Behind-the-scenes look at the L.A. Kings set to air on EPIX starting Feb. 3

The Kings and Sharks will play outdoors in Santa Clara on Feb. 25. The Kings and Ducks played last season at Dodger Stadium.

The Kings and Sharks will play outdoors in Santa Clara on Feb. 25. The Kings and Ducks played last season at Dodger Stadium.

The HBO 24/7 series leading up to various outdoor games over the years is dead. It’s been replaced by a similar venture to air on a relatively new cable outlet called EPIX. The concept is the same, with the network giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the Kings and the San Jose Sharks leading up to their outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Feb. 21.

The first episode will air Feb. 3 at 7 p.m., with additional episodes airing on subsequent Tuesdays and finishing with a wrapup of the game Feb. 24.

Check out the network’s website: EPIX.com

More information is there and at NHL.com.

The Kings have gone through this one before, leading up to their game against the Ducks at Dodger Stadium last Jan. 25. Who can forget a mic’d up Drew Doughty telling the Ducks’ Patrick Maroon, “You suck at hockey”?

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Kings defenseman Drew Doughty playing big minutes for shorthanded team

As a result of the Kings’ injuries, defenseman Drew Doughty’s ice time has grown to an average of 28 minutes, 37 seconds per game, the second-highest in the league behind the 29:08 played per contest by Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. Doughty averaged 25:42 last season, seventh overall.

“He’s been playing a lot of minutes,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Dallas Stars. “Do we like that? No, but that’s where we’re at. I look at that all the time, too. It’s too many minutes. He’s going to tell you he’s fine, but over the long haul, that’s too many.”

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Three things about the L.A. Kings wild and crazy shootout loss to the Ducks

Here are the first few paragraphs of my recap:

It was fast and frantic and full of unpredictable twists and turns. The Ducks and Kings rocketed around the Honda Center ice Wednesday in their first Freeway Series game of the season. No play could be taken for granted, and certainly no lead was safe.

When it was done, the Ducks took a 6-5 shootout victory from the Kings in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 17,245 in a game that felt more like it should have been played in the glare of the playoffs rather than in the uncertain weeks of the fall.

Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler scored in the shootout for the NHL-leading Ducks (11-3-3) and backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera stopped Anze Kopitar after Marian Gaborik scored and Jeff Carter misfired for the Kings (8-4-4).

Here are three more things about the Kings’ loss:

First, two-goal leads are usually money in the bank for Jonathan Quick and the Kings. Not Wednesday. The Kings led by scores of 3-1 and 5-3, but couldn’t prevent the Ducks from rallying to force the game to overtime and then a shootout. Said defenseman Drew Doughty: “We always feel good with the lead. We have ‘Quickie’ back there. We have, I think, one of the best defense corps in the whole league and all of our forwards play pretty good ‘D’ as well. Whenever we have that two goal lead we definitely feel secure.”

Second, Quick was superb in goal for the Kings. That’s never a surprise anymore, but he was under siege for most of the night, facing 49 shots from the Ducks. Quick needed to make several jaw-dropping saves just to keep the Kings in front in the early going, and then again in the middle of the game. The Ducks poured on the pressure late and there was no chance Quick could work miracles. He needed more help than he got from his teammates.

Third, the Ducks beat the Kings at their own (winning) game. The Ducks possessed the puck for extended stretches and controlled the play. They never led during regulation play or overtime, but they played the right way. You know, the way the Kings play. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Ducks spent the offseason remaking their roster in order to be more like the Kings, who won Stanley Cup championships in two of the last three seasons. The question is how do the Kings counter the Ducks’ moves? Saturday’s rematch at Staples Center should be fun. Again.

 

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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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Drew Doughty adopts a new role as a mentor for the Kings

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty spoke at some length Thursday about helping to ease Brayden McNabb’s burden during his debut with the team in Wednesday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks. Doughty and McNabb formed a defense pair with Doughty’s regular partner, Jake Muzzin, sidelined by an injury. Muzzin could be sidelined a while longer after suffering what he said was a “freak accident” earlier this week.

“He’s got all us veteran guys who are trying to help him as much as we can,” Doughty said. “(Assistant) John Stevens is a great coach. He teaches you a lot of little things you wouldn’t know coming up from the AHL or showing him whatever it might be. Brayden has a huge upside. I could see him continuing to get better as the season progresses. Like I said, I’m going to try to take him under my wing and do everything I can help him and get him into the lineup permanently. I like being in that spot. I’ve got to make a move. I’m not the kid anymore. I’ve got to do some things differently.”

