About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.

Kings rookies squander 6-3 lead, lose to Coyotes 8-7.

Christopher Gibson speaks English, Finnish and French, but has a Latin phrase etched into the back of his goalie mask: “Luctor et Emergo.” Literally, this means “I struggle and emerge.”

The Kings’ first selection in the 2011 Entry Draft, Gibson certainly struggled in his first game in a Kings uniform. Gibson allowed five goals in the third period as the Kings blew a 6-3 lead, losing 8-7 to the Phoenix Coyotes at Toyota Sports Center. The two teams will play again at 2 p.m. today at TSC, completing the two-game exhibition series between the teams.

Gibson wasn’t the only prospect who slipped on a Kings uniform for the first time Wednesday. That was a factor in 60 minutes of up-and-down hockey.

“There were a lot of nervous guys in that dressing room,” said forward Brandon Kozun, who scored two goals and added an assist on the eve of his third training camp with the Kings.
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Kings divulge details on training camp.

After players officially report Friday, the Kings’ training camp will begin with the first on-ice team practice at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Toyota Sports Center.

Practice sessions will be open to the public and held on both the NHL and Olympic rinks. The Kings are not planning to use the new third sheet of ice (formerly an inline rink) at Toyota Sports Center during Training Camp.

Sixty-three players (after the jump) are scheduled to participate in this year’s Training Camp. Players will be divided into three groups at the start of Camp with the first on-ice team practice set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on September 17.

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Trent Hunter to sign pro tryout contract.

Veteran forward Trent Hunter will join the Kings in training camp on a pro tryout contract. The 31-year-old forward has spent his entire NHL career with the New York Islanders, for whom he played only 17 games last season before tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Nov. 24.

Hunter can provide a physical presence from the right wing at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, but also brings some scoring touch. He had never scored fewer than 11 goals in an NHL season before 2010-11, when Hunter scored just one. In 459 career NHL games, he has 99 goals, 229 points and 201 penalty minutes.

The Kings already signed a similar player, albeit with less offensive upside, in Ethan Moreau. Forward Colin Fraser is also in the mix for a bottom-six role along with Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Scott Parse and Kevin Westgarth. Jarret Stoll seems to have the third-line center position locked down, so that means Hunter will likely have to beat out one contracted player for a roster spot.

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A lot of talk about hockey deaths, and a little action.

Sunday’s Hockey Fest at Staples Center was announced as a sellout – 3,000 tickets sold. If all those Kings fans continue to show up at the turnstiles, it can be considered a success for the team’s marketing department.

In any other year that might be enough, but this time the event seemed to serve a greater purpose: It brought the focus back to hockey.

Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team — including former King Pavol Demitra –all left Earth far too soon, their abrupt and unfortunate deaths overshadowing the usual summer headlines about trades and free agents and the like.

“It was shocking,” Kings forward Kyle Clifford said. “It’s always tough to see someone go. The hockey community is one big family. You know guys who know them, or you know them, and it’s difficult. You have to pay your respects and move forward.”

But how?
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Rookie camp invitations announced.

Twenty-five players have been invited to the Kings’ annual rookie camp at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. The camp begins Saturday and includes four straight days of practices, free and open to the public, before concluding with back-to-back exhibition games against the Phoenix Coyotes next Wednesday and Thursday.

Players’ names and ice times after the jump:
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Pavol Demitra among 43 dead in plane crash.

It will be remembered as one of the biggest tragedies in sports history, and it couldn’t have come during a more tragic summer in the hockey world.

An airplane carrying members of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed near Minsk, Belarus today, killing 43. Former Kings forward Pavol Demitra and prospect Jan Marek were reported among the deceased, along with former NHLers Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Brad McCrimmon.

The Kings released the following statement earlier today:

The Los Angeles Kings organization is deeply saddened with the tragic news of this morning’s plane crash in Russia that was carrying the members of the KHL’s Lokomotiv organization, including former Kings forward Pavol Demitra, former Kings prospect Jan Marek and many other members of the NHL Family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends of those affected by this terrible occurrence.

Demitra, 36, signed a three-year contract with the Kings coming out of the NHL lockout. In his only season in L.A., 2005-06, he scored 25 goals while being limited to 58 games due to various injuries. Following the season, Demitra was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the deal that brought Patrick O’Sullivan to the Kings.

Marek never played a game in North America after being drafted by the New York Rangers in the 2003 Entry Draft. The Kings obtained his rights in the 2007 trade that sent Sean Avery to the Rangers.

