Drew Doughty unsure if he’ll play in the Kings’ regular-season finale

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said Friday he didn’t know if he would play in Saturday’s regular-season finale against the Ducks at Staples Center. He’s been sidelined by an apparent shoulder injury since the Kings’ loss April 3 to the San Jose Sharks. Doughty said it would be up to Kings coach Darryl Sutter to decide whether the veteran defenseman plays against the Ducks.

“I’m ready to go whenever,” Doughty said after participating in an optional skate with defenseman Andrew Campbell, forward Tanner Pearson and goalie Jonathan Quick. “I wouldn’t mind getting one in (before the playoffs), but at the same time, it’s not really, I guess, necessary. I’ll be ready for the first game of the playoffs no matter what happens. It’s up to them (the coaches). I’m ready to go whenever.”

 

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Kings face issue of rest versus rust as regular season winds to an end

Rest or rust is always an issue at this point in the season as coaches and players balance two apparently conflicting goals before the end of the regular season. Healing old wounds (and avoiding new ones) is critical if a team wants to make a long run in the postseason. Staying sharp with only a few meaningless regular-season games remaining is important, too. But you can’t win in the playoffs without healthy players. Many a team has ended the regular season with a limp.

Consider the case of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who suffered an apparent left shoulder injury while making a routine-looking check on the San Jose Sharks’ Tyler Kennedy on Wednesday. Doughty did not return to the game and the Kings said he suffered an unspecified upper-body injury. The Kings lost the game 2-1, but Doughty’s health was of far greater concern.

Doughty played in his 199th consecutive game Wednesday, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether his streak would continue when the Kings (45-27-6) faced the Canucks (34-32-11) on Saturday. Vancouver is all but eliminated from the playoff race; the Kings are locked into third place in the Pacific Division. Most likely, the Kings will play the Sharks in the first round.

The smart money is on Doughty sitting out until he’s back to something close to 100 percent. Shoulders are tricky things. You can’t play the hard-nosed style the Kings do without having two healthy shoulders. Or knees. Or ankles. Or you name it. So, expect to see Kings coach Darryl Sutter give some of his best players a little bit of rest here and there for the rest of the regular season.

Better to lose a little now and rest up for the more important games coming up.

 

 

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Sochi Olympics musings (U.S. vs. Canada)

It’s their game, sure. Canada invented hockey. We get that down here in the United States. It’s their game, their national past-time, their pride and joy. Their sons (and daughters, too) dream of playing for the glory that comes with an Olympic gold medal or a Stanley Cup championship. It’s a sport that defines and unites a nation.

It’s our game, too. Maybe not in the same exact way, but in similar ones.

You’ll see that when the U.S. and Canada play in the semifinals of the Sochi Olympics on Friday at 9 a.m. (PST). You’ll see it in the passion and the hard work and the precision each team displays. In many regards, it will be like watching brothers, and maybe that’s because there are so many NHL brothers fighting for a berth in Sunday’s gold-medal game against either Finland or Sweden.

Team USA’s Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick will be trying to deliver a payback to Canada’s Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty for a loss four years ago in Vancouver. The Ducks’ Cam Fowler of the U,S. will be trying to stop Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and keep them from a second consecutive gold medal. Team USA coach Dan Bylsma will be trying to find ways to neutralize Sidney Crosby of Canada, his best player when they’re both on the job with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And so on and so on.

This is the game they’ll all be chirping about next week, when they return to their respective NHL dressing rooms. It might take more than a few nights of dinner and drinks to bury the hatchets. It might take a few games before their NHL teams are all reunited and feeling so good again. It’s going to be that kind of game Friday.

Sure, this is a game Canada is supposed to win. It is their game. It’s not a game the U.S. can’t win, however. Hockey isn’t an American game the way baseball or football or basketball is. We don’t celebrate Saturday nights at the rink quite the way they do. But we have something of a shared history in the game of hockey, especially internationally and particularly in the way we play the game. Our capacity to defy the odds with our ability to achieve the unthinkable is a shared trait, and a noble one at that. We admire their will to win and they should admire ours, too.

Every Canadian of a certain age can tell you where he or she was when Paul Henderson clinched the 1972 Summit Series victory over the Soviet Union just as every American hockey fan can say where they were when Mike Eruzione scored the go-ahead goal against the Soviets in 1980 in the “Miracle on Ice.”

I remember both moments like they were yesterday, but especially the Americans’ improbable victory, I remember driving to varsity basketball practice when a man on the radio suddenly shouted, “The United States has beaten the Russians 4-3 at Lake Placid.” I pulled to the side of the street and began screaming and honking the horn. It was incredible. It was unbelievable. I was lost in my own little world until I looked across the street and saw a man, screaming and honking his own car horn. We noticed each other and screamed and honked in a shared celebration.

ABC’s Channel 7 wouldn’t air the tape-delayed game for a few more hours in Los Angeles, but the man in the other car and I already believed in miracles.

So, here’s hoping for that kind of Henderson/Eruzione drama Friday.

It’s something we can all appreciate, Canadians and Americans.

Because it’s a game for all of us.

