What to watch when the Kings face the Penguins

Kings rookie Tanner Pearson skates away after scoring in last Sunday's game. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Kings rookie Tanner Pearson skates away after scoring in last Sunday’s game. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

 

Kings at Penguins, Thursday, 4 p.m., Fox Sports West, AM-790

This figures to be a clash in styles, with the defensive-minded Kings making their only visit of the regular season to Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby and the offensive-oriented Penguins. The Kings (6-1-2) have given up an average of only 1.67 goals per game, tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the NHL’s stingiest defense. The Penguins (5-2-1) have scored an average of 4.12 goals per game, tops in the 30-team league.

The Kings’ six-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Kings have at least one point in eight of nine games this season. The Penguins are coming off an 8-3 victory Tuesday over the New Jersey Devils. Crosby, the NHL’s reigning MVP, leads the Penguins with 14 points, including seven goals. Rookie left wing Tanner Person has a team-leading seven goals for the Kings.

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L.A. Kings back to full strength (kinda, sorta) with recall of David Van der Gulik

The Kings will be at something close to full strength when they face the Penguins on Thursday in Pittsburgh. After playing one man shy of the usual 20-man roster for Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers because of injuries, a suspension and salary-cap issues, the Kings finally got some relief Thursday. They recalled forward David Van der Gulik from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., and he’s expected to be in the lineup Thursday.

The Kings were granted an emergency roster exemption by the NHL after playing with only 19 healthy and eligible players Tuesday, which enabled them to recall Van der Gulik from Manchester. Otherwise, they would be forced to continue playing with only 11 forwards while Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis recover from upper-body injuries, They will have 12 healthy bodies for Thursday’s game.

The Kings also are without suspended defenseman Slava Voynov, who was banned indefinitely by the NHL after his domestic violence arrest Oct. 20.

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L.A. Kings forward Jeff Carter named the NHL’s first star for last week

Jeff Carter scored two goals and added four assists in two games last week, helping to lead the Kings to a 2-0-0 record while they completed the franchise’s first 6-0-0 homestand. Overall, Carter has five goals and seven assists in eight games while helping to lead That 70s Line. Linemates Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli have accounted for 16 of the Kings’ 21 goals (excluding shootout goals).

Carter was the NHL’s No. 1 star, former Kings goalie Ben Scrivens (now with the Edmonton Oilers was the No. 2 star and New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen was the third star for the week ending Oct. 26.

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Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Blue Jackets

Here are the first few paragraphs of Sunday’s game story:

One of these days, the Kings won’t be able to rely on only three players to score in order to win. One of these games, Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli won’t be able to continue to work their magic. Sooner or later, an opposing team will shut them down.

It’s bound to happen eventually, right?

Perhaps, but certainly not during the Kings’ 5-2 victory Sunday afternoon over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Staples Center. Pearson scored two goals in the third period, Toffoli added one goal and three assists and Carter recorded a goal and two assists. Overall, That 70s Line has combined to score 16 of the Kings’ 21 goals in the run of play.

Here are three things about the Kings’ sixth consecutive victory:

First, center Anze Kopitar suffered an unspecified upper-body injury after a collision behind the net in the second period and could not return to the game. How serious it is remains to be seen. Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said: “He’s all right,” Sutter then had the same response when a reporter asked if Kopitar could make the Kings’ five-game trip, which begins Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Second, the Kings’ depth is sure to be put to the test sooner rather than later, especially if Kopitar is sidelined for any length of time. Or if he’s at something less than 100 percent for an extended period. Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis are each sidelined by upper-body injuries and not expected to play soon. Defenseman Slava Voynov continues to serve an indefinite suspension by the NHL after his arrest last week on domestic violence charges. Salary-cap issues mean the Kings can’t recall a player from their AHL team in Manchester N.H.

Third, Dwight King’s second-period goal gave the Kings a fourth player to score this season. Tanner Pearson has seven goals, Jeff Carter has five and Tyler Toffoli four, Kopitar has two and King, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams have won each. That 70s Line, as Pearson, Carter and Toffoli are known, has accounted for 16 of the Kings’ 21 goals in the run of play this season. It’s an amazing run by a talented line, but it’s also potentially damaging since they’re bound to cool off eventually and others simply have to step up and contribute more to the bottom line.

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Anze Kopitar injured in L.A. Kings win over Blue Jackets, but it’s not known how serious it is

The Kings’ latest victory, a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday at Staples Center, was tempered by an unspecified upper-body injury to center Anze Kopitar, who was hurt during a second-period collision behind the net and couldn’t return to the game. Kopitar played 10 minutes, 39 seconds, below his season average of 19:36. It wasn’t clear if he could join the Kings for a five-game trip that begins Tuesday against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

“He’s all right,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Kopitar.

Asked if Kopitar would make the trip, Sutter said, “He’s all right.”

