Kings at the World Championships, Day 2. Update.

Team USA beat Austria 5-1 on Saturday at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia, and Jack Johnson pitched in with an assist in a team-leading 23:27 time on ice.

According to a report in USA Today, Johnson arrived at the tournament last night.

“I can’t say enough about (Johnson),” Team USA head coach Scott Gordon told the newspaper. “The call goes out to him, and it wasn’t, ‘I got to see if I’m healthy or check with my agent.’ It was, ‘When does the flight leave?’ … I was excited when they told me he was coming over because he gives it everything he has.”

The U.S. plays Norway on Monday.

A couple other notes from the tournament:

Anze Kopitar’s father, Matjaz, is the head coach of the Slovenian national team that lost to Slovakia, 3-1 on Friday night.

Former Kings goalie Erik Ersberg was in the losing net in Norway’s 5-4 shootout win over Sweden today. According to, it was Norway’s first win ever in international championship competition over Sweden, a history that extends back 61 years.

Update: The Kings announced that forward Michal Handzus has been added to the roster for Team Slovakia. He joins Johnson and Jonathan Bernier (Canada) as the only Kings players in the tournament.

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Worlds begin, sans Bernier and Johnson.

Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier was added to Team Canada’s roster at the IIHF World Championships, which began today in Slovakia without him.

Bernier was not among the 19 players — six defensemen, 11 forwards and two goalies — who helped Canada beat Belarus 4-1 in their first game of the tournament.

In fact, neither he nor Kings defenseman Jack Johnson have been added to the official rosters of Canada or the U.S., respectively.

You can follow the tournament in its entirety from the IIHF website.

Bernier, 22, most recently earned a gold medal for Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships (two games played, 1-1-0 record, 2.00 goals-against-average, .947 save percentage and one shutout) – one of four Kings to play for the team (Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds and Thomas Hickey). Bernier has also represented Canada at 2006 World U18 Championships and 2007 Super Series (best junior players from Canada and Russia competing); represented the QMJHL in the Canada-Russia Challenge in 2006; and he represented Team Canada Quebec at 2004 World U17 Hockey Challenge.

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San Jose 4, Kings 3, OT.

“Overtime” and “heartbreak” went together well for the Kings in this year’s playoffs. So did “Staples Center” and “heartbreak.”

“Kings” and “heartbreak”? Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Joe Thornton’s goal at 2:22 of overtime ended the Kings’ season Monday with a 4-3 loss at Staples. The Kings finished 0-3 at home in the series, 0-3 in overtime, and finished this season right where they ended the last: Done for the season after six playoff games.

Players and coaches won’t be available to the media tomorrow, so a full-fledged “obituary” of the season will have to wait until Wednesday.

The hot-button issue after the game was the absence of Terry Murray and any Kings coaches in the postgame handshake, as described here and here.

I put a request out to the Kings for comment. Like the obituary, it may have to wait.

A few factoids for now:
Continue reading “San Jose 4, Kings 3, OT.” »

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Kings 3, Sharks 1.

Jonathan Quick was going to have to steal a game or two for the Kings to have a chance at advancing to the second round.

A couple more games like Saturday’s, and they could be in business.

Quick’s 51 saves in Game 5 set a franchise playoff record and allowed the Kings to stave off elimination. His counterpart, Antti Niemi, could scarcely have been worse, allowing three goals on the Kings’ first four shots. Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Penner got their first goals of the playoffs, while Kyle Clifford got his third.

The Kings’ 52 shots allowed were also a record, but the Sharks couldn’t do much with them. One reason was the Kings’ success in the faceoff circle: 31-25 as a team, highlighted by a 15-2 record by Jarret Stoll. Another reason was the lack of odd-man rushes for the Sharks, as the Kings succeeded in plugging the holes in front of Quick.

“It was just more of a home plate attitude,” Quick said. “They kept a lot of the guys out — a lot of the shots were from the perimeter, limited their Grade-A chances from last time.”

Mostly, however, it was Quick. Acrobatic at times and always calm, he made 19 saves in the first period, 15 in the second and 18 in the third.

The series shifts back to Staples Center on Monday at 7 p.m.

A few more notes and observations:
Continue reading “Kings 3, Sharks 1.” »

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Sharks 6, Kings 3.

Maybe you had forgotten about Anze Kopitar, but Terry Murray hasn’t.

The question after Thursday’s Game 4 loss was fairly innocuous –can any lineup changes be made at this point, down three games to one? — but the answer was revealing.

“I’m playing what I’ve got,” Murray said. “Kopitar’s not coming back, guys. He’s got a broken leg.”

Well, yeah. We knew that.

Maybe the more important question is, why can’t the Kings play defense all of a sudden?

They scored twice in the final nine minutes of the second period to spoil Antti Niemi’s shutout and pull within 3-2 heading into the final frame.

Yet just as the wheels came off in the second period of Game 3, when San Jose erupted for five goals to erase a 4-0 Kings lead,there was Joe Thornton and no one else, alone in the slot with all the time in the world to score the Sharks’ fourth goal.

“That was a big goal for us,” San Jose forward Logan Couture said. “That gave us the confidence back, the swagger we have on the ice.”

The Sharks scored the next two goals to make it a 6-2 game, and the verdict was unsealed: It was going to take a miracle for the Kings to save this series.

Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper. Some more notes and observations:
Continue reading “Sharks 6, Kings 3.” »

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Terry Murray thinks faceoffs are a big deal.

It didn’t take much of a prompt for Terry Murray to go off on the importance of faceoffs after a rather uneventful morning skate at the Kings’ practice facility Thursday morning.

Some of this will make my notebook in tomorrow’s editions, some of it won’t. But it’s worth noting that this was the coach’s response to a question about whether he talked about faceoffs with the players after Game 3, in which the Sharks went 39-25 on draws:
Continue reading “Terry Murray thinks faceoffs are a big deal.” »

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Playoff adversity: Nothing new to Kings’ veterans.

Ryan Smyth has been there before.

It was Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, his Edmonton Oilers against Justin Williams’ Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers led 4-1 after two periods in Raleigh before losing 5-4. The series went the full seven games before Carolina won.

“It really set the shifting of that game, in my opinion, in their favor,” said Smyth, one of the Kings’ veteran leaders, with Williams sitting a few feet away in the team’s locker room after practice. “But we battled hard. We stayed in the series. We obviously pushed it to (Game) 7.”

Willie Mitchell has been there before, too.

Down three games to one to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2003 playoffs, his Minnesota Wild won three straight to advance to the second round.

“Sometimes individuals have to go through that in order to know how to handle it,” the Kings defenseman said. “The roles have been reversed the other way. We won 4-0 up in San Jose, it was the same thing. It’s a learning experience for some guys on this team who haven’t been through that.”

The Kings’ 6-5 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of their first-round series Tuesday was nothing new to several of the teams’ veterans. The Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators are the youngest teams participating in the playoffs (average age: 26.9).

Head coach Terry Murray complimented the older players Wednesday, when the Kings went back practice trying to put Tuesday’s debacle behind them.
Continue reading “Playoff adversity: Nothing new to Kings’ veterans.” »

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Sharks 6, Kings 5, OT.

The hashtags and catchphrases were skipping through cyberspace within a half-hour of Devin Setoguchi’s goal at 3:09 of overtime: “The Failure on Figueroa.”

After squandering a 4-0, second-period lead, the Kings’ 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3 to the San Jose Sharks can be seen as nothing less.

“We’ve got to look at what happened in the second (period), learn from it,” a despondent Kings captain Dustin Brown said, “because we don’t have the type of team that can take periods off, especially at this time of year.”

Apparently the Sharks do — a revelation that may ultimately prove the difference in the series.

Antti Niemi was pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots, the last of which came 44 seconds into the second period on a Brad Richardson wrister.

Somehow, inexplicably, the Sharks shed the ghosts of postseasons past by scoring five goals over the remainder of the second period. Only a backdoor, breakaway tally by Ryan Smyth interrupted the onslaught and kept the teams tied at 5 heading into the third period.

“[It was] puck management,” Brown said. “We needed to get the puck deep on them. They’re a fast offensive team and we gave them chances and plays. They can find lanes and open areas to get some goals, and that’s kind of what happened with the overtime goal. They transitioned it from their end, and it was pretty quick.”

Like ripping off a band-aid, Setoguchi’s first goal of the series provided a stinging, decisive conclusion to a back-and-forth game.

The question now: How deep do the Kings’ emotional wounds run?

“It stings right now,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “We got to let it go though right away. You give yourself tonight, you feel bad about it, but tomorrow’s a new day.”
Continue reading “Sharks 6, Kings 5, OT.” »

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Weal, Toffoli sign entry-level deals.

In the last month, Jordan Weal and Tyler Toffoli made the leap from the Canadian Hockey League to the American Hockey League.

Their next jump could be to the NHL.

The Kings signed the teenage prospects to three-year, entry-level contracts Monday. Toffoli, who turns 19 on Sunday, was selected by the Kings in the second round (47th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-1 center led the Ontario Hockey League in goals scored (57) and tied for the league lead in points (108) before joining the Monarchs.

Weal, who turned 19 Friday, was drafted in the third round (70th overall) in 2010. The 5-foot-10 center recorded 96 points and 43 goals in 72 regular-season games for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats this season.

Toffoli has scored one goal while appearing in all three games of the Monarchs’ first-round series with Binghamton. Weal hasn’t appeared in any playoff games for Manchester.

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Brief Monday practice notes.

Jarret Stoll and Ian White were texting each other over the weekend. Stoll was suspended one game by the NHL for hitting White into the end boards Thursday, which resulted in the Sharks defenseman missing Game 2 himself with a head injury.

“We just chatted a couple times,” said Stoll. “He appreciated the text and me reaching out to him. I wanted to make sure I did that, let him know I didn’t want to hurt him in any way.”

Heck, they could have discussed the incident in the press box at HP Pavilion (although it’s worth debating whether climbing several flights of stairs to watch a hockey game being played more than 100 feet below you is recommended for anyone coming off a head injury).

Stoll and White can continue their conversation on the ice Tuesday at Staples Center, when the Sharks and Kings clash in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series.

White told reporters Monday in San Jose that he’s feeling well enough to play. Among the Sharks’ better point-producing defensemen, a healthy White could cause the Kings some trouble. But Stoll was understandably relieved at the news that White had returned to practice.

“That’s good to hear,” he said. “From the start, there wasn’t any intent to go in and hurt the guy. I know him a little bit, playing against him in junior. I know he’s a good guy.”
Continue reading “Brief Monday practice notes.” »

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