Split-squad scores: Kings 4-3, Coyotes 3-5

The Kings and Arizona Coyotes split a pair of games Monday, their exhibition openers. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-3 at Staples Center and the Coyotes beat the Kings 5-3 at Glendale, Ariz.

Lucas Lessio, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson (power play) and Brett Sutter scored for the Kings in L.A., and Jeff Zatkoff made 18 saves in two periods. Teddy Purcell (power play), Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford (power play) scored for the Kings in Arizona, and Peter Budaj made 10 saves in 40 minutes.

The Kings continue exhibition play Wednesday against the Ducks at Staples.

 

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Kings homecoming (part 2): Jeff Zatkoff says he’s where he wants to be after free-agent signing

Jeff Zatkoff knew what he was getting into when he signed a two-season, $1.8-million contract last summer. He understood the job description called for long, thankless hours of hard work during the day followed by extended periods of inactivity during the evening.

Zatkoff took the plunge anyway.

The opportunity was too good to pass up.

Plus, he had a connection to the Kings, who drafted him in the third round (74th overall) in 2006. Goaltending coach Bill Ranford tutored him, mentored him, but couldn’t offer him a single appearance in an NHL game before losing him to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent in 2012.

Zatkoff returned to the Kings as a free agent July 1, after a four-year absence.

“I had interest from other teams, but at the end of the day, this is where I wanted to be,” said Zatkoff, who was 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Zatkoff, 29, isn’t likely to play very many games with the Kings this season. If all goes as planned, Jonathan Quick will play and Zatkoff will sit on the bench. Zatkoff also will work his tail off after practice in case something goes awry with his more accomplished and heralded teammate.

Quick’s backups normally play only a handful of games each season. Jhonas Enroth played 16 games last season and Martin Jones appeared in 15 in 2014-15. Enroth departed as a free agent during the off-season; Jones was traded in the summer of ’15.

“I think you know the situation when you come to L.A.,” Zatkoff said. “You want to play as many games as you can, but at the same time you’re playing behind arguably the best goalie in the league, one of them, anyway. That’s part of the job here.

“You’ve got be able to go in and play when you’re called upon, whether it’s 15 games, 10 games, 20 games, just depending on the circumstance, and be able to provide that leadership in the locker room and be a good teammate and be ready to go when your number is called, and win.

“I know my role here. I just want to do my job.”

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Kings winger Marian Gaborik injured while playing with Team Europe in World Cup

Kings winger Marian Gaborik suffered an unspecified lower-body injury while playing Sunday in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto “that we’re still managing,” Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger told reporters Monday. Krueger couldn’t confirm a diagnosis or say when Gaborik would be fit to play again.

Team Europe advanced to the best-of-3 final against Canada with a 3-2 overtime victory in the semifinals Sunday over Sweden. Gaborik was injured blocking a shot during the second period but did continue to play in the third. He departed Monday’s practice on crutches, according to reports.

Krueger wouldn’t say whether Gaborik left with his leg in a cast.

Gaborik has two goals and a team-leading 13 shots on goal in four games while playing on a line for Europe with Kings teammate Anze Kopitar. He scored only 12 goals and 22 points in 54 games last season with the Kings, suffering from a lingering knee injury that forced him to the injured reserve list.

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Kings homecoming (part 1): Teddy Purcell battles for ice time in familiar surroundings

Teddy Purcell was here once before. It was six years ago, but it seems as if it was only yesterday. The Kings’ training facility is the same now, but different. Many of the faces are familiar, making his homecoming all the more comfortable, the transition to a new team far easier.

“The weight room has a retractable roof now,” Purcell said Saturday after the first of two practice sessions at the Kings’ workout facility. “It’s almost funny when you hear about it, especially when you come from Edmonton and your car doesn’t start when you leave the rink.”

No sub-zero temperatures are in the forecast in Southern California, where summer seems to go on and on. Old friends such as Trevor Lewis and Alec Martinez helped get Purcell settled and re-acclimated to the land of year-round sun and perpetually warm weather.

“I bought a beach cruiser,” Purcell said, smiling.

The Kings signed the 30-year-old Purcell to a one-season, $1.6-million contract after the departure July 1 of Milan Lucic, who signed a seven-year, $42-million contract with the Edmonton Oilers during the off-season, a deal the Kings could not afford in match in salary or duration.

Purcell began his NHL career with the Kings in 2007-08, signing as a free agent after one standout season at the University of Maine, and spent parts of three seasons with them before they traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010. He’s also played with Edmonton and Florida.

Now he’s back, trying to secure a place on the Kings’ third or fourth lines while providing some much-needed scoring depth for a team that’s sound on its first two lines in that department, but seriously lacking in firepower beyond its top six forwards.

Purcell scored 14 goals and 43 points in 76 games last season, playing 15 of his final 76 games with the Panthers after a trade from the Oilers. Overall, he has 101 goals and 305 points in 559 games in nine seasons in the NHL.

Purcell isn’t sure where Kings coach Darryl Sutter might play him.

