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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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:
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Williams, Parse eye return.

The only Kings players wearing gray jerseys, Justin Williams and Scott Parse had a whole forward line to themselves Monday.

Call it the “Questionable Line.”

It’s too soon to say whether Williams or Parse will play when the Kings visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. The prognosis was looking better for Williams in his return from a dislocated shoulder.

“My strength is up to par and everything,” he said after taking part in a full practice that included light contact. “I just need to get comfortable out there and not think about it and just see how it progresses throughout the week. If I go out there and I’m timid, I’m not going to do it. We’ll just take it slowly and, if it happens, great. It’s really tough sitting out playoff games, I know that, but I’ll try my best.”

Williams, whose 57 points and 35 assists (in 73 games) were second on the team, has not played since sustaining the injury March 21 against Calgary.

“I’ll get into some more intense battling this week and we’ll go from there,” he said. “The coach and I and the training staff will make a decision about whether I can go or not.”
Continue reading “Williams, Parse eye return.” »

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Terry Murray: ‘I overreacted, probably’

One day after blasting fans for booing the Kings off the ice after the second period of an eventual 4-0 loss to St. Louis, Kings head coach Terry Murray said he didn’t know how to soften his position.

He tried anyway.

“I overreacted probably, in saying … you don’t want to drag (the fans) into the reason why, but I did,” Murray said. “There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget.”
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St. Louis 4, Kings 0.

The announced crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center didn’t get a chance to welcome back the Kings squad that had just swept a four-game road trip for the first time in franchise history.

That team bore little resemblance to the one that played the Blues on Thursday.

Considering that the Kings got a well-earned day off practice upon returning home Wednesday, and were playing a struggling Blues squad that was all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, maybe a letdown wasn’t completely out of the blue (pun intended).

But head coach Terry Murray wasn’t ready for the crowd’s reaction after the second period. The Kings were booed off the ice shortly after Jonathan Quick allowed a bad-angle goal by Matt D’Agostini with 6.9 seconds left before intermission.

“You know what the most disappointing, frustrating thing was? At the end of the second period we were booed off the ice by our fans,” Murray said. “That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That’s the worst I have ever been through in all the years I’ve been coaching. I’ve been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL and booed off the ice by your own fans — at the end of the second period after we’ve been through here, after this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places — very disappointing.”

Murray then left the lectern, the five-question postgame press conference only slightly exceeding the two-question low set on March 5.

The debate over whether or not the boos were warranted ought to generate some buzz in Hockeywood (comments welcome here), at least until the Kings’ next game Saturday against the Ducks.

As with all of the 11 remaining games, that one will have big implications on the Western Conference standings, which currently see the Kings trailing the Phoenix Coyotes by two points for fourth place. The Kings have one game in hand already, and they’ll have two in hand after Phoenix visits Vancouver tomorrow when the Kings get a day off.

Some more notes/observations that won’t make tomorrow’s editions:
Continue reading “St. Louis 4, Kings 0.” »

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Vancouver 3, Kings 1.

Underneath the adrenaline, the Kings’ outrage over the game-winning goal, and the specter of a 2010 playoff rematch (and possible 2011 playoff preview) was a familiar truth: The Kings need to score more.

The good news is that Jonathan Quick (33 saves) was good. But he could do nothing about the Kings’ inability to convert a power play or put more than 22 shots on goal.

The bad news is that, in the last two games combined, the Kings have scored twice and registered 40 shots. That might amount to a walk in the park for NHL-leading Vancouver, which had a surprise up its sleeve by matching the Kings’ physical play for 60 minutes.

They also had this Daniel Sedin goal, which drew the outrage of Quick, Drew Doughty, and Terry Murray — judge for yourself whether it’s legal or not:

Tomorrow’s story will focus on the unusally strong reaction by the Kings to Sedin’s goal.

Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:

Continue reading “Vancouver 3, Kings 1.” »

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Kings 1, Phoenix 0.

The difference in the Kings’ last two games wasn’t Jonathan Bernier or Dustin Penner. It was astronomical.

That said, Jonathan Bernier’s 25 saves and Dustin Penner’s debut were the most memorable aspects of a game decided on Jarret Stoll’s power-play goal with 7:47 left in the third period.

For the first time in a while, Bernier had to flash a nervous smile and get political in the dressing room after the game. That’s the reward for posting a shutout immediately after a 7-4 loss: Questions about whether you want to be the starter.

“For me, it’s not something I focus on,” Bernier said. “Me and Quickie, we’re here to win some hockey games. Quickie’s our number one. He’s done a tremendous job for us.”

Nobody’s denying Quick’s resume. But neither can one ignore his six goals allowed Monday against Detroit – a team the Kings might have to face in the playoffs. Terry Murray didn’t ignore Quick’s last outing by starting Bernier on Thursday, and now the coach can’t just as easily ignore Bernier’s shutout. Murray would not tip his thinking when asked after the game if he was inclined to start Bernier against Dallas.

Penner didn’t score, but he was directly involved in the goal, and had some good cycle shifts with Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds (and Justin Williams, who took over for Simmonds at right wing in the third period). Penner’s only shot attempt was blocked, but he led the Kings with five hits.

A few more notes that won’t appear in tomorrow’s editions …
Continue reading “Kings 1, Phoenix 0.” »

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Why Marco Sturm is in, and why Andrei Loktionov is out.

It would be easy to view Andrei Loktionov’s weekend demotion as a statement on the 20-year-old’s development – or the lack thereof.

Loktionov was scratched for Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders because “there were a couple more games where he’s starting to get exposed on system play,” Terry Murray said after the Kings practiced Monday. The coach specifically mentioned the shootout loss Thursday against the New York Rangers. “There were three or four different looks that they had that were because of (us) losing some coverage,” Murray said.

Come Sunday, Loktionov was playing for the Manchester Monarchs.
Continue reading “Why Marco Sturm is in, and why Andrei Loktionov is out.” »

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Loktionov assigned to Manchester.

Four days after the first multipoint game of his NHL career, Andrei Loktionov is back in the AHL.

The Kings assigned the 20-year-old center to Manchester on Sunday, and Loktionov was in the starting lineup for the Monarchs’ noon (EST) game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

In his second NHL stint this season, beginning Jan. 20, Loktionov had two goals, three assists and a plus-3 rating in 12 games. He had a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating Wednesday in Columbus, and appeared to be on an upswing since head coach Terry Murray switched him from left wing to his natural center position. Yet Loktionov was made a healthy scratch Saturday in the Kings’ 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders.

That makes the timing of Loktionov’s demotion (not to mention the pretext for juggling lines in the middle of an 8-0-3 streak)less than self-explanatory. Murray told reporters prior to the Islanders game that Loktionov “got exposed a little bit in some of those important situations” – an ambiguous statement, but one that probably alludes to something Murray saw from Loktionov’s defensive abilities.

Still, with the trade deadline only eight days away, one must question what the long-term plan is for Loktionov. Is he seen as a part of the core group that will aid the Kings’ playoff push? If not, is a trade in the works? If he comes back, is he a center or a left wing?

We’ll try to get some answers when the Kings return home to practice this week.

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