Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Florida Panthers

Here are the top paragraphs of Tuesday’s game story:

The Kings welcomed former teammate Willie Mitchell back to Staples Center on Tuesday night. They gave him his Stanley Cup championship ring and saluted his short but memorable tenure with the team in a video tribute that played on the giant overhanging scoreboard.

They also gave him a reminder of how they used to seize games and make them theirs, taking a 5-2 victory from his new team, the Florida Panthers. The Kings scored four times in the pivotal second period, including two while on the power play.

Matt Greene, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Robyn Regehr scored for the Kings, putting them firmly in command entering the third period. Each of the Kings’ six defensemen – Green, Regehr, Drew Doughty, Jamie McBain, Brayden McNabb, Jake Muzzin – had a point in the middle period.

Here are three things that stood out about the game:

First, the Kings power play roared to life with two goals in Saturday’s victory over the Ducks and it didn’t slow in the least Tuesday against the Panthers. That’s a good sign for a team that often struggles to score. Period. They got three power-play goals, a season high, in six chances against Florida. Let’s see if they can keep it going Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. A strong power play can make a good team great and a great team, well, it makes winning Stanley Cups easier.

Second, Greene and Regehr scored goals. Wait, what?  “At first I didn’t think it was ‘Greener,’” Kings center Anze Kopitar said, smiling, when asked about Greene’s first goal since Oct. 19, 2013. “I didn’t know he had that in his repertoire.” Regehr’s goal was his first since Feb. 26. So, that happened, which was a bonus for the Kings.

Third, Mitchell’s return had a surreal quality to it. He signed a two-season, $8.5-million contract with the Panthers during the offseason, but he said Tuesday that the reality of his departure really hit him during the warmup before his Staples Center return. He acknowledged that it was not a comfortable feeling. “Just actually skating out for warmups the first time and you see the signs around,” Mitchell said. “It’s, like, ‘This is real. I’m not playing here anymore.’”

 

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Three things about the L.A. Kings rout of the Vancouver Canucks

Here are the first few paragraphs of Saturday night’s recap:

Marian Gaborik scored his long-awaited, much-anticipated first goal of the season a little less than 10 minutes into the Kings’ 5-1 victory Saturday over the Vancouver Canucks. Then Jake Muzzin scored his first about five minutes later. Then Anze Kopitar scored his third about four minutes later.

In the end, the lifeless Canucks were a cure for what ailed the shorthanded Kings.

Robyn Regehr couldn’t play because of an injury suffered in Friday’s practice. Slava Voynov was banned for the ninth consecutive game, serving an indefinite suspension imposed by the NHL after his arrest on domestic violence charges last month in Redondo Beach.

Since salary-cap issues made it impossible for the Kings to seek replacements for Regehr and Voynov from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., they were forced to dress only five defensemen for Saturday’s Pacific Division showdown with the Canucks.

Here are three additional things that stood out:

First, Gaborik’s goal was the first hint of his presence this season. Is that too harsh? Well, he was the Kings’ leading goal-scorer with 14 during their charge to the Stanley Cup championship last spring. He was the key piece to their postseason offensive surge, too. He has been injured for all but seven of their 15 games after signing a mammoth seven-year, $34-million contract to stay in Los Angeles. All things to consider when assessing his lack of production to start this season.

Second, Drew Doughty’s minutes have increased because of the Kings’ lack of healthy and eligible bodies in their defense corps. He played 29:46 Saturday against the Canucks. That’s a ton, especially this early in the season.

Third, the Canucks were surprising pushovers in their first visit to Staples Center this season. They didn’t score only Chris Higgins ended Jonathan Quick’s shutout bid with a goal at 12:07 of the final period. The Kings built a five-goal lead before Higgins struck on a centering pass from former L.A. forward Linden Vey. In the end, it was a disappointing showing by the surprising Canucks (10-5-0).

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L.A. Kings forward Justin Williams won’t play against the Islanders

Kings forward Justin Williams won’t play Thursday night against the New York Islanders at Staples Center after suffering an eye injury in the closing moments of Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Stars. The stick of Dallas’ Brendan Dillon clipped Williams, who left the ice immediately to seek treatment.

