THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
KINGS vs. DUCKS at Dodger Stadium, Saturday at 6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Net:
Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez sent a tweet out last week, asking for all of those in Los Angeles to pray for rain. “Send down your rains from the heaven in this time of drought,” he pleaded. “California needs rain!” Heavens to Gretzky. We understand the gravity of this request. We’ve been going through the driest winter in years, and the ramifications are already being felt.
But for mercy’s sake, and in all due respect, could the hockey gods divert any wet stuff away from Chavez Ravine this Saturday night, at least for a few hours? When the puck drops for this one-of-a-kind event in L.A. sports history, a full house at Dodger Stadium will be witness to something that could be considered its own kind of religious experience. Especially if there’s no bad weather, or incredible heat wave hanging over everything.
“This is a wonderful day, not only for Kings fans and for Ducks fans, but for the NHL itself,” said Kings Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, who will be in attendance. “It shows how much the game has grown. I remember sitting and watching on New Year’s Days, the games in Buffalo and Philly, in cold and snow, and always said it would be so cool to see it played in Dodger Stadium in 65 degrees (with fans) in shorts and T-shirts. The dream is going to come true.” Dodger Stadium has hosted all kinds of things over its 50-plus years. The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Michael Jackson. The Harlem Globetrotters, championship boxing matches and an Elvis Presley movie. Oh, right, Pope John Paul II also popped by in September, 1987 for a memorable Mass. It didn’t rain that day, either.
Also: The NHL Stadium Series continues when the N.Y. Rangers face the N.J. Devils at Yankee Stadium, Sunday at 9:30 a.m., Channel 4.
BEST OF THE REST
NHL: KINGS at BOSTON, noon, FSW:
The Kings, who chased Bruins netminder Tuuka Raask in a 4-2 win just last week at Staples Center, are 6-2-0 against the Bruins dating back to March 19, 2009. Prepare for some payback.
NBA: CLIPPERS at DETROIT, 10 a.m., Prime:
A Martin Luther King matinee play date in the Motor City seems just fine at this point in the road trip.
NBA: LAKERS at CHICAGO, 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
TNT originally had this one on the holiday schedule. Then it didn’t. For good reasons. Instead the network switched up to get Portland-Houston (4 p.m.) followed by Indiana-Gold State (6:30 p.m.). Can you dig it?
NHL: KINGS at COLUMBUS, 4 p.m., FSW:
The day after the MLK holiday, it’s Columbus day for the Kings. Put on your blue jackets and discover a new way to win.
USC vs. CAL, Galen Center, 8 p.m., ESPNU:
While the Trojans weigh down the bottom of the Pac-12, the Bears’ 5-0 start in conference — tied with Arizona at the top — is no fluke. Senior point guard Justin Cobbs, right, the most recent conference player of the week, leads Cal with 14.9 points and 6.4 assists a game. His former teammate at Torrance Bishop Montgomery High, Richard Solomon, is second in scoring at 12.1 and leads the team with 10.3 rebounds a contest.
NBA: LAKERS at MIAMI, 5 p.m., TNT:
When they last exchanged pleasantries on Christmas Day, the only thing that’s really memorable were a) funky new T-shirt jerseys and b) seeing Kobe Bryant watch from the bench having just been told he had a broken knee. LeBron James and his pals allowed the Lakers to hang around before finishing off a 101-95 victory. Kobe still thinks he can come back this season. Maybe next week?
NHL: KINGS at DUCKS, Honda Center, 7 p.m., FSW:
The prelude to the bigger event coming up, but you know how the Ducks play at home. Pretty much unbeatable this season. That should set the tone for Saturday.
UCLA vs. STANFORD, Pauley Pavilion, 8 p.m, Pac-12 Net:
The Cardinal has knocked off two ranked teams thus far on the road — at No. 10 UConn in December, and at No. 17 Oregon about a week ago. But will the No. 25 Bruins stay ranked after their loss at Utah last weekend?
NBA: LAKERS at ORLANDO, 4 p.m., TWC Sports Net:
If by Magic, it is possible there is someone with a worse record than the Lakers. Orlando just snapped a 10-game losing streak by defeating B, losers of 11 straight coming into this week, with poor Aaron Afflalo trying to raise them to a level of decency.
