Pregame reading: L.A. Kings Tanner Pearson talks about his broken ankle

Tanner Pearson talked at some length Saturday about his broken left ankle, bunking at Anze Kopitar’s house for a while, touring the White House on crutches and trying to get back into the lineup in time to help the Kings as soon as possible.

“He approached me before and asked me if I wanted to stay and I was kind of too stubborn at the time to say, yes, and then my parents gave it to me pretty good about not being able to stand on my own,” Pearson said of accepting Kopitar’s invitation to stay while he was hobbling on crutches. “At the last minute, I decided to go to his house. I stayed four or five days.”

Pearson said he ditched the crutches two days ago.

“Making progress, taking it day by day,” he said.

Pearson has been walking and riding a stationary bike.

“Just walking, you get moving again,” he said. “It takes time. It’s nice because you can see the improvements. That’s a good thing. Things are looking positive. Honestly, I have no idea (of a timetable). It’s tough to say. It’s a whole different thing when you put your foot in a skate. It takes time. Right at the start, it doesn’t feel 100 percent in the skate, so you have to get used to that, too.”

Pearson said he wouldn’t have missed the White House trip for anything.

“I probably wouldn’t have (traveled), but with the White House … ” he said, smiling broadly at the memory. “It was nice to be with the guys rather than sitting at home doing nothing, watching TV. I was moving around the while trip. It was kind of a pain lugging bags around and being on crutches.”

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Meet That 70s Line 2.0, the line that’s been carrying the L.A. Kings

Tomorrow’s notebook lead today …

The good news for the Kings is a line centered by Jeff Carter is carrying the team again, leading it to three consecutive victories. The bad news is a line centered by Carter is carrying the team again, leading it to three consecutive victories.

Carter and wingers Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli ignited a 6-1-1 start to the season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings. Now, with Pearson sidelined by a broken leg, Dwight King has joined Carter and Toffoli, and if the Kings are a one-line team again, then so be it.

Meet That 70s Line 2.0.

Toffoli recorded his first NHL hat trick and added an assist in the Kings’ 5-3 victory Thursday over the Calgary Flames. Carter had three assists and King had one goal and one assist in the pivotal third period, when the Kings broke open a close game.

Thursday’s game had the look and feel of a Kings contest from October, when That 70s Line ran wild. It was a short-lived hot streak for the three players with uniform numbers in the 70s, and the Kings came crashing to earth and, ultimately, out of a playoff position.

When coach Darryl Sutter shifted King onto the line with Carter and Toffoli, things began to click offensively again. Maybe it’s the uniform numbers. After all, King wears No. 74 on his jersey, joining No. 77 Carter and No. 73 Toffoli.

Whatever it is, the Kings couldn’t have won Thursday without That 70s Line.

“We’ve been trying to kind of work from our end out, the whole team,” Carter said of his line’s standout play during a three-game winning streak. “I think it’s been coming along, especially near the end of the road trip we saw it paying off for us. And again tonight.”

Toffoli, in particular, was superb against Calgary.

“He came back from his mono and had a really good couple of games and then he probably hit the wall a little bit,” Sutter said, referring to a bout of mononucleosis that sidelined Toffoli for six games last month. “Then the last three or four games, I think he and the line have carried us.”

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L.A. Kings statistical oddity for a Tuesday morning

The Kings haven’t been outshot in a game since Nov. 29, when the Chicago Blackhawks did it to them 25-20 during a 4-1 victory at Staples Center. They were tied in shots on net 25-25 during a 5-2 loss Dec. 16 to the St. Louis Blues. But otherwise they have outshot everyone since that game against the Blackhawks. Monday, they outshot the Toronto Maple Leafs 20-19 in a 2-0 victory.

“It still doesn’t add up for us because if you’re just going on analytics we’re right at the top,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “We should have more (wins). It doesn’t really add up. We’re going to have to get better at it because with the goals out of our lineup (Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, in particular), and a bit of inexperience at our back end, we still have to find a way to get better.”

