What to watch Thursday when the L.A. Kings play the Ottawa Senators

Here are a couple of things to watch when the Kings face off against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at the Canadian Tire Center:

First, the Kings are 3-5-1 on the road after Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo, which helped to explain why they were fifth in the Pacific Division and ninth in the Western Conference at the start of business Wednesday. The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings appeared headed for an early vacation rather than a playing for a chance to defend their title.

Second, a poor road record plus a lack of scoring depth have been costly for the Kings (14-9-5). Anze Kopitar, their leading scorer last season, has only five goals and 12 points. Mike Richards has only four goals and 10 points. Marian Gaborik, their leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, has four goals and eight points in 16 injury-plagued games. Gaborik returned to the lineup Tuesday after a four-game absence because of an upper-body injury.

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L.A. Kings hit road and then the road hits back … and not for the first time

The Kings fell to 3-5-4 away from Staples Center after a 1-0 loss Tuesday to the Buffalo Sabres, the first game on a five-game trip. Last season, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and the rest of the Kings were the kings of the road during the playoffs. They won Game 7s in San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago en route to their second Stanley Cup championship in three years.

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L.A. Kings ranked eighth in Forbes.com list of NHL’s most valuable franchises

Winning two Stanley Cups in three seasons has its rewards. Well, that plus owning and operating a lucrative arena in downtown Los Angeles has Forbes.com ranking the Kings as the eighth-most valuable team in the NHL.The Kings’ estimated value of $580 million ranked well behind the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.3 billion), the New York Rangers ($1.1 billion) and the Montreal Canadiens ($1 billion), the first time three NHL teams have been valued at more than $1 billion.

The Kings were just behind the Philadelphia Flyers ($625 million) and just ahead of the Detroit Red Wings ($570 million). The San Jose Sharks ($425 million) and the Ducks ($365 million) ranked 14th and 18th, giving California three teams in the top 20. The Florida Panthers were 30th and last with a value of $190 million.

The Kings’ overall value grew by 29 percent from 2013, according to Forbes.

Here’s the link to the Forbes.com story: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2014/11/25/the-most-valuable-teams-in-the-nhl/

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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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