LA Kings winger Tanner Pearson suspended four games for illegal check (with video)

The Kings won’t be at full strength when the regular season begins next Wednesday in San Jose. They learned Wednesday they’ll be without winger Tanner Pearson, who was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the exhibition season plus two regular-season games for an illegal check Sunday.

Pearson also was fined $15,555.56.

Here’s a link to the NHL’s video explanation: https://www.nhl.com/video/pearson-suspended-for-hit-to-head/t-277350912/c-45092103

The Kings also will be without injured winger Marian Gaborik, who suffered a broken right foot during the World Cup on Sept. 25 in Toronto that will sideline him for two months. Gaborik is scheduled to be re-examined by a team doctor the week of Oct. 16, according to coach Darryl Sutter.

Sutter hoped to determined who might best replace Gaborik during exhibition games in Las Vegas on Friday against the Dallas Stars and Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. Now, Sutter has two vacancies to fill for the regular-season’s first two games.

Pearson was banned Wednesday for an illegal hit to the head of the Edmonton Oilers’ Brandon Davidson during the the Kings’ exhibition loss Sunday. Pearson was ejected from the game and now will serve the first suspension of his 146-game NHL career.

“I didn’t mean to have contact with the head, but that’s the way the game is now, and it’s one of those things that happened and it’s over with and now I’ve got to pay the consequences,” said Pearson, who is eligible to return to the lineup for an Oct. 18 game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, Minn.

“I’m just going to deal with it.”

Pearson said he was trying to hit Davidson, an Oilers defenseman, in the shoulder on a play at center ice. Pearson drove his shoulder into Davidson’s head instead, injuring him and drawing a match penalty and a game misconduct at the 11-minute mark of the second period.

“I don’t want to do it again,” said Pearson, who was the Kings’ seventh-leading scorer last season with 36 points, including 15 goals, in 79 games. “I don’t like missing hockey games. It’s unfortunate what happened and I’ve got to sit out now.”

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Kings assign 15 players to AHL Reign, return 2 to junior teams

The Kings on Monday assigned 15 players to the Reign, who begin training camp Tuesday at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. Joining the Reign were: forwards Michael Amadio, Justin Auger, Sean Backman, Patrick Bjorkstrand, Paul Bissonnette, Joel Lowery, Justin Gutierrez, T.J. Hensick, Sam Herr, Lucas Lessio and Brett Sutter; defensemen Erik Cernak, Alex Lintuniemi, Damir Sharipzianov; and goalie Jack Flinn to Ontario.

The Kings also returned forward Austin Wagner (Regina) and defenseman Chaz Reddekopp (Victoria) to their teams in the junior-level Western Hockey League. Actually, this happened Saturday.

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Kings place four on waivers, including Reign goalie Peter Budaj

The Kings placed four players on waivers Monday, including goaltender Peter Budaj. Other teams have until 9 a.m. (PT) to claim any or all of the four: Budaj, goalie Jack Campbell, forward Andrew Crescenzi and  defenseman Vincent LoVerde. The Kings retain their rights if they’re not picked.

Of the four, Budaj would seem to have the best chance to be claimed by another NHL team. He was 42-14-4 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in 60 games last season with the Ontario Reign of the AHL.

The moves Monday all but assure the Kings’ backup goalie to start the season will be Jeff Zatkoff, who signed a two-year, $1.8-million free-agent contract last summer. Zatkoff will serve as Jonathan Quick’s backup in 2016-17 after appearing in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He was 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

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Marian Gaborik is back with the Kings and other notes from Saturday’s practice

Notes from the Kings’ split-squad practice Saturday …

–Injured winger Marian Gaborik was back in El Segundo. He didn’t speak to reporters about the broken foot he suffered while playing with Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey. He was wearing a protective walking-boot style cast on his right foot and needed the aid of crutches to get around the training facility.

–Jonathan Quick practiced with the B Group of players, but it remained to be determined when he would make his exhibition debut in goal, according to assistant coach David Payne. Quick could play in Sunday’s exhibition against the Ducks at Honda Center. Or it could come in exhibitions Friday or Saturday in Las Vegas.