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Darryl Sutter talks about replacing ill Toffoli and injured Pearson in L.A. Kings lineup

Kings coach Darryl Sutter was asked Monday morning how the team would fill the void created by the absence of young wingers Tyler Toffoli (mono) and Tanner Pearson (broken left ankle). He had a simple answer: “You don’t.”

Sutter also said: “They’re very important players on our team, not just numbers guys but a very big part of our puck possession game, our penalty-killing game, all that. You don’t replace those players. What you do is you put other guys in, guys who are either bitching about ice time or guys who you have to move out of position a little big or veterans who just have to give you a little bit more.”

Toffoli was diagnosed with mono Friday and Pearson was hurt Saturday.

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L.A. Kings forward Tanner Pearson suffers a broken ankle

The Kings announced only that Tanner Pearson suffered a lower-body injury during a second-period collision that send him into the end boards Saturday. Kings coach Darryl Sutter later said only that Pearson suffered a lower-leg injury. Kings’ in-house blogger Jon Rosen then reported via Twitter that Pearson has a broken ankle, which was confirmed by a later tweet by the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

More tests are expected to be performed Sunday.

 

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L.A. Kings’ Doughty, Kopitar, Pearson selected to All-Star Game

The Kings will be well-represented at the Jan. 25 All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Joining coach Darryl Sutter and his staff will be defenseman Drew Doughty, center Anze Kopitar and winger Tanner Pearson.

Doughty made the team for the first time in his seven-year career, a mind-boggling fact given his remarkable play the last few seasons. But there was no game last season because of the Sochi Olympics and it was not played in 2012-13 because of the lockout.

Kopitar was selected despite some subpar statistics in the first half of the season. He was the Kings’ leader with 29 goals and 70 points last season, but had only eight goals and 30 points in the first 41 games of 2014-15.

Pearson was selected as one of six rookies to make the teams. He had 12 goals, tied with Marian Gaborik and Tyler Toffoli for the team lead, plus four assists going into the Kings’ game Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.

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Three things to watch during the L.A. Kings five-game trip

Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks to players during practice at the Staples Center last June. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks to players during practice at the Staples Center last June. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Kings begin a five-game trip Tuesday against the Sabres in Buffalo, N.Y. Here are three things to watch as they tramp through the snowy climes in Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and St. Louis:

First, the King simply have to be better on the road than their 3-4-4 record to start the season. Few teams have played fewer road games than the KIngs at this point in the season, so things either have to pick up or the Kings are going to find themselves in great difficulty later in the season. This is a team, after all, that won three Game 7s on the road last season in the playoffs. Their showing away from Staples Center has been troubling to start 2014-15, however.

Second, Kings coach Darryl Sutter could reunite That 70s Line of Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli if and when Marian Gaborik returns to the lineup after sitting out the last four games because of an upper-body injury. Gaborik is said to be close and could be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Sabres. Pearson, Carter and Toffoli were the Kings’ only effective line to start the season. They are the only ones with seven goals or more, with Pearson and Toffoli leading the way with 10 apiece. They weren’t as effective apart as they were together. The Kings lack scoring punch, which is hardly a news bulletin. They need those three playing together and clicking together, because they can’t get by with a wonky offense.

Third, the Kings need Gaborik healthy and productive. He signed a seven-season, $34-million contract last June to stay with the Kings. The team needs him to be on the ice and contributing. With only four goals and eight points in 15 games so during this injury-plagued season, the Kings’ investment in him looks rather unwise.

 

 

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Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Carolina Hurricanes

Here are the top few paragraphs of my game story:

Tanner Pearson chipped the icicles off his hockey stick Thursday at Staples Center. The rookie left wing ended an 11-game goal-scoring drought with a deft swat of the puck that propelled the Kings to a grinding 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

So great was Pearson’s slump that he went from playing on the Kings’ most effective line, to sitting on the bench and watching for extended stretches, to nearly sitting in the press box and eating popcorn by the fistful as his teammates faced the Hurricanes.

