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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Injury updates on Kings injured forwards Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis

Kings forwards Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis continue to be sidelined by upper-body injuries, and there is no timetable for their returns. The Kings did not have a healthy or eligible player on their roster for Thursday’s game against the Sabres. Gaborik sat out for the fourth game and Lewis did not play for the sixth time.

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Kings center Andy Andreoff set to make his NHL debut vs. Oilers

Rookie center Andy Andreoff is expected to make his NHL debut Tuesday, with the Kings playing against the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center without the services of injured veteran forwards Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis. Andreoff skated on a rugged-looking line with wingers Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan.

Said Andreoff: “Obviously, I’m going to be a little nervous for my first NHL game. It helps a lot with the guys on the team. Everyone’s really close. Everyone’s gone though it, so you’ve just got to get the jitters out in the first shift with a big hit or a simple play. I’m looking forward to it. I played with them in Vegas (in an exhibition game), so we have a little chemistry. They work hard in the corners. I’m looking forward to playing with them.”

Andreoff said several family members would attend the game.

“They’ve been here for a week now,” he said. “It’s definitely nice for them to be here for my first NHL game. They’ve always been supporting me my whole life. It’ll be nice to be celebrating my first game with them. My mom, sister and brother-in-law. You’ve been dreaming about this your life, playing in the driveway, a little road hockey with your buddies, so it’s great to be in such a great organization for your first NHL team. Just practicing with them in the playoffs and watching them and learning all the little things they do to win a Stanley Cup, so I’m happy to be part of this team this year.

“I’m sure my family and and friends will be watching me. They’ve supported my through my whole career. I’m really close with all of them. I’m sure I’ll be getting a bunch of messages after the game.”

Andreoff also said the Kings’ veteran players have been very supportive.

“They’ve all been through it, especially the older guys,” he said. “They’ve given me a heads-up and put me under their wing. That’s why, I guess, they’re such a good team, because they’re all really close.”

 

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Injured Kings forward Marian Gaborik won’t play against Oilers

Marian Gaborik didn’t participate in the Kings’ morning skate and couldn’t play Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers because of an unspecified injury that also prevented him from playing in several games during the preseason. Gaborik recorded an assist for his first point of the season and played 15:56 in the Kings’ victory Sunday over Winnipeg. Kings coach Darryl Sutter, as is his custom, declined to speak about Gaborik’s injury. The Kings were already without forward Trevor Lewis and defenseman Jake Muzzin because of injuries. There is no timetable for either player to return to the lineup, and it’s unclear how long Gaborik might be out. Or how he aggravated the injury.

The Kings’ lines looked like this at the morning skate:

Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards

Dwight King, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli

Kyle Clifford Andy Andreoff, Jordan Nolan

Their defense pairs were unchanged.

Jonathan Quick was first off the ice, so he’s your starter.

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Kings questions and answers (part 3, expanded version)

Can veteran winger Marian Gaborik bolster the Kings’ ineffective offense?

The Kings ranked near the bottom of the NHL in scoring last season with only 206 goals, the fewest of the 16 teams that advanced to the playoffs. The Pacific Division champion Ducks scored 266, by way of contrast. Gaborik’s scoring during the postseason was one of the reasons the Kings won the Stanley Cup, however.

Gaborik enabled Kings coach Darryl Sutter to form a strong first line with center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown. It also allowed Sutter to team Jeff Carter with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, giving the Kings the sort of scoring punch they lacked. Gaborik and Kopitar seemed like a match made in hockey heaven. They are two skilled European-born and -bred players who see the ice better than most. When they click, it’s like magic on the ice.

The Kings have so much going for them that it’s strange to think they struggle in any one aspect of the game, but their inability to score cost them a better seeded place in the Western Conference standings. They won the Stanley Cup despite having home-ice advantage in only the last of the four playoff rounds. At some point, the stress of travel and the unpredictability of road conditions will prove costly to the Kings. Scoring more goals, moving higher in the standings, could ease their burden in 2014-15.

Gaborik is the man to make that happen.

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Kings questions and answers (part 2, expanded version)

Did the Kings do enough in the offseason to stay on top?

