Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
NHL PLAYOFFS: WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS:
KINGS vs. SAN JOSE
GAME 1: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Staples Center, NBC Sports Network, KTLA-1150 (AM)
So there was a recent episode of the “Big Bang Theory” where Raj, the Cal Tech student who often gets lost in the conversation, wanted to impress his new girlfriend with his manly side by sporting a Kings home sweater to a dinner date. “I love your jersey,” said Lucy. “Thanks, I love hockey,” answered Raj. “Cool, so does my dad, we watched it all the time growing up. Who’s your favorite player?” Long pause. “Not Brian Boitano, that’s for sure,” Raj managed to spit out. It took awhile, but Raj finally came clean as to why he was putting on the act, causing Lucy to ask: “Do you even like hockey?”
“No,” he admitted. “I bought this at Staples Center when I went to see Taylor Swift.” Cue canned audience laugh.
It’s all relative, right? (Just ask Sheldon, Leonard or Howard for a definition of what that might mean. … maybe even Penny, if you’re feeling lucky). If the planets are aligned for another Kings’ run to a second consecutive Stanley Cup, the empirical evidence revealed itself again during their first-round triumph over the Blues, a team that maybe played better hockey but didn’t benefit from the laws of physics at the right time (except, perhaps, in Game 1, but we’ve already purged that from our intellectual properties).
This is the time of year to see Kings black-and-silver pop up from Pasadena to Pacoima, Palos Verdes to Paso Robles and all Pythagorean theorem-friends points of interest in between.
The Kings’ version of Shark Week is an interesting switch of storylines. The Kings will have home ice advantage for the first time since 1992. The previous 16 series have started on the road, and the Kings have won the last five in a row. They topped San Jose twice at Staples Center during the regular season, including 3-2 in the last game of the regular schedule on April 27. And the Kings have won 10 in a row at home.
May the force be with Jonathan Quick’s backbrace and Dustin Penner’s slapshot at least one more round. A bigger bang for the puck awaits.
That, and Taylor Swift will be back at Staples Center in late August. In case you were wondering.
Remainder of the series this week (all games on NBC Sports Network and 1150-AM):
Game 2: 7 p.m. Thursday, Staples Center
Game 3, 6 p.m. Saturday, San Jose
BEST OF THE REST:
MLB: DODGERS vs. WASHINGTON, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:
Steven Strasburg, who hasn’t registered a win since April 1, skips this series — his turn comes up Thursday when the Nats are in his hometown of San Diego. But there’s a Matt Kemp bobblehead to be had on Tuesday and the return of Zack Greinke on Wednesday. A pre-season World Series favorites, Washington has stagnated from the start, 28th in the game in batting average (.233) and, for what it’s worth, Jayson Werth on the DL and Bryce Harper (.302, 10 HR, 21 RBI) listed as day to day with an ingrown toenail.
The rest of the series:
Tuesday, 7 p.m., Channel 9 (with a Matt Kemp bobble head giveaway)
Wednesday, 7 p.m, Prime
MLB: ANGELS vs. KANSAS CITY, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:
Too bad the Angels won’t see former teammate Ervin Santana. Instead, a bigger nuisance Tuesday: Royals standout Jeremy Guthrie (5-0, 2.28 ERA), who actually has a 10-game win streak going back to the end of the 2012 season in Baltimore. If you venture out for this series, give a wave to Rex Hudler in the Royals’ broadcast booth.
The rest of the series:
Tuesday, 7 p.m. FSW
Wednesday, 7 p.m., FSW
CYCLING: TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
STAGE 3: Palmdale to Santa Clarita, 2-4 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
Palmdale and Santa Clarita are frequent stops in this annual trek, but never before connected as they are this time in Stage 3. This is a route that goes along the Furnace Creek running race each summer, along San Francisquito Canyon with a 22-mile climb up Lake Hughes Road, 110.3 miles in total. After a night’s sleep, they head out for Santa Barbara. By the time Sunday rolls around, there’s a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge – the third time ever that the landmark will be totally closed for a special event.
Key stages this week:
STAGE 4: Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara, Wednesday (2-4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
STAGE 8: Finish run from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, Sunday (10 a.m.-noon, Channel 4)
MLS: GALAXY at PHILADELPHIA, 4:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Losses to Houston and Vancouver means they could drop three in a row for the first time in …. a year?
MLB: ANGELS vs. CHICAGO WHITE SOX, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:
A Mark Trumbo bobble head giveaway is cool on this night.
The rest of the series:
Friday, 7 p.m., FSW
Saturday, 1 p.m., Channel 11
Sunday, 12:35 p.m., FSW
GOLF: PGA BYRON NELSON CHAMPIONSHIP, Los Colinas Texas, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Defending champ Jason Dufner has made a name for himself by “Dufnering” on social media – that would be sitting on the floor with your legs out and your back against a wall. Think planking, but more comfortable. Maybe. Keegan Bradley got it started by tweeting it out, then having it duplicated by Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson.
“What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing. #dufnering” Dufner tweeted out in an attempt to explain it last March.
Meanwhile, Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old who became the youngest player to not just compete in but also make the cut at the Masters, accepted a sponsor exemption to play here. Guan captured low amateur honors at the Masters and made the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Golf Channel continues Friday (noon), Saturday (10 a.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.). CBS picks up rounds three (Saturday, noon, Channel 2) and the final round (Sunday, noon, Channel 2).
MLB: DODGERS at ATLANTA, 4:35 p.m, Prime:
Remember when the Dodgers had a bonafide shut-down closer? The Braves’ 24-year-old All Star stopgap Craig Kimbrel already has 11 saves on the plus side – pushing him past 100 for just more than three seasons in the bigs — but since April 24 he’s blown three saves and took a loss for the NL East leaders. He only blew three saves all of last year.
The series continues: Saturday at 4:10 p.m., Channel 9; Sunday at 10:35 a.m., Prime.
HORSE RACING: 138th PREAKNESS STAKES at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, 3 p.m. Channel 4:
Orb isn’t expected to absorb the same kind of competition for the second leg of the Triple Crown, and that’s news. He outran 19 others in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby victory two weeks ago; they’re saying it may be only a dozen who enter this one in Baltimore for a mile and 3/16. Trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the Belmont in 1989 with Easy Goer, says Orb has a “sort of old-time stamina pedigree that goes back a long way. A lot of horses don’t have that.” Goldencents, a disappointing 17th at the Kentucky Derby going off as the third choice at 7-1, is “a go for the Preakness,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. Mylute, with Maryland native Rosie Napravnik aboard, is also expected to join the group with Gary Stevens on Oxbow and Mike Smith on Will Take Charge.
MLS: GALAXY at NEW YORK RED BULLS, 10 a.m., ESPN2:
Imagine the hub-bub if the Galaxy have Robbie Rogers signed up by today.
GOLDEN STATE at SAN ANTONIO, Game 7, TBA:
MEMPHIS at OKLAHOMA STATE, Game 7, TBA:
CHICAGO at MIAMI, Game 7, TBA:
If there are decisive clinchers in any of these series, here’s where they’d land.