The Kings haven’t started the Stanley Cup playoffs yet, but they announced Tuesday they would play the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. on Oct. 4 in a preseason game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. You may know the annual exhibition in Las Vegas by it’s more common name, Frozen Fury. This will be the 16th such game played in Sin City. In addition, the Kings revealed they would play the Avalanche in an Oct. 2 game at Colorado Springs. Further ticket information and the rest of the 2014 exhibition schedule will be released at a later date.
The Kings on Tuesday recalled rookie forward Linden Vey from their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. It’s his fifth recall of the season, and quite possibly the last one. The 22-year-old Vey played in 22 games for the Kings earlier this season, recording five assists. He also had 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) in 48 games with Manchester this season.
The Kings on Monday announced part of their local TV coverage for the first-round series against the San Jose Sharks. Fox Sports West will show Games 1 and 2 on Thursday and Sunday from San Jose. NBCSN will air the games nationally, as well, but it means locally you can see the games on Fox Sports West with Bob Miller and Jim Fox calling the action. FSW also will have complete pregame and postgame coverage. Further coverage plans were not immediately available, however.
It was no coincidence that Kings center Anze Kopitar began to heat up after the acquisition of forward Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the March 5 trade deadline. Kopitar had 18 points, including 10 goals, in the 19 games after Gaborik joined the Kings for a March 6 game against the Winnipeg Jets. Kopitar went on to lead the Kings with 70 points and 29 goals in 82 games. Gaborik finished the season with 30 points, including 11 goals, in 41 games. He had 16 points, including five goals, after he was dealt to the Kings.
“Once he came here, you try to get to know him as quick as you can and build some chemistry and I think me, Marian and Justin have done a pretty good job,” Kopitar said, referring to Justin Williams, the third member of the Kings’ top line. “It feels like we’ve jelled together pretty well. I think all three of us want to play a give and go game. He’s certainly the type of player who likes to do that. We’ve talked about it. The offensive zone time, we’ve tried to mix it around and get a lot of zone time.”
Here it is:
Game 1: Thursday at San Jose, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
Game 2: Sunday at San Jose, 7 p.m., NBCSN
Game 3: April 22 at Staples Center, 7 p.m., NBCSN
Game 4: April 24 at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
Game 5: April 26 at San Jose, TBD, NBCSN
Game 6: April 28 at Staples Center, TBD
Game 7: April 30 at San Jose, TBD
Anze Kopitar, who finished the regular season as the Kings’ leading scorer with 70 points, was named the Bill Libby Memorial Award winner as the team’s MVP. Kopitar scored his 28th and 29th goals in a the Kings’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Ducks on Saturday night, breaking a tie with Jeff Carter for the team lead.
Other winners were: Best newcomer: rookie goalie Martin Jones; Outstanding defenseman: Drew Doughty; Top defensive player: Kopitar; Most Inspirational player: defenseman Matt Greene; Unsung hero: Trevor Lewis; Community service: goaltender Jonathan Quick, Most popular: Doughty.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said Friday he didn’t know if he would play in Saturday’s regular-season finale against the Ducks at Staples Center. He’s been sidelined by an apparent shoulder injury since the Kings’ loss April 3 to the San Jose Sharks. Doughty said it would be up to Kings coach Darryl Sutter to decide whether the veteran defenseman plays against the Ducks.
“I’m ready to go whenever,” Doughty said after participating in an optional skate with defenseman Andrew Campbell, forward Tanner Pearson and goalie Jonathan Quick. “I wouldn’t mind getting one in (before the playoffs), but at the same time, it’s not really, I guess, necessary. I’ll be ready for the first game of the playoffs no matter what happens. It’s up to them (the coaches). I’m ready to go whenever.”
Third-place Kings vs. second-place Sharks
Kings strengths: Jonathan Quick might very well be the best goalie in the NHL. The Kings’ ability to stick to Darryl Sutter’s defensive-minded script is another plus. Their experience in winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and advancing to the Western Conference finals last season is invaluable.
Sharks strengths: Joe Pavelski is in the midst of a career-best season. Logan Couture and Joe Thornton give the Sharks a healthy dash of skill and creativity and a reason to fear their offensive attack. Their defense corps is big and mobile and can be dangerous at any given moment.
Kings weaknesses: They can be addicted to a stogy brand of hockey that relies all too often on cycling the puck and playing on the perimeter. They also tend to rely too much on Quick, who has come up big for them so often in big games that it’s a stunner when he’s not at his best.
Sharks weaknesses: Thornton is a finesse player locked inside a power forward’s body. It’s not easy to take him out of his game, but he’s been known to disappear at the worst possible moments for the Sharks. Antti Niemi’s play in goal has been suspect and it’s unclear if he’ll be their starter.
X-factor: The Sharks will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series. The Kings had it when the teams met in the second round of the playoffs last season. The Kings won in seven games, when every game was won by the home team. A repeat would favor the Sharks in Game 7 this time.
King to watch: Anze Kopitar has been superb in all facets of the game and some local scribes have mentioned him as a top pick for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best two-way forward. The arrival of Marian Gaborik in a trade March 5 has only made Kopitar more dangerous offensively.
Shark to watch: Thornton is a fascinating figure, but Pavelski is a real difference-maker this season. Pavelski is a threat every time he steps on the ice and you can bet the Kings will shadow him on every shift. If the series is as tight as expected, he could swing things in the Sharks’ favor.
The pick: Kings will win in seven games.
The Ducks’ victory Wednesday night over the San Jose Sharks means the third-place Kings will face the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. The Ducks will play a wild-card team from among Minnesota, Dallas and Phoenix. The Ducks-wild-card winner will play the Kings-Sharks winner in the second round.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a pretty hard-fought series,” the Sharks’ Dan Boyle said of playing the Kings for the third time in four seasons “Very good team over there. I believe we won the first one (a first-round series win over the Kings in 2011) and they won the last one (a second-round series last season). We’ll see what happens.”
Trevor Lewis signed a two-season contract extension with the Kings on Tuesday, which could keep him in uniform through the 2015-16 season. Lewis isn’t the sort of player who will fill up the scoresheet with goals and assists, but he is the kind of guy who fits neatly into coach Darryl Sutter’s no-nonsense style. Lewis has only 11 points in 70 games this season, setting a career high with six goals. Those are modest numbers, to be sure, but Sutter likes the way Lewis battles for the puck along the boards and in front of the net and how well he plays defensively.
It’s a match made in heaven.