“I think it’s too early,” Purcell said. “That kind of stuff will take care of itself. (But) anybody would be lying if they said they didn’t like to play with guys like (Jeff) Carter and (Anze) Kopitar. If I take care of my stuff, it’ll work out and we’ll go from there.”

Purcell said he wants to make a good first impression during his second stint with the Kings.

“The first thing for me is I’ve got to gain the coaches’ trust,” he said. “I’ve got to show I’m responsible away from the puck. It kind of sounds selfish, but if you do well and gain their trust, they’re going to slot you into positions to succeed.

“We talked about some stuff in the the summer, but it changes almost daily at training camp. When I was younger, you kind of analyze it and beat yourself to death and not sleep over it, but as an older guy you just kind of go out and take care of your own business.”

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Kings vs. Kings lineups (spoiler: not many veterans are playing)

The Kings vs. Kings scrimmage Sunday afternoon in Ontario is short on veterans. Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin are with Canada in the World Cup in Toronto. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik are with Team Europe. Game 1 of the final round between Canada and Europe is Tuesday, so they won’t be back for exhibitions Monday against Arizona or Wednesday against the Ducks.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick (Team USA) also isn’t playing Sunday

Among the top prospects, the Kings’ white team features forwards Adrian Kempe and NIc Dowd. The black team features forwards Andy Andreoff and Michael Latta.

Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Jeff Zatkoff are scratched.

 

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Kings training camp questions (part 5)

5. How will the World Cup impact training camp?

Quick and general manager Dean Lombardi will be back sooner than anticipated. Team USA was eliminated from the World Cup with a loss to Canada on Tuesday in Toronto and played a meaningless round-robin finale Thursday against the Czech Republic. Doughty and Muzzin might be away for a while longer. Canada is expected to reach the championship round. Gaborik and Kopitar advanced with Team Europe and there’s no telling how far they might go after finding their game after a lackluster series of preliminary games. It’s uncertain how their absences might impact the Kings’ training camp. Avoiding injuries is on everyone’s mind during the World Cup and the Kings cannot afford a serious (or even a minor one) one to any of their top players, especially Doughty and Kopitar.

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Kings training camp questions (part 4)

4. Who is Jonathan Quick’s backup in goal this season?

Say goodbye to Jhonas Enroth and hello to Jeff Zatkoff. He is a 29-year-old who signed a two-season, $1.8-million contract during the off-season, after going 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent most of the season playing for the Penguins’ American Hockey League team and was in need of a job at season’s end. He will serve as the third backup in as many seasons for Quick, following Enroth last season and Martin Jones in 2014-15. It’s a lonely job, but somebody’s got to do it. Enroth played only 16 games last season, going 7-5-1, and Jones appeared in only 15 in ’14-15, going 4-5-2. Enroth departed as a free agent during the off-season, signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Kings training camp questions (part 3)

3. How will a change in captaincy impact the Kings?

Dustin Brown was stripped of the Kings’ captaincy during the off-season, and he wasn’t happy about it. Kopitar was given the “C” in a leadership shakeup that was directed by team management rather than the players. Brown’s production slipped steadily in recent seasons, including in 2015-16, when he scored 11 goals and 28 points. It was the fourth consecutive season in which he failed to reach 30 points after he topped 45 points in six in a row. At times last season, he was shifted from roles on the top two lines and demoted to the fourth line. Brown sounded off about the switch during the summer, calling it “a tough pill to swallow.” Brown did not fault his teammates and said Kopitar would be “great at it” in his new role as captain. It remains to be seen whether that’s the end of the story.

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Kings training camp questions (part 2)

2. Who will earn jobs on the Kings’ third and fourth lines?

The Kings face significant questions about their scoring depth, as well. Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy last season as the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game after he led the Kings in scoring for the ninth consecutive season. He had 74 points, including a team-leading 49 assists. Tyler Toffoli scored a Kings-leading 31 goals, and Jeff Carter added 24. No one else on the current roster had 20 or more. In fact, no more else had more than the 15 that Tanner Pearson scored. Milan Lucic scored 20 last season, but signed with the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent in the off-season. So, where will the goals come from in 2016-17? Training camp should provide ample opportunity for some of the Kings’ top prospects to earn jobs as third- and fourth-line forwards.

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Kings training camp questions (part 1)

1. Who will fill the Kings’ many vacancies on defense?

Drew Doughty won the Norris Trophy last season as the NHL’s top defenseman, an honor many believed was a season or two or more late in coming to him. Jake Muzzin took strides last season toward becoming an elite defenseman. Rob Scuderi was acquired in order to provide depth and veteran leadership while Matt Greene was sidelined by an injury. If there’s one question about the Kings that looms above all the others going into training, it the one about their second and third pairs. As in, who is going to fill those slots? Alec Martinez is a serviceable No. 3 or 4 defenseman, as are Scuderi and Greene. Who are the No. 5 and 6 defensemen on the Kings’ depth chart? The Kings signed veteran Tom Gilbert from the Montreal Canadiens and Zach Trotman from the Boston Bruins during the off-season.

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