General manager Dean Lombardi showed his faith in his roster by keeping it intact. Lombardi didn’t wish to mess with success. He did not sign any outside free agents, but did retain the services of veteran winger Marian Gaborik. Lombardi rewarded Gaborik, the Kings’ leading goal-scorer in the playoffs with 14, with a new seven-season contract worth more than $34 million. Lombardi also allowed veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell to depart as a free agent. Mitchell signed a new contract with the Florida Panthers in the summer. Lombardi did not make any trades.

Meanwhile, opposing teams in the Western Conference bulked up in the summer.

The Ducks, smarting from a second-round playoff loss to the Kings, added size and grit by trading for center Ryan Kesler and signing defenseman Clayton Stoner. They also took a chance on former 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley, hoping he could jump-start his career in Orange County.

The Chicago Blackhawks signed former New York Rangers veteran Brad Richards for the same reason the Ducks signed Kesler. The Blackhawks, who lost to the Kings in the conference finals, coveted a stronger, more experienced second-line center to compete with their rivals.

The Dallas Stars, eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs by the Ducks, acquired former Ottawa Senators standout Jason Spezza in order to get deeper and more experienced at the center position. Spezza was No. 2 behind Kesler on the Ducks’ offseason wish list.

The St. Louis Blues added Paul Stastny from the Colorado Avalanche, a rising superstar in the NHL who plays, wait for it, center. The Blues were still smarting from their first-round exit at the hands of the Blackhawks last spring when they made the move.

 

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Marian Gaborik update and catch-up on weekend Kings news

Top-line forward Marian Gaborik skated with his teammates Monday and there’s zero reason he won’t play in the Kings’ regular-season opener Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. …

The Kings on Sunday assigned goaltender Jean-Francois Berube and center Jordan Weal to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., and placed defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk on injured reserve. …

The team also announced Sunday it signed right wing Justin Auger and defenseman Zachary Leslie to three-year entry-level contracts. They were assigned to Manchester on Sept. 26, after joining the Kings for the first week of training camp.

 

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Three things about the Kings shootout win over the Coyotes

Marian Gaborik scored two goals and Andy Andreoff had one, but the Kings lost a 3-1 lead in the third period of their split-squad exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday at Staples Center. Nick Shore then supplied the winner in a 4-3 shootout victory for the Kings. Here are three things about the Kings’ exhibition opener:

If Gaborik and Anze Kopitar appeared to be in midseason form, it might have had something to do with a short summer after the Kings won the Stanley Cup in June. “It feels like we never left,” said Gaborik, who slipped behind the defense to score a second-period goal and then converted on a pretty give-and-go play with Kopitar while on the rush in the third. “I feel good out there.” Gaborik, Kopitar and Dustin Brown formed the Kings’ top line after they acquired him at the trade deadline last March. There’s no reason to think they won’t play together again this season.

Shore doesn’t have much of a shot at making the Kings’ roster to start the season and most likely with play for their American Hockey League club in Manchester, N.H. He showed some veteran poise when he scored the winning goal in the shootout, however. He seemed unfazed by the fact that there are no jobs available in Los Angeles and that his ticket is all but punched for the minors. “Everyone in the organization takes a lot of pride and being an L.A. King and the tradition they’ve had the last couple of years, it’s fun to be a part of,” Shore said. “Ever since I was drafted and even before that they started to turn things around. It’s really just a mindset, and it starts at the top and trickles all the way down.”

Martin Jones started in goal, with the Kings in no rush to hurry Jonathan Quick back into a game after he underwent offseason wrist surgery. Jones stopped all nine shots he faced in 31 minutes, 13 seconds before Jeff Deslauriers replaced him with the Kings leading 2-0 in the second period. That’s another good sign that the Kings’ goaltending is in capable hands. Quick isn’t expected to be held out of too many upcoming games, although the Kings are typically secretive about such things. The Kings also played J.F. Berube in the split-squad game Monday at Glendale, Ariz. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, especially in goal and especially for an organization that didn’t have enough of it over the years.

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