Marian Gaborik proves himself worthy addition to Kings’ lineup after trade

Marian Gaborik slipped effortlessly into the Kings’ lineup after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He clicked almost instantly with center Anze Kopitar and began producing at nearly a point-per-game pace.

Gaborik scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 19 regular-season games and he had 21 points, including a playoff-leading 13 goals, in 24 contests before the Kings faced the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.

Now the question is how quickly will the Kings move to re-sign the 32-year-old Slovakian?The price could be steep since Gaborik’s last contract, a five-year deal he signed with the Rangers before the 2009-10 season, paid him an average of $7.5 million per season.

Gaborik certainly has proved to be worth every penny of a pro-rated deal that required Columbus to pick up 50 percent of his salary for the final one-quarter of 2013-14 after Kings general manager Dean Lombardi acquired him for Matt Frattin and two draft picks at the deadline.

“You want to be a complete army,” Lombardi said.

The Kings needed scoring.

Desperately.

They went into the playoffs as the lowest-scoring team of the 16 postseason qualifiers, averaging a meager total of 2.42. Thanks in part to Gaborik, they upped their average to a playoff-leading 3.50 going into Game 4 of the Final at Madison Square Garden.

Best of all, as far as the Kings are concerned, Gaborik and Kopitar have formed the dynamic scoring combination that was glaringly absent in what was a popgun offense before the trade. They have played together since Gaborik joined the team for a March 6 game against Winnipeg.

“Darryl stuck with us every since he got with us,” Kopitar said, referring to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “It is a process, but it seemed like we clicked fairly good and fairly fast. Now it’s time to really bring it, obviously. He’s a big-time player.

“I’m sure it’s hard to come to a different team with different systems and different styles of play. You have to fit in really quick, and I just think everybody helping him out, you try to be in his ear, but at the same time you kind of want to lay off and have him do his thing. I think he’s done a really good job.”

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Concerns? Yeah, Kings coach Darryl Sutter, has a few concerns before Game 3

Kings coach Darryl Sutter has made a habit of not answering even the most straight-forward questions when the mood strikes him. He did it again before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, although it could be argued that he answered exactly as he wanted to during a post-morning skate session with reporters.

Steve Levy of ESPN asked Sutter, “What concerns you most about tonight’s Game 3 here in New York.” Without pausing, Sutter responded without a trace of humor, “I think the biggest concern would be that we’re coming into Madison Square Garden and playing the New York Rangers.”

When the laughter died for a moment, Sutter added, “Makes sense.”

When it died again, he said, “It’s logical.”

More laughter followed, including from Levy, who clearly expected a more expansive answer from Sutter. Guess he hasn’t been paying attention.

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Everyone likes it at Madison Square Garden, Kings coach Darryl Sutter says

Madison Square Garden, home arena of the New York Rangers, tends to bring out the best in both teams, according to Kings coach Darryl Sutter.

“I’ve been coming to Madison Square Garden for 30-some years,” he said Sunday. “I know it’s been refurbished, but the fans are still the same. They love their team and they hate the other team. That’s what you like. You like going into buildings that are like that. They’re loud and they hate you. All those things. It’s good.”

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Darryl Sutter admits decision to keep Robyn Regehr on the sideline was tough

Kings coach Darryl Sutter went with the status quo for Game 2 after saying one day earlier that defenseman Robyn Regehr “probably” would play for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Game 1 of the second round series against the Ducks.

Sutter stayed with Matt Greene on Saturday, keeping Regehr out of the lineup for the 15th consecutive game. Sutter said it was a difficult to put Regehr back into such high-level competition after a layoff that reached five weeks Saturday.

“Darn right it’s a consideration when you think about it,” Sutter said Sunday.

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#NHLKings sighting: Darryl Sutter at Sharks Cove

— Tom Hoffarth (@tomhoffarth) June 7, 2014

Because what else are you going to do the day before Game 2? Excellence takes a certain balance.

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Anze Kopitar unhappy with his play in Game 1, but that’s news to Darryl Sutter

Kings center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown each said Friday he was unhappy with his play during a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday. That was news to Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who had this to say when asked about Kopitar’s comment:

“I think ‘Kopi’ busts his ass every night, for lack of a better word. Somebody brought it up yesterday and it wasn’t ‘Kopi.’ “Kopi’ played more minutes, big minutes, than anybody on our team. In crucial situations he does it, so … He never has a bad game.”

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Darryl Sutter talks about the potential for growth in defenseman Drew Doughty

Kings coach Darryl Sutter fields questions almost daily about Drew Doughty’s remarkable progress. Someone asked Thursday whether Sutter believes he looks at the 24-year-old defenseman in a different way because he’s built some credibility with the coach.

“Plays a little more probably, for sure,” Sutter said. “Didn’t kill penalties. Now he kills penalties. Plays against top players a lot. He’s a young player. I think when you do all the analytics on athletes, he’s a long ways form being as good as he’s going to be just because of his age.”

Indeed, there’s still room for growth and improvement.

“Learn to manage your ice time better, learning to manage what’s going on, on the ice,” Sutter said when asked what Doughty could do better in the coming seasons. “You become a better shot selection guy. You become a better penalty killer.

“You learn the league better. You learn players on the other teams better. Nuances of start players. You learn how to handle your practice habits, nutrition, what you do on game days. All that stuff. What can he do better? As I said, there’s a big difference between being 25 and 35.”

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Stanley Cup Final matchup (coaches)

Darryl Sutter did his best job of coaching this season, according to general manager Dean Lombardi and that includes several years trying to wring more from the San Jose Sharks in the 1990s, plus the Kings’ title run in 2012. New York’s Alain Vigneault left Vancouver after last season and got a fresh start with the Rangers, leading them to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since they won it all in 1994. He split two first-round playoff series with the Kings while with the Canucks.

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Injured Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr update, or non-update, as is the case

Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr joined his teammates late in their morning skate Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago. He’s appears closer to a return to the lineup after suffering an unspecified knee injury in Game 1 of the Kings’ second-round playoff series against the Ducks. Then again, maybe he’s not, if you listen to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. Here’s what Sutter said when asked for an update:

“I couldn’t answer that. I’m not a doctor.”

 

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Trip to conference finals has been a logistical nightmare for the Kings

The flight from LAX to Chicago was no big deal for the Kings. It was the usual four-plus hours from the West Coast to the Midwest. They didn’t have much time after eliminating the Ducks in Game 7 on Friday before they departed for Chicago and Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Sunday. So, finding enough hotel rooms was an issue for the second consecutive conference finals, though.

Like last year, the team had to change hotels because of a number of conventions filled up hotels in the downtown area. Actually, last year there was only one, but it was a big one and had Kings coach Darryl Sutter feeling nostalgic as he watched convention goers dressed as their favorite Star Trek characters.

“That was in my age group,” Sutter said Tuesday. “A lot of our players didn’t know who all those guys walking around in the blue-and-gold tights were. That’s what happens in the playoffs. You don’t know your schedule, especially with the city being so busy and conventions going on. We talked abut it before we got here. We knew we were changing hotels.”

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