–There’s no exact timetable for the return of Drew Dougty, Anze Kopitar and Jake Muzzin from the World Cup, Payne said. The three are due some rest and recovery time after Doughty and Muzzin’s Team Canada defeated Kopitar’s Team Europe in the two-game World Cup final. They mighty not play in any exhibitions.

–The Kings’ A Group, which includes Jeff Carter, will face the Edmonton Oilers in an exhibition Sunday in Vernon, British Columbia. Darryl Sutter will coach the team. The Kings’ B team faces the Ducks with Payne and Mike Stothers, coach of the Ontario Reign of the AHL, behind the bench at Honda Center.

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Final: Kings 6, Ducks 1

Nic Dowd scored twice and Devin Setoguchi had a goal and an assist as the Kings routed the Ducks, 6-1, in an exhibition game Wednesday at Staples Center. Justin Auger, Dustin Brown and Andy Andreoff also scored for the Kings, who are 2-1 in exhibition play. Peter Budaj made 14 saves and Thomas McCollum made 12 as the Kings split the goaltending duties evenly. The Kings outshot the Ducks, 48-27.

Here’s the link to the box score: https://www.nhl.com/gamecenter/ana-vs-lak/2016/09/28/2016010030#game=2016010030,game_state=final,game_tab=boxscore

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Kings prospect profile: Michael Mersch

At first glance, forward Michael Mersch would seem to be born to be a King. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 224 pounds and plays the sort of aggressive style that Lombardi likes and Kings coach Darryl Sutter demands from his players. Mersch excels along the boards and in front of the net.

He would like to become a stronger skater, however. The game demands speed and he’d like to keep up with faster teammates and opponents.

“I’ve got to continue to work on that kind of stuff, the transition game, coming up the ice a little bit faster,” he said. “Getting up the ice, that’s a big thing for me. I work on the power skating. I put a lot of time and effort into that. Keep working on it, keep grinding away, and it’ll become a habit.”

It’s a work in progress for Mersch. who turns 24 on Sunday.

“Power skating has come a long way the past five years, since my freshman year in college,” he said, referring to Wisconsin, his alma mater. “There’s not much dragging stuff. You’re not carrying things behind you. It’s just fundamentals and a lot of video instruction.”

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Kings training camp battle for ice time at center could include prospect Adrian Kempe

Going into Wednesday’s exhibition against the Ducks, it would appear three and possibly four players could be battling for ice time as the Kings’ third- and fourth-line centers. Andy Andreoff, Trevor Lewis and Nick Shore filled those roles last season, but now a fourth name has emerged as a candidate.

Adrian Kempe, a 20-year-old first-round draft pick in 2014, got a chance to play between Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli during the Kings’ 4-3 split-squad exhibition victory Monday over the Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center.. Kempe didn’t have a goal or an assist, but Pearson and Toffoli had one of each.

Although he’s listed as a left wing (or right wing, depending on the website you search for information), Kempe played center quite a bit last season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey because of injuries to other players. So, it wasn’t a stretch to see him playing Monday between Pearson and Toffoli. Kempe was credited with two shots on goal, one hit and nine victories in 18 faceoffs in 16:26.

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Kings center Nick Shore talks about watching and learning from the best last season

Kings center Nick Shore continues his resume-building from last season, when he played 68 games and scored three goals and 10 points. He didn’t exactly light the league on fire offensively, but he did receive a daily tutorial for this season and for those to come.

“You have two world-class centermen to watch every day,” the 24-year-old Shore said of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. “You get to watch them every day in practice and see how they play. It’s definitely a learning experience and you try to take as much as you can from it.

“’Kopi’ does pretty much everything well. He’s so poised with the puck, and he does it on both ends. He has just about as complete a game as it comes. It’s the same with Jeff. He gets up and down the ice so quick that it creates a lot of chances. Both are huge parts of the team.”

Now it’s time for Shore to put the lessons to good use.

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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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