Russia on Tuesday selected Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for its 25-man roster for the Sochi Olympics. It was hardly a surprise for Voynov, who last played for Russia at the World Junior Championships in 2009. He was an alternate captain on a team that won the bronze medal.
The Kings turned in a lackluster first 40 minutes Thursday, falling behind the New York Islanders by two goals at Uniondale, N.Y., before rallying behind third-period goals from defenseman Slava Voynov and rookie forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli to pull out a 3-2 victory. The Kings have secured three points out of a possible four so far on their four-game trip. Here are three things about the Kings’ victory over the Islanders:
1. Coach Darryl Sutter was forced to ice a lineup that didn’t include forwards Jeff Carter (broken foot), Kyle Clifford (concussion) and Jarret Stoll (upper body), plus defenseman Matt Greene (upper body) and goaltender Jonathan Quick (groin). With the Kings playing as if they were stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, Sutter turned to Pearson, Toffoli and Linden Vey for some energy in the third period. The coach teamed the three rookies together, hoping their experience as a top line with Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League would aid them. Pearson scored the tying goal and Toffoli supplied the go-ahead score, with only 1 minute, 27 seconds left in the third. So, that worked well. You can expect to see them together again. Often. The Kings’ trip continues with games Friday against the New Jersey Devils and Sunday against the New York Rangers.
2. Ben Scrivens has a chance to show the Kings and their fans that the club didn’t get swindled in the offseason trade that sent backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Scrivens and forward Matt Frattin went the other way. Quick is out for up to six weeks because of a groin injury suffered Tuesday in the Kings’ shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, so Scrivens should have plenty of time to prove his value. Scrivens had 23 saves in the Kings’ come-from-behind victory over the Islanders, keeping them within striking distance while they were outplayed during the first two periods. Martin Jones will serve as his backup for the time being.
3. Slava Voynov continues to impress and amaze. He kick-started the Kings’ comeback with a goal from a sharp angle off a pass from below the goal line by Anze Kopitar. There’s more to the young defenseman’s game than scoring, though. The puck seemed to be following him around the ice in the third period, when the Kings wrestled control of the game from the Islanders. Voynov isn’t the biggest player in the Kings’ defense corps. He’s not their best puckhandler. He’s certainly not their most experienced player. He continues to make smart plays that help the Kings win games, however. It happens at both ends of the ice, too. He’s not a one-trick pony, which is why his value to the Kings will only increase as he logs more and more ice time. He’s trending in the right direction, in other words.
Martin St. Louis scored two goals and skated circles around the flat-footed Kings during a 5-1 rout by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Slava Voynov scored the Kings’ only goal, which cut the Tampa Bay lead to 3-1 for an all-too-brief moment in the third period. Tampa Bay’s speed and skill was evident from the start, and the Kings couldn’t catch up. Here are three impressions about the end of the Kings’ three-game winning streak:
Who will emerge as this season’s surprise?
The Kings’ lineup seems all but set in stone, which makes the notion of a rising star something of an impossibility. The coaching staff would like to see players raise the level of their play. Young defenseman Slava Voynov certainly did that last season, scoring 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 48 games. Is Dwight King next on the list? Or will it be someone from the minor leagues like Tyler Toffoli or Linden Vey or Tanner Pearson? King will get a chance when he lines up on the top line alongside center Anze Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams. Kings coach Darryl Sutter said earlier in the week that King had the best training camp of anyone on the roster. Toffoli, Vey and Pearson were unable to take advantage of the many opportunities Sutter gave them to shine during camp and earned a one-way ticket back to the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the AHL. Time will tell if we see them with the Kings later this season. It’s a good bet one or more will be back. Stay tuned.
Defenseman Willie Mitchell is expected to make his first appearance in a Kings uniform at Staples Center since the decisive Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final when he joins the lineup for Tuesday’s exhibition against the Ducks. Mitchell sat out all of last season because of a knee injury, but he has recovered well enough to be back on the ice during training camp. He made his 2013 exhibition debut by logging 23 minutes, 16 seconds in the Kings’ overtime loss last Friday to the Colorado Avalanche. Only defenseman Slava Voynov played more minutes among the Kings than Mitchell. Voynov played 28:02.
“Makes sense to play him tomorrow and go from there,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
What to watch as the Kings began training camp Thursday:
Training camp particulars include free admission to all sessions at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. Seating is limited and parking can be tight for the first few days, although not as tight as when the Lakers are practicing, too. Camp opens with two groups participating, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m. The “A” group goes early Thursday and late Friday. The “A” group includes goalie Jonathan Quick, defenseman Drew Doughty and forwards Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. The “B” group includes goalie Ben Scrivens, defenseman Slava Voynov and forwards Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Matt Frattin. The Kings will have sessions through Saturday before playing their first exhibition games Sunday. One split-squad will take on the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Staples Center and another will face the Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz.
It’s hardly a surprise to any fan who’s watched Kings defenseman Slava Voynov the last two seasons, but the Russians named the 23-year-old to their preliminary Olympic team roster Monday. Voynov is joined by Pavel Datsyuk Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malking, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Semin just to name a few. The 35-man roster has been invited to a training camp Aug. 23-24 in Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Olympics. Voynov has 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) in 102 NHL games in two seasons with the Kings.
The Kings don’t have a first-round pick in Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft, having sent the selection to the Columbus Blue Jackets to complete the trade for Jeff Carter on Feb. 23, 2012. The Kings’ highest pick Sunday will be late in the second round (57th overall). Their history of second-round picks was pretty shabby in their early days. Dean Kennedy (1981), anyone? But it has picked up considerably in recent years.
Here’s a look at some of the Kings’ better second-round selections in the 2000s:
General manager Dean Lombardi said last week he hoped to bring back the Kings’ lineup intact for another long Stanley Cup playoff run. He took a significant step in realizing that goal when he and defenseman Slava Voynov agreed to a six-season contract extension. Lombardi signed defenseman Robyn Regehr to a two-year extension during the playoffs, keeping him off the market when free agency opens early next month.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter was hired at midseason last season and inherited a talented but underachieving team. Among the players on the roster he didn’t know much about was a young Russian defenseman named Slava Voynov. Sutter talked Wednesday about Voynov’s progress from then until now.
“I guess what I remember most was he wasn’t playing much if he was here,” Sutter recalled. “It was a big adjustment for him. There definitely was a language barrier. Whether he was uncomfortable with not wanting to converse, whatever it was. That’s an issue.