (35-33) and have only outshot two of six opponents during the streak.

But aside from the obvious benefit of gaining points in the Western Conference standings (and oh, by the way, the Kings leapfrogged the Flames into the top eight tonight), the six-game point streak has served an important purpose. It’s removed the sense of urgency to acquire someone from the outside to pump some life into the offense. Not that the offense is firing on all cylinders, but each win makes the Feb. 28 trade deadline seem like a realistic time frame in which to forge a solution.

A few more notes:
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Staples Center stadium review.

Drew Cleszynski over at StadiumReview.com (which does a pretty comprehensive job reviewing major and minor-league stadiums across North America) tackled a hockey-ready Staples Center this week. You can read the review here: http://stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/staples-center-s58/

Before I insert my thoughts, a disclaimer: I have been to Staples Center once as a fan (and for some reason, eight years later, I don’t remember the Sean Avery-Jarome Iginla fight).

That said, a lot of what was written came as news to me. Some things weren’t – and the fact that the laser show is green suddenly seems strange now. But covering up the retired Lakers jerseys during Kings games? Really?

Anyway, go check it out.

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Off-day notes on Ryan Smyth, Drew Doughty, Ray Emery.

While the rest of his teammates did nothing to pad their stats, Drew Doughty was busy stealing goals from Ryan Smyth on Thursday.

Doughty was credited with his fifth and sixth goals of the season Thursday, and Ryan Smyth had his 20th and 21st goals of the season taken away, after the NHL decided that Smyth did not, in fact, deflect Doughty’s shots into the Edmonton Oilers’ net Wednesday.

Michal Handzus and Anze Kopitar are now getting the secondary assists on Doughty’s goals. Smyth goes from a two-goal night to a zero-point night. He is now mired in a two-game point drought.

Speaking of Doughty, check out this interview Taylor Hall did with TSN after last night’s game, completely downplaying the “rivalry” with Doughty that apparently is not on.

J.P. Barry, the agent for goaltender Ray Emery, said that “three or four” teams are kicking the tires on his client, who is attempting a comeback from major hip surgery that ended his 2009-10 season. The Kings are not one of those teams.

Asked in a text message this morning if the Kings had any interest in Emery, general manager Dean Lombardi replied with a simple “no.”

Although the 28-year-old Emery would seem like a bit of a risk, and the Kings have both of their young goalies under contract through 2012-13, it’s a worthwhile question. When Erik Ersberg bolted for the KHL in October, the Kings were left with no other goalies in the system with prior NHL experience. That’s a trait that NHL teams covet in their “third goalie”; assistant GM Ron Hextall said as much in an October interview. If Jonathan Quick or Jonathan Bernier went down with an injury, the most logical replacement within the organization would be Martin Jones, who turned 21 last month. Jones is having a fine season (17-5-1, 2.17 GAA, .930 save %) with Manchester and recently appeared in the AHL All-Star Game. Perhaps he’s inspired enough confidence this season to earn that emergency call-up without a second guess.

The Ducks (who are in the same position goalie-wise as the Kings) are known to be interested in Emery.

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Kings 3, Edmonton 1.

The Kings found a way to get a win, and a point in a fourth straight game, against an Edmonton Oilers team that left no excuse for a letdown.

Ryan Smyth was credited with two goals after replays showed enough evidence that his wooden stick got a piece of two deep Drew Doughty blasts. Jack Johnson had the other goal, and Jonathan Quick turned in an acrobatic (if not technically perfect) 32-save effort.

Whether this was a notable turning point for the offensively challenged Kings, or merely a solid road win against a bad team, will be revealed over the course of the nine straight road games that await.

For now, it’s worth noting that the Kings had to come from behind after a Magnus Paajarvi goal gave the Oilers (15-27-8) a 1-0 lead at 3:21 of the second period. They did so on the strength of a previously weak power play.

Smyth answered with his first goal 24 seconds later – five seconds into a power play – and scored again on the Kings’ next power play at 9:47, sliding across Nikolai Khabibulin’s field of vision as Doughty released a shot.

The Kings finished 2-for-4 on the power play after going 1-for-28 with the man advantage in their previous 10 games. Doughty finished with two primary assists and Johnson had two secondary assists, along with his deep blast past Khabibulin at 14:52 of the third period.

Edmonton went without a power-play goal in five chances against the Kings, falling to 3-for-26 on the man advantage in its last six games. Before that, the Oilers did not score a power-play goal in 11 games. It was the type of game the Kings were hoping for, if not expecting.

A few more notes:
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Minnesota 1, Kings 0, SO.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s second-round shootout goal against Jonathan Bernier was the only puck that crossed the goal line in 65-plus minutes of hockey in St. Paul.

Bouchard’s backhand, five-hole beauty came immediately after Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom kicked up his leg — from his belly — to stop Jack Johnson’s shot on the other end. Backstrom stopped Dustin Brown in the third round to seal the win and send the Kings (27-22-2) to their first shootout loss all season.

Bernier was hardly to blame. He got some help from a goal frame en route to a 25-save performance, but made some timely saves and was able to swallow up the big rebounds when he needed to.

That was the encouraging part, along with another typical stingy defensive performance by the Kings, who have a point in four straight games. The Kings will play four back-to-back games this month (beginning tomorrow night in Edmonton), which means Bernier figures to be called upon often.

Continue reading “Minnesota 1, Kings 0, SO.” »

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A quirky honor for Jonathan Quick.

The NHL’s marketing department chooses Three Stars for the entire league, every week. It amounts to a metaphorical pat on the back for the players, whose performances typically have meaningful implications for their respective teams.

Because of the all-star break, last week consisted of three days’ worth of actual games, 23 games total. A small sample size didn’t stop the NHL from handing out three stars, however, and Jonathan Quick is number two. From the league’s press release:

Quick registered a pair of victories heading into the All-Star break, helping the Kings (27-22-1) gain valuable points and momentum in the tight race for playoff berths in the Western Conference. Quick began the week by making 34 saves in a 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins Jan. 24, collecting his career-high fifth shutout of the season. He then turned aside 22 of 24 shots through overtime and stopped all four shootout attempts as the Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 Jan. 26. Quick improved to 5-0 in shootouts this season, stopping 87% of attempts. The 25-year-old Milford, Conn. native ranks third among NHL goaltenders in goals-against average (2.15) and tied for third in shutouts (five).

Quick’s reward for his exploits is a day off. Jonathan Bernier is expected to make his first career start against the Minnesota Wild tonight in St. Paul (expected temperature: -1F). The Kings are going to Edmonton (expected temperature: 27F) on Wednesday, where Quick figures to get the start. Quick has a 4-0-2 record with a 1.77 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in six career games against the Oilers.

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