“Get better every day and when he’s ready to play, he’s ready to play,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after the team’s morning skate Thursday in El Segundo.

Jordan Nolan skated in Williams’ spot on a line with Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar during the Kings’ morning skate. Sutter also reunited That 70s Line after splitting up Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli in Dallas.

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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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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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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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Kings questions and answers (part 3, expanded version)

Can veteran winger Marian Gaborik bolster the Kings’ ineffective offense?

The Kings ranked near the bottom of the NHL in scoring last season with only 206 goals, the fewest of the 16 teams that advanced to the playoffs. The Pacific Division champion Ducks scored 266, by way of contrast. Gaborik’s scoring during the postseason was one of the reasons the Kings won the Stanley Cup, however.

Gaborik enabled Kings coach Darryl Sutter to form a strong first line with center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown. It also allowed Sutter to team Jeff Carter with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, giving the Kings the sort of scoring punch they lacked. Gaborik and Kopitar seemed like a match made in hockey heaven. They are two skilled European-born and -bred players who see the ice better than most. When they click, it’s like magic on the ice.

The Kings have so much going for them that it’s strange to think they struggle in any one aspect of the game, but their inability to score cost them a better seeded place in the Western Conference standings. They won the Stanley Cup despite having home-ice advantage in only the last of the four playoff rounds. At some point, the stress of travel and the unpredictability of road conditions will prove costly to the Kings. Scoring more goals, moving higher in the standings, could ease their burden in 2014-15.

Gaborik is the man to make that happen.

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Las Vegas doesn’t like Anze Kopitar’s odds of winning the Hart Trophy

No question, center Anze Kopitar was the KIngs’ most-valuable player last season, and probably the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that. Etc., etc., etc. But the oddsmakers at Bovada in Las Vegas don’t like his chances to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP this coming season. Kopitar was only 10th on their list of potential MVPs, following the usual suspects, including the leader Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7/4 odds. Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning were next at 6/1. Kopitar was well back at 18/1.

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Three things about the Kings shootout win over the Coyotes

Marian Gaborik scored two goals and Andy Andreoff had one, but the Kings lost a 3-1 lead in the third period of their split-squad exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday at Staples Center. Nick Shore then supplied the winner in a 4-3 shootout victory for the Kings. Here are three things about the Kings’ exhibition opener:

If Gaborik and Anze Kopitar appeared to be in midseason form, it might have had something to do with a short summer after the Kings won the Stanley Cup in June. “It feels like we never left,” said Gaborik, who slipped behind the defense to score a second-period goal and then converted on a pretty give-and-go play with Kopitar while on the rush in the third. “I feel good out there.” Gaborik, Kopitar and Dustin Brown formed the Kings’ top line after they acquired him at the trade deadline last March. There’s no reason to think they won’t play together again this season.

Shore doesn’t have much of a shot at making the Kings’ roster to start the season and most likely with play for their American Hockey League club in Manchester, N.H. He showed some veteran poise when he scored the winning goal in the shootout, however. He seemed unfazed by the fact that there are no jobs available in Los Angeles and that his ticket is all but punched for the minors. “Everyone in the organization takes a lot of pride and being an L.A. King and the tradition they’ve had the last couple of years, it’s fun to be a part of,” Shore said. “Ever since I was drafted and even before that they started to turn things around. It’s really just a mindset, and it starts at the top and trickles all the way down.”

Martin Jones started in goal, with the Kings in no rush to hurry Jonathan Quick back into a game after he underwent offseason wrist surgery. Jones stopped all nine shots he faced in 31 minutes, 13 seconds before Jeff Deslauriers replaced him with the Kings leading 2-0 in the second period. That’s another good sign that the Kings’ goaltending is in capable hands. Quick isn’t expected to be held out of too many upcoming games, although the Kings are typically secretive about such things. The Kings also played J.F. Berube in the split-squad game Monday at Glendale, Ariz. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, especially in goal and especially for an organization that didn’t have enough of it over the years.

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