The NHL was already left reeling in the wake of the suicide deaths of Wade Belak and Rick Rypien, and the death of Derek Boogaard from a lethal mix of alcohol and painkillers — all in the last four months. Many players took to Twitter to express their disbelief. Said former Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier, echoing most sentiments:

What is going on? Can’t believe what is happening. Numb. Prayers go out to all that are affected by plane crash in Russia.

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Back from a brief layoff, and setting the record straight.

I had limited Internet/BlackBerry access over the last week while taking a leisurely trip up the PCH. Late August seemed like a safe time to turn my back on hockey, but then the new Kings jerseys happened and Wade Belak died. So I’m hitting the ground running today.

Speaking of the jerseys, I decided to slip out a tweet somewhere between Solvang and San Simeon that the Kings’ black alternate jerseys were becoming the primary home jerseys. In the interest of timeliness, I grabbed the first image I could google of a black Kings alternate jersey. I probably should have looked more carefully at the URL, because as two observant followers pointed out, those aren’t the official jerseys. They’re knockoffs made in China. (Probably pretty cheap too; might make a good gift.)

You’ve seen the black jerseys (most recently, during the playoffs). Here’s a team-issued close-up of the new white jersey.

You’ll probably see plenty of them at the team’s annual HockeyFest. Maybe in the 2011-12 playoffs, too.

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Mark Hardy returns as Ontario Reign assistant coach.

Mark Hardy was running out of superlatives Wednesday to describe what it meant to become a professional hockey coach again.

“Awesome.” “A dream come true.” “A step in the right direction.” “A great feeling.”

You get the picture.

The 52-year-old former Kings defenseman and assistant coach turned down an offer to become a salesperson for a local electrician, choosing instead to return to the game as a minor-league assistant with the Reign. The one-year contract was formally announced today, one day after Jason Christie was named the new head coach.

Hardy’s exile from the Kings, and subsequent recovery, has been well-documented here and elsewhere. Will that come with a negative reaction, or is all forgiven from Kings fans?

I’ll have his thoughts about that, as well as those from Reign President Justin Kemp, in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

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Ethan Moreau signs, and he’s pissed off.

Ask Ethan Moreau, and he’ll tell you it’s a good thing not too many teams inquired about his services this summer.

“Because it makes me pissed off for the season coming up,” said the 35-year-old forward, who finalized a one-year, $600,000 contract with the Kings on Tuesday.

Most athletes will tell you they play better with something to prove — the proverbial chip on the shoulder — and Moreau definitely has something. While Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall said they were “thrilled to have him,” he’s well aware why Moreau was still on the free-agent market in late August: Teams were scared off by a lengthy injury history that included a 2010-11 season in which Moreau played just 37 games.

“Last year was a tough year, whenever a player is getting on in years, everyone questions whether he’s capable of doing it anymore,” Hextall said.

Moreau — who passed a physical Monday –insists he can still do it.
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The skinny on Ethan Moreau.

Veteran forward Ethan Moreau is scheduled to complete a physical today, which would be the last hurdle before the Kings can make his 1-year contract official. The deal has been reported in various places at $600,000.

Moreau’s history suggests that passing a physical is no slam dunk.

3 p.m. update: Moreau has passed his physical and is expected to finalize the contract tomorrow.

The former Edmonton Oilers captain, who turns 35 on Sept. 22, never established a role for himself with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season because of three separate injuries. The first, on Oct. 20, came when Moreau was struck by a slapshot and broke his hand. That cost him 17 games. The second, on Jan. 4, came when he was diagnosed with rib cartilage damage after an on-ice collision. That cost him another 17 games. The third, on March 22, came when he blocked a shot and bruised his foot. That cost him the final nine games of the regular season.

On the surface, all three injuries seem to reflect poor luck rather than poor physique. But even if Moreau gets a clean bill of health, the cynic can argue it won’t matter – read Exhibit A here:

The optimism about Moreau sounds more than a bit out there in Columbus, where Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch writes, “The Blue Jackets wanted to claim Moreau rather than let him become a free agent on Thursday, sources said, where he’d be seeking a two- or three-year contract. He is seen as a perfect compliment on the Blue Jackets’ third line with center Sammy Pahlsson. The Blue Jackets can certainly use his size, intensity and veteran presence in the dressing room.”

Bottom line: Moreau will be greatly defying the odds by staging a comeback season at his age with his injury history.

That was a year ago. Moreau’s final stats — 37 games, one goal, five assists, and a minus-9 rating — seemed to prove those early odds were correct.
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