 

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Sochi Olympics musings (semifinal draw)

In the end, it was predictable. All four top-seeded teams won in the quarterfinals Wednesday and advanced to the semifinals Friday. No. 1 Sweden defeated Slovenia; No. 2 United States beat Czech Republic; No. 3 Canada defeated Latvia; and No. 4 Finland ousted Russia. Sweden will face Finland in one border war and the U.S. will play Canada in another, a rematch of the gold-medal game from Vancouver in 2010. Ready to get your hate on? Oh, it’s going to be like that.

So, who plays in the gold-medal game on Sunday morning?

Well, the U.S. has been perhaps the most impressive team of the tournament, from its gritty play to its efficient scoring. The Americans have won mostly in routs, save for an eight-round shootout victory over Russia. Their role players have been superb, especially Ryan Kesler and David Backes. Phil Kessel has been a scorer with a deft touch. Goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Kings has been unbeatable for the Americans. Canada has the better team on paper, with more depth and a pedigree that’s impossible to match. The Kings’ Drew Doughty and the Ducks’ Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have been the Canadians’ most consistent players. Others like Sidney Crosby have been all but invisible, which is what almost cost Canada during their 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Latvia.

I’ve picked Canada all along and I won’t change now.

As for the other game, Sweden has sailed through the tournament without appearing to drop a bead of sweat. That’s about to change with rival Finland awaiting the Swedes on Friday. Goaltender Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins has been superb and the Ducks’ 43-year-old Teemu Selanne continued to cement his legendary Olympic status with a goal and an assist in the Finns’ quarterfinal win over Russia. The Finns look like they’re on a mission.

I’ve got to go with Finland.

 

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Sochi Olympics musings (Day 5)

Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a hat trick in Team USA’s 5-1 rout of Slovenia in its final preliminary-round game. Slovenia played the third period without center Anze Kopitar of the Kings, who fell ill and was sent to a medical clinic. Kopitar was released later in the day and expected to be fit to play in the next round. Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres made 17 saves and came within 18 seconds of a shutout while starting in place of the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.

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Sochi Olympics musings (Day 2)

The United States looked so good in the second period of its 7-1 rout of Slovakia on Thursday morning that i might have to change my opinion on the Americans’ medal chances. Could be playing for the gold Feb. 23. I mean, if the Kings’ Dustin Brown is scoring goals for the Americans, anything is possible. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was sharp when there was pressure, which wasn’t all that often.

Canada looked so jittery at times in the first period that you almost had to feel sorry for the gold-medal favorites. Drew Doughty’s dance through the Norway defense on his way to the third goal for the Canadians seemed to loosen things up. The Kings’ defenseman accepted a centering pass from the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf and went all Bobby Orr to give the Canadians a 3-1 lead.

Russia’s victory over the Kings’ Anze Kopitar and Slovenia was all too predictable. But despite the flashes of brilliance, there were signs of Russian vulnerability. It shouldn’t have been as tight a game as it was.

Finland has some amazing skills in addition to fine goaltending and maybe I should think about moving them into medal contention, too.

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Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty named to Team Canada for Sochi Olympics

After a long and windy press conference Tuesday in Toronto, Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman nervously announced the 25-man roster for the Sochi Olympics. Kings forward Jeff Carter and defenseman Drew Doughty were among the names selected for the team that will defending the gold medal won in Vancouver in 2010. Carter’s selection was a mild surprise, given that he missed a good chunk of games because of a broken foot. Doughty’s was a no-brainer.

Carter played for Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2006.

Doughty was with Team Canada in Vancouver in ’10.

Here’s a link to the entire Team Canada roster: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/photos-meet-the-mens-olympic-hockey-team/article16207151/?cmpid=rss1&click=dlvr.ithttp://

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What’s wrong with the Kings’ malfunctioning power play?

The Kings haven’t scored a power-play goal since defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 19. They finished that game by misfiring on three man-advantage chances and then followed it up by going ofer for the next eight games. Overall, they are on an 0-for-33 slide. They are 17 for 112 this season (15.2 percent), which ranked them 23rd in a 30-team league. So, what’s wrong?

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Kings Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin paired for now but probably not forever

Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin seem like a defense pairing built to last, a union of two offensive threats. Or is it?

“Evaluate it every game,” coach Darryl Sutter said Friday, the day before the Kings played host to the New York Islanders at Staples Center. “Quite honest, when we went into Anaheim the other day, the last time Jake played in Anaheim, he was (poor), so don’t think I didn’t talk to him about it. Because you’re evaluated at the end of every game. Because at the end of the day … we’re not that far from Jake Muzzin being a healthy scratch. Not that far removed. He’s a young guy and we’re looking for consistency.”

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Kings defenseman Drew Doughty takes best shot in shootout … and misses

From the now it can be told dept: defenseman Drew Doughty said he lobbied Kings coach Darryl Sutter to join a shootout, but his plea fell on deaf ears until Tuesday. Sutter finally gave Doughty a chance as the fifth shooter in an nine-round shootout decided by the Kings’ Dwight King. Doughty’s try was saved by the Ducks’ Jonas Hiller, but he was happy with his effort.

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