It’s often that way with gifted young players, with their production ebbing and flowing. Kings coach Darryl Sutter hinted that a night in the rafters might not be such a bad thing, although he didn’t mention the 22-year-old Pearson by name.

Sutter didn’t pull the trigger Thursday, but Pearson did. Pearson’s goal gave the Kings a 3-2 lead only minutes into the second period and they held it the rest of the way against the Hurricanes. The Kings’ victory was their third in a row after a two-game losing streak.

Here are three things about the Kings’ latest victory:

First, Pearson’s slumps will be fewer and farer (is that a word?) between as he matures and gains experience. He was doing all the right things of late, but the puck wasn’t going into the net for him. He solved it by charging to the net and smacking a loose puck into it. Smart play by a gifted player who realizes that not all the goals are going to be masterpieces.Gritty goals count just as much as pretty ones.

Second, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty played 25:10 against Carolina, ending his streak of 30-minute games at four in a row. Injuries and the suspension to Slava Voynov have wreaked havoc with Sutter’s defense pairs and Doughty has been overplayed to the extreme at times. Sutter has acknowledged the disservice it’s done to Doughty and to the Kings. But what else can he do? Voynov won’t be back any time soon after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday it would charge Voynov in a domestic violence case. Alec Martinez is expected back within a week or so after undergoing minor surgery on a finger. But the numbers are thin for Sutter, so expect Doughty to keep playing big minutes.

Third, the Kings’ power play, once a hindrance, is now a help. The Kings went 1 for 3 with the man advantage against the Hurricanes, which came one game after they clicked on 3 of 6 chances Tuesday against the Florida Panthers and two games after they were 2 of 3 on Saturday against the Ducks. The Kings went through a 1-for-27 slump over nine games and it appeared their power play was a lost cause. But that’s no longer the case if recent games are an indication. That’s a very big deal for a team that often struggles to score while skating 5 on 5.

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Three things about the L.A. Kings lackluster loss to the Dallas Stars

Here are the top few paragraphs from my game story:

How low can you go? For the Kings, a letdown Thursday against the Dallas Stars in the cavernous confines of Staples Center was probably inevitable after Wednesday’s 65-minute test of skills and wills against the Ducks at the raucous Honda Center.

The answer, at least at the start of the Kings’ 2-0 loss to the Stars, was subterranean. The Kings played a game so dull and devoid of efficiency and execution that it could have put a pot of coffee to sleep. It appeared the Kings left their skates in Orange County.

“It simply wasn’t good enough,” Kings right wing Justin Williams said. “We chased the game tonight. We were a step behind, a second slow. All that stuff. When you’re a second slow, they’re able to break out of the zone. We had no sustained pressure.”

Here are three things about the Kings’ second straight defeat:

First, Williams was right on all counts. The Kings weren’t good enough. Blame it on the weather, with the rain putting a damper on the evening. Blame it on the Ducks, who extended the Kings the night before. Blame it on the Kings’ injuries and a suspension to defenseman Slava Voynov. Blame it on the Stars, too. The Kings haven’t played very well to start the season. It’s that simple.

Second, the Kings are a sub-.500 team at the moment. They are 8-5-4, which looks good only until you realize they are actually 8-9. That’s not a good sign as they head toward the 20-game mark, which is usually when we find out what teams are truly made of. Big trades can happen and players can suddenly find an extra gear later in the season. But, for the most part, we know what kind of team you’re going to be after roughly 20 games of the season. This means you, Kings.

Third, Kings coach Darryl Sutter benched budding young stars Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli for most of the final two periods of Wednesday’s loss to the Ducks. They played a more familiar role in Thursday’s loss to the Stars, but neither was especially effective. That’s another cause for concern for the Kings, who relied so heavily on them and Jeff Carter for offense to start the season. Where are the goals going to come from if That 70s Line doesn’t score? Well, that’s the big question.

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