Trent Hunter to sign pro tryout contract.

Veteran forward Trent Hunter will join the Kings in training camp on a pro tryout contract. The 31-year-old forward has spent his entire NHL career with the New York Islanders, for whom he played only 17 games last season before tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Nov. 24.

Hunter can provide a physical presence from the right wing at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, but also brings some scoring touch. He had never scored fewer than 11 goals in an NHL season before 2010-11, when Hunter scored just one. In 459 career NHL games, he has 99 goals, 229 points and 201 penalty minutes.

The Kings already signed a similar player, albeit with less offensive upside, in Ethan Moreau. Forward Colin Fraser is also in the mix for a bottom-six role along with Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Scott Parse and Kevin Westgarth. Jarret Stoll seems to have the third-line center position locked down, so that means Hunter will likely have to beat out one contracted player for a roster spot.

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A lot of talk about hockey deaths, and a little action.

Sunday’s Hockey Fest at Staples Center was announced as a sellout – 3,000 tickets sold. If all those Kings fans continue to show up at the turnstiles, it can be considered a success for the team’s marketing department.

In any other year that might be enough, but this time the event seemed to serve a greater purpose: It brought the focus back to hockey.

Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team — including former King Pavol Demitra –all left Earth far too soon, their abrupt and unfortunate deaths overshadowing the usual summer headlines about trades and free agents and the like.

“It was shocking,” Kings forward Kyle Clifford said. “It’s always tough to see someone go. The hockey community is one big family. You know guys who know them, or you know them, and it’s difficult. You have to pay your respects and move forward.”

But how?
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Kevin Westgarth on Derek Boogaard.

Consider this hypothetical situation:

You make widgets for a living. The pay is very good, anywhere from about $600K to $1 million a year if you perform especially well. You don’t have to work summers, which can last anywhere from three to five months. The job is highly prestigious. There are only 29 other people of your caliber in the world who are deemed capable of making widgets. Oh, and the best part: You’ve dreamed of making widgets all your life. It’s literally your dream job.

The main drawback – one of few – is that you will get injured at work. Previous widget-makers have had to quit after less than five years because of their injuries. You heard that one guy suffered multiple head injuries on the job, enough that it probably contributed to his death at age 45. Other guys aren’t dead but are dealing with permanent scars, psychologically more than physically.

Then on Friday, you heard the worst news imaginable. One of the other 29 widget-makers was found dead at his home at age 28. You know he suffered a concussion in December and hadn’t been able to go back to work since. You don’t know the whole story, but you’re in shock.

Now, the key question: Knowing this, knowing the potentially heightened stakes of injury, are you still going to keep making widgets?
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Ducks 3, Kings 1.

Vancouver or San Jose?

That’s the question facing the Kings after 82 games, the two brands of poison awaiting in the first round for a team that will finish either seventh or eighth in the Western Conference. Here are the scenarios following a season-ending, 3-1 loss to the Ducks:

If the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings today, the Kings are the eighth seed and play Vancouver.

If Chicago loses in overtime or a shootout, the Kings are the eighth seed and play Vancouver.

If Chicago loses in regulation, the Kings have the seventh seed and play San Jose.

The Kings went 2-2-0 against the Canucks – 1-1 at home, 1-1 on the road, winning the first two and losing the last two. They went 3-3-0 against the Sharks –1-2 on the road, 2-1 at home, and getting both home wins via shootouts.

Not that Terry Murray is crunching numbers just yet.

“I’m not watching the scoreboard right now,” the coach said. “It’s just disappointing we did not have the handle to take control of our own destiny the last couple games.”

The team expects to have its playoff schedule sometime after 7 p.m. tomorrow.

A few notes that won’t make tomorrow’s editions.
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Detroit 7, Kings 3.

Did the anticipation, and the eventual catharsis, of the trade deadline catch up to the players? Was it bad luck? Maybe both?

Those were the questions that needed to be asked, because it just didn’t make sense that a team that had not given up more than three goals in a game since Jan. 8 would suddenly, out of nowhere, give up seven. Interesting to note that Terry Murray admitted to having thoughts of pulling Jonathan Quick after the Red Wings’ first goal, a bad-angle shot by Drew Miller that tied the game at 1.

Detroit scored the game’s next six goals to chase Quick, and the second-guessing began.

Here’s the game story, here’s the story about the Dustin Penner trade/Justin Williams extension, and here are a few notes that didn’t make the paper:
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Pittsburgh 2, Kings 1.

Jordan Staal’s forehand wrister with 18.4 seconds left in overtime sent the Kings to a 2-1 loss against a depleted Penguins squad.

After Los Angeles native Brett Sterling got the Pens on the board early, Jarret Stoll capitalized on a Penguins turnover to tie the game at 1 at 17:17 of the first period. Nobody scored again in a tight defensive battle until Staal’s game-winner. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves, and counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury had 32 for the Penguins.

When Quick and Fleury weren’t trading saves – mostly of the routine variety – they got help from their defense. The Kings (18) and Penguins (21) combined for 39 blocked shots, including seven alone by Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek. It was the type of game Pittsburgh needed without injured forwards Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (knee) and Chris Kunitz (lower body).

It was the type of game the Kings needed, too, given the depth of their recent offensive struggles. In the end, it could have gone either way. This time it went the Penguins’ way.

Optimistically, the Kings added to their point total for the seventh straight game. Pessimistically, even the latest forward permutations couldn’t find the second goal it needed to beat a weakened offensive team.

A few more notes:
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Meet Kevin Westgarth

Now’s a good time to get to know Kevin Westgarth. He’s 24, a graduate of Princeton — much like former Kings enforcer George Parros — and Westgarth totaled 191 penalty minutes in 69 games with Manchester this season. That’s not completely easy to do. Westgarth projects as a future King, although for the moment Raitis Ivanans fills a similar role.

Here are Westgarth’s bios on hockeydb.com and hockeyfights.com.

Don tracked down Westgarth this week and did a really cool feature. He found eight of Westgarth’s fights on YouTube and had Westgarth “analyze” them. Don, it seems has a future as hockey’s Larry Merchant, doing post-fight interviews…

There’s also a Q&A with Westgarth coming soon, but for now, definitely give this a look…
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