NBA: CLIPPERS at CHICAGO, 5 p.m., Prime, ESPN:
Ninety two. It’s about how many points a game the Bulls average, which is in the bottom three in the league. It’s also about how many points a game the Bulls give up, which is in the bottom two in the league. It explains their .500 record.
HOLLYWOOD PARK RACE TRACK AUCTION, 10 a.m.:
There are already more than 1,200 items listed on the website of GA Global Partners, in charge of the dispersal process for the 75-year-old Inglewood race track that closed about a month ago. The live webcast at gaauction.com looks to have available anything from track maintenance equipment to concession stand fixtures, large pieces of artwork to betting tables and bar stools, printing presses to jockey scales, tractors and golf carts, lawn jockey ornaments, outdoor heaters to benches. Even the large infield scoreboard seems to be up for grabs if you want to lug it home. How big a gamble are you willing to make that it’ll fit in the back of your pickup?
TENNIS: AUSTRALIAN OPEN, women’s final, midnight, ESPN:
Serena Williams admitted last week that after seeing the new movie, “Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” she would consider a return to the WTA BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells (March 3-16), a place she and sister Venus haven’t played since 2001 because of bad feelings caused by heckling fans they believe was racially motivated. “It crossed my mind (to go back to Indian Wells) not too long ago when I went to see the movie,” said Williams. “I thought about it. I think Mandela was a really amazing man. I felt really honored to have a chance to meet him, get to know him a little bit, and get to know his story a little better.” By losing in the fourth round of this event last weekend, Serena will have a head start toward resting up for a return to the desert. Watch for Maria Sharapova, seeded No. 3, who might have the best chance now of making the journey to the top.
The final reairs at 6 a.m. on ESPN. The women’s semifinals are Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., ESPN2.
SENIOR BOWL, Mobile, Ala., 1 p.m., NFL Network:
The rosters are still coming together, but nearly a dozen Pac-12 players are scheduled to participate, including UCLA receiver Shaq Evans and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt. Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton, the defensive tackle from Arizona State, will also attend.
TENNIS: AUSTRALIAN OPEN, men’s final, midnight, ESPN:
The alignment of No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal meeting up with No. 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic has stayed intact, despite Nadal complaining about the surface of the courts being too fast for his liking. “The spectators want a bit of rallying, a bit of tactics. People don’t go to Barcelona’s stadium to watch Lionel Messi taking penalties,” said Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle and coach. It’s an analogy that we just can’t get aligned with. Rafael Nadal skipped the Aussie major last year during a seven-month layoff, and this is the only major he has not won at least twice. His only win previously there is 2009, and he lost an epic five-set final to Djokovic two years ago.
The finals reair at 6 a.m. on ESPN; The men’s semifinals are Wednesday at 12:30 a.m., ESPN and Thursday at 12:30 a.m., ESPN.
PGA FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN, at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, final round, noon, Channel 2:
Yup, it does seem as if Tiger Woods owns the place. The defending champ at this event has won it seven times since 1999, plus the 2008 U.S. Open on the same track. As for Sam Sneed’s record of 82 Tour wins, Woods, who just turned 38, has four to go officially to catch him. Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Nick Watney are also committed to trying to derail him.
Golf Channel has the first two rounds (Thursday and Friday, noon); CBS has the third round Saturday, noon.
NBA: LAKERS at NEW YORK, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:
Give Spike Lee a rain check on this one. Carmelo Anthony had 26 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to the Clippers last week. And the Garden still had more than 19,000 mellowing out in attendance.
NBA: CLIPPERS at TORONTO, 4 p.m., Prime:
After the Raptors spit out the Lakers last Sunday, they may still have a appetite for something L.A. fancy.
USC vs. STANFORD, Galen Center, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Net
UCLA vs. CAL, Pauley Pavilion, 5 p.m., ESPNU:
Assuming Cal knocks off USC on Wednesday, the Bears will have won their first four road conference games for the first time since 1957. As for Trojans fans: Don’t be alarmed that the Cardinal has guard named Marcus Allen coming off the bench.
NFL PRO BOWL, Honolulu, 4 p.m., Channel 4:
To make this even more a gimmicky than usual, the league decided to do away with conference affiliations and allow Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice to pick the two squads (see: NFL Network, Tuesday and Wednesday, 5 p.m. each night). They’re calling this “Fantasy football – for real.” The non-fantasy is that, after the selection process, the flag-football-type affair remains the same. Also: No more kickoffs. Just too dangerous.