Los Angeles Hockey: Colin Fraser

Kings beat Oilers on late goal by Carter

February, 19, 2013

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Jeff Carter scored the go-ahead goal with 49.6 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Los Angeles Kings over the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Tuesday night.

For the full story, click this link.

Kings come out on top again after lockout

January, 6, 2013
LOS ANGELES -- It took longer than anyone would have liked, but the NHL lockout is finally over.

Hockey will be back this month, and so will the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

It could be argued that no team benefited more from the players' staying firm to having a larger salary cap than the Kings, who will enter this season with their entire Stanley Cup-winning roster intact and the ability to keep that roster in place for the foreseeable future.

The NHL was hoping to get the salary cap down to $60 million, while the players were holding firm to $65 million. The owners moved up a little and the players moved down a little, and they finally met at a $64.3 million cap number next year, according to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. For the first year, the salary cap is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period.

As ESPN.com’s Craig Custance notes, that’s no small win for the players -- and the Kings in particular.

According to CapGeek.com, the Kings’ current cap payroll is a little more than $62 million, with their actual salary payroll at just more than $64 million. Next season they have 13 players signed, with $50 million going to Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown, Colin Fraser, Dwight King, Kevin Westgarth, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Jonathan Quick.

Under the proposed cap by the owners, it would have been virtually impossible for the Kings to keep their current roster intact after this season. They likely would have had to let go of free agents like Simon Gagne, Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson and Rob Scuderi. Under the cap they eventually agreed to, the Kings have a chance at keeping this roster in place and surrounding their stars with familiar role players -- something that might mean the difference between a championship and a first-round playoff exit.

And Kings fans don’t need to be reminded how instrumental Penner and Scuderi were in getting the Kings back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in nearly two decades and helping them win it for the first time in franchise history.

If the NBA lockout last year is any indication, fans will quickly forget about the lockout, and teams with little turnover on their roster and the coaching staff usually have the most success in these condensed seasons that see a short training camp and few practices between games.

By that measure, it should put the Kings in good shape to be among the top contenders to win the Stanley Cup this season as they attempt to become the first back-to-back champs since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

There had been a general feeling in Los Angeles that the Kings may have squandered an opportunity to seize a piece of the market here after converting so many fans during their magical Stanley Cup title run. But die-hard fans are always going to be there and the fair-weather fans who came along for the ride during the playoffs may well be there again if the Kings are able to put together a similar run.

If anything, the Kings may be coming back at the perfect time: With Los Angeles sports fans looking for something to hang their hats on after the Dodgers and Angels missed the playoffs, after USC’s disappointing football season and with the Lakers below .500, a Kings championship banner raising and ring ceremony to start the season will give residents another chance to hop on the bandwagon.

Kings: 5 questions heading into 2012-13

June, 17, 2012

AP Photo/Louis Lopez/CSM
The biggest priority this summer is signing goalie Jonathan Quick to a long-term contract extension.
Coming off their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history, the Kings face many of the same questions most organizations do this time of year. Which players must they try to re-sign? Who can they afford to let go? In what areas do they need to bolster their roster? Here’s a look at five key questions heading into the offseason.

1. Can the Kings extend Quick? The biggest priority this summer is signing goalie Jonathan Quick to a long-term contract extension. Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL’s top player in the postseason, will be an unrestricted free agent a year from now. The Kings can begin negotiating an extension as soon as July 1. As the 25th-highest-paid goalie in the league last season at $1.7 million, look for Quick to earn something in the $7 million range, similar to that of the league’s highest-paid netminder, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Quick's roots are on the East Coast, however. If the Kings aren't able to lock him into an extension this summer, that may be an indication his heart remains elsewhere.

2. What to do with Penner, Stoll and Fraser? The contracts belonging to forwards Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser will expire this summer, leaving all three veterans as unrestricted free agents. Penner had a solid showing in the playoffs, but was virtually missing in action the rest of his time with the Kings. If they can knock a couple of million off the $4.25 million he made last season, he might be worth keeping around. Stoll’s offensive numbers dropped significantly after he was moved from the second line to the third line last season, but his attitude never wavered. He’s probably better suited for the third line at this stage of his career anyway, but most third-liners don’t make $3.4 million a season. Fraser, the team’s fourth-line center, might actually earn a raise off the $825,000 he made last season.

3. Can the Kings avoid the Stanley hangover? No team has repeated as Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98. A number of factors are responsible for this trend, probably none bigger than the widespread parity that has developed within the league in recent years. In the past nine seasons, nine teams have raised the Cup. Another factor is the significantly shorter summer Cup champions experience after their title run, leaving them a bit slow out of the gate. The Kings have a couple of factors on their side: They remain one of the youngest teams in the league and won’t lose any of their key players to free agency.

4. Is this the last we’ve seen of Bernier? At least in a Kings’ uniform, that seems to be the case. A former 11th overall draft pick, Jonathan Bernier is one of the best backup goalies in the league, but he has made it clear he’d rather not wear that title. He wants to be a starter and, after starting just 42 games in the past four seasons, he’s more than ready to make that move. He’s looking at a nice raise from $975,000 last season to $1.525 million in 2012-13, the final year of his current contract. The Kings could get that number off the books via a trade, slot Martin Jones in as the backup and use that cap space to bring in a forward to fill the shoes of Penner or Stoll.