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Blue Jackets Nick Foligno injured in third period of game vs. L.A. Kings (updated)

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno suffered an apparent neck or head injury when he collided with veteran NHL linesman Shane Heyer at 8 minutes, 26 seconds of the third period of Sunday’s game against the Kings at Staples Center. The Kings Jeff Carter gave Foligno a bump as he skated in front of the bench. Heyer jumped onto the top of the dasher boards in an attempt to get out of the way. Foligno’s head then struck Heyer’s backside and perhaps his elbow. A stretcher was moved onto the ice and after Foligno was attended to by medical personnel, he was taken from the rink. Check back for updates.

The Blue Jackets later reported Foligno was alert and speaking with medical personnel. The team also said via Twitter that he would remain at Staples.

Later still, Foligno was said of have suffered a stiff neck and would travel to Columbus with the Blue Jackets.

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Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Sabres

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick blanked the Sabres on Thursday for his team-record 33rd career shutout. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick blanked the Sabres on Thursday for his team-record 33rd career shutout. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Here are the first few paragraphs of Thursday’s game story:

The Kings had just enough Thursday. The defending Stanley Cup champions had 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders on their roster when they faced off against the Buffalo Sabres at Staples Center, and not one healthy or eligible body more.

There simply was no margin for error for the Kings in their first game since defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested by Redondo Beach police on charges of domestic violence and suspended indefinitely with pay by the NHL on Monday morning.

Under normal circumstances, the mere presence of the struggling Sabres would have eased the Kings’ minds and made for an easy night. But an early goal and a record-setting goaltending performance also propelled the Kings to a 2-0 victory, their fifth in a row.

Here are three more things about the Kings’ latest victory:

First, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar scored power-play goals and the Kings clicked on two of three chances with the man-advantage overall. It’s a start for a power play that was 2 for 20 (10 percent) and ranked 25th in the 30-team NHL going into the game. The Kings must be better in their special teams play if they are to defend their Stanley Cup championship. It’s really that simple.

Second, Jonathan Quick stopped 29 shots and recorded his Kings-record 33rd shutout of his career, one more than the mark he shared since Oct. 16 with Rogie Vachon. “It really is nothing new,” Kopitar said of Quick’s play in goal. “He’s just solid back there. We try to help him out as much as we can. When breakdowns do happen, he’s back there. He’s saved our butts a bunch of times already. I’m sure he’s going to continue to do it.”

Third, the Kings welcomed defenseman Jake Muzzin to their lineup after he sat out the first six games of the season because of an upper-body injury. They also played for the first time since defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested on domestic violence charges and suspended Monday by the NHL, which turned out to be less of a distraction for the team than anyone might have imagined. The Kings are strong that way. Nothing seems to trouble them. Let’s see how it plays out long-term.

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Injury updates on Kings injured forwards Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis

Kings forwards Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis continue to be sidelined by upper-body injuries, and there is no timetable for their returns. The Kings did not have a healthy or eligible player on their roster for Thursday’s game against the Sabres. Gaborik sat out for the fourth game and Lewis did not play for the sixth time.

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L.A. Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin makes his season debut

Defenseman Jake Muzzin made his long-delayed and much-anticipated 2014-15 debut Thursday, after sitting out the Kings’ first six games because of an unspecified upper-body injury. Muzzin rejoined the Kings’ top defense pair, skating with usual partner Drew Doughty.

Muzzin’s return and the suspension of Slava Voynov caused a shuffle Thursday in the pairs Kings coach Darryl Sutter used to start the season. Brayden McNabb skated with Doughty in the first six games, but he was with Matt Greene. Alec Martinez and Robyn Regehr also formed a pair.

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It’s Nolan versus Nolan for the first time as Kings face the Sabres

Kings forward Jordan Nolan grew up with the ultimate hockey dad. Ted Nolan served as coach of the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders and the Sabres for a second stint that started last season. But before he reached the NHL, he was the youth coach on one of Jordan’s teams.

The Nolans faced off against each other for the first time as opponents in the NHL on Thursday night at Staples Center, when father Ted and the Sabres played against son Jordan and the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings.

“He’s an NHL coach and he’s also my dad, but he knows a lot about the game, so I’m always trying to impress him,” Jordan Nolan said. “I’m always looking for advice and whenever he’s in the building I push a little harder because I want to make him proud and show him what I got.

“I always seem to work harder when he’s in the building, so hopefully the night goes well.”

Jordan Nolan, 25, has filled checker’s role during his tenure with the Kings, and that’s been especially true this season. He went into Thursday’s game without a goal or an assist in five games, averaging only 9 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time.

He was surrounded by reporters at the Kings’ pregame workout, however, with teammates giving him a hard time about the sudden surge of attention. It’s not been often that he’s been asked to answer questions about himself or his play.

Jordan Nolan didn’t seem to mind, however. He understood this was a special occasion.

“We never thought this would happen,” he said of facing his father. “We always hoped to get another chance. But to do it (against the Sabres), it’s pretty special for him, and for our family to be back in that organization and for myself to be here. It’s pretty remarkable.”

Asked about playing for his dad as a youth, Jordan Nolan said, “I think he favored me a little bit. He played me a lot. It was always nice to play for him. He always got the best out of me and he always pushed me hard.”

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