For the record, Doughty is 24 and McNabb is 23.

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Kings defenseman Drew Doughty plays a waiting game after an injury

 

 

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty skated with his teammates Saturday and then offered this update on his recovery from a unspecified upper-body injury that kept him off the ice for about a week, including the first few days of training camp:

“Everything’s well. Everything’s good. No problems. Good to go whenever. I’m sure it’s going to be soon. I don’t know exactly (when). I haven’t really talked to anybody about it. I’m sure if I’m not in on Sunday (against the Ducks at the Honda Center) then hopefully I’ll be in on Tuesday (against the Sharks in San Jose).

“It (sitting out) is not that bad. It was frustrating when I wasn’t skating and all the guys are skating in camp and I wasn’t able to partake in that. That’s when it was really bothering me. Missing exhibitions games, as much as I’d like to get in a few to kind of get in my groove again, as long as I get two or three then I’ll be fine. I’m not too worried about it. (The layoff was) maybe, like, a week. Something like that.

“Good to go. Good to play. I think it’s just safe and making sure I’m perfectly ready to go when the time comes.”

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Kings defenseman Drew Doughty won’t play against the Ducks

Drew Doughty, left, celebrates with Dustin Brown during the playoffs last season.

Drew Doughty, left, celebrates with Dustin Brown during the playoffs last season.

 

Drew Doughty joined his teammates for the second of two practice sessions Wednesday in El Segundo. He was with a more veteran group, which isn’t expected to play in Thursday’s exhibition game against the Ducks at Staples Center. Doughty isn’t ready to play, anyway, after suffering an unspecified upper-body injury before the start of training camp Friday. Doughty said he wasn’t sure when he might make his exhibition debut. The Kings also play against the Ducks at the Honda Center on Sunday.

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Weekend links

Typewriter

Here is the best of the best writing on the Kings from the opening weekend of training camp, starting with Los Angeles News Groups columnist Mark Whicker’s look at Stanley Cup playoffs hero Alec Martinez: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20140920/alec-martinezs-journey-with-los-angeles-kings-becomes-legendary

My look at the moves the Kings’ rivals in the West made during the summer: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20140919/anaheim-ducks-the-west-bulk-up-to-challenge-los-angeles-kings

Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at defenseman Drew Doughty and his goal of winning the Norris Trophy here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/kings/la-sp-kings-drew-doughty-20140920-story.html

Dillman also catches up with captain Dustin Brown here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/kings/la-sp-dustin-brown-kings-20140922-story.html

In the Orange County, er, Los Angeles Register, Rich Hammond previews the Kings’ No. 1 goal in Monday’s split-squad exhibitions with the Arizona Coyotes: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kings-635851-monday-home.html

 

 

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Keeping up with the Kings isn’t easy, just ask Ducks general manager Bob Murray

The Ducks are expected to be active in trade discussions over the next few days at the NHL draft, trying to upgrade their roster in an attempt to match the Stanley Cup champion Kings. The Ducks want help at center and on defense. Here’s what Ducks general manager Bob Murray said about keeping up with the Kings, or trying to catch up to them, anyway:

“They won the Stanley Cup and they deserved to. They were the best team. They had a good series with Chicago after our series (a second-round win for the Kings) and the Rangers stepped up, too. So, we’re chasing a bunch of teams. That’s why we have to step up, (because) we’re behind a few teams.”

Here’s Murray on finding someone like Kings defenseman Drew Doughty:

You watch the Kings and you watched how Drew Doughty emerged as a superstar in the playoffs. Do we have someone who is that guy? Can you afford that guy if you find someone like that? It’s a huge decision, but how long do you wait?”

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Pre-NHL Awards Show reading: my ballot

Here’s my ballot, cast in the middle of April:

Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, PIT, Ryan Getzlaf, ANA, Claude Giroux, PHI, Semyon Varlamov, COL, Jonathan Toews, CHI.

Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, LAK, Shea Weber, NSH. Duncan Keith, CHI, Ryan Suter, MIN, Zdeno Chara, BOS.

Calder Torphy: Nathan MacKinnon, COL, Jacob Trouba, WPG, Hampus Lindholm, ANA, Ondrej Palat, TBL, Frederik Andersen, ANA.

Byng Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly, COL, Matt Duchene, COL, Patrick Marleau, SJS, Tyler Seguin, DAL, David Krejci, BOS.

Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar, LAK, Patrice Bergeron, BOS, David Backes, STL, Jonathan Toews, CHI, Andrew Cogliano, ANA.

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