5. Who will make up the fourth line next season? The Kings suddenly have a surplus of fourth-line types on the roster. Assuming they re-sign Fraser, that leaves Jordan Nolan, Brad Richardson, Kyle Clifford, Kevin Westgarth and Andrei Loktionov battling it out for the final two spots. There’s also a few players ready to graduate from the minors, most notably bruiser Rich Clune, who signed a two-year contract extension last week. Loktionov could very well inherit Stoll’s third-line center position, since he doesn’t have the size to survive on the wing. Clifford and Nolan are signed to two-way contracts through next season, which could leave one of them starting out next season in Manchester.

Simon Gagne steps in, feels comfortable

June, 4, 2012
Simon GagneHarry How/Getty ImagesSimon Gagne's return to the Kings was meaningful, as he hadn't played a game for L.A. since suffering a concussion on Dec. 26.

LOS ANGELES -- Though they've rarely trailed in their march to within one victory of their first Stanley Cup title, the Los Angeles Kings notched their greatest comeback of the postseason Monday night.

Simon Gagne played his first game for the Kings since Dec. 26, the day he suffered the latest concussion in his 12-year-career. His contributions were minimal in the 4-0 victory in Game 3 against the New Jersey Devils, but considerably meaningful.

“I worked hard to get back and play,” he said after the game. “I was not sure if I was going to play and just get back on the ice.”

Gagne is believed to have suffered three concussions in a five-month span as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2007-08 season. While playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, he missed parts of the playoffs because of another head injury.

On each occasion, he rushed himself back into the lineup. After he was injured the day after Christmas on a seemingly mild collision against the Phoenix Coyotes, he decided it was time to step back and let his brain completely heal.

“I was maybe 95 percent two months ago, but it was not good enough for me and the doctor and the team,” he said. “Maybe in the past, 95 percent, I was going to go back and play, and you never know what’s going to happen after that.”

Gagne didn’t begin practicing with the team until late May, and even then coach Darryl Sutter downplayed any chance of Gagne returning. Then after Game 2's victory Saturday night in New Jersey, Sutter tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get ready.

“After that, I didn’t talk to him until [Monday] morning,” Gagne said. “This morning, he said, 'Are you good to go?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure.' "

(Read full post)

Kings: Road show ramps up for Game 2

June, 2, 2012

Stanley Cup Final

Game 2 (Kings lead the series, 1-0)

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Down this road before -- Nothing has been more well-documented during this postseason run than L.A.’s success on the road. Why stop now? The Kings bring an 11-game road winning streak into this game, winning all nine away from Staples Center in these playoffs, both NHL records. There’s no clear explanation for why the Kings have been so successful on the road, they’ve just continued to play very well over the last three months. You get the feeling they could win 10 straight on a frozen pond in Iceland right about now.

2. Two is better than one -- The Kings may not have played their absolute best in Game 2s during this playoff run, but they’ve had their best results. It began with Dustin Brown’s two short-handed goals in a 4-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in the opening-round series, followed by a four-goal first-period outburst in a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Round 2. Jeff Carter backed that up with a hat trick in a 4-0 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference final. Like in the past, look for Kings to set the tone in the first 10 minutes and counter any flurry by the Devils.

3. Stop-n-go -- Since the regular season ended April 7, the Kings have played just 15 games. Part of the reason is they’ve breezed through the first three rounds, another has been arena availability. The Kings had to spend an extra day in New Jersey because of a previously scheduled concert Friday night at Prudential Center. Both of L.A.’s losses in these playoffs have come after two-day breaks without travel in between, although both of those setbacks came at Staples Center.

4. More than just energy -- Coming into this series, much of the hype was focused on the production spilling from New Jersey’s fourth line. But it was L.A.’s energy line of Colin Fraser, Brad Richardson and Jordan Nolan that delivered the best overall effort of any line in Game 1. Fraser scored the first goal for the Kings, his first career playoff marker, Nolan set him with a nice pass from behind the net and contributed four hits and two takeaways, and Richardson was just a pest, screaming in on the forecheck and making life difficult for the Devils.

5. Star suppression -- The Kings did a fine job limiting Ilya Kovalchuk in Game 1. The team’s leading scorer in the regular season and playoffs had just one shot on goal in the 2-1 overtime loss and that didn’t arrive until early in the third period. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty received a lot of credit for getting in Kovalchuk’s way, but in reality he played only nine shifts against the speedy winger. The entire defense corps for the Kings deserves credit for keeping Kovalchuk under wraps, and you can bet he’ll be circled on their radar for Game 2.

Rapid Reaction: Game 1: Kings 2, Devils 1 (OT)

May, 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1

Los Angeles Kings 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (OT)

The good: The Kings won their ninth straight road game of these playoffs and 11thoverall, thanks to a heady play by three of their best players. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty chipped the puck up the wall to Justin Williams, who drew both defensemen for the Devils. Williams flicked a backhand pass to Anze Kopitar, who was left alone in the middle of the ice. He reached to gather in the pass, went straight at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, stick handling the whole time. Brodeur bit hard, sprawling to the ice and leaving Kopitar room to drag the puck to his forehand and score his seventh goal of the postseason with 11:47 remaining in the overtime. … For the ninth time in this postseason, the Kings scored first, a good sign considering they won seven of the previous eight games when they drew first blood. The fourth line of Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson was the best line all night for the Kings, and they came through midway through the first period. Richardson did most of the dirty work to keep the puck in the New Jersey end and Nolan picked it up from there, passing from behind the net to Fraser, who was camped in the slot. Fraser put the puck past Brodeur for a 1-0 lead and his first career playoff goal. The matchup of fourth liners was one of the keys to this series. The Devils came into the finals with nine goals from their fourth-line group, while the Kings had just two.

The bad: The Kings held the Devils without a shot on net for the first 14 minutes of the second period, giving them a huge window to add to their lead and really silent the Prudential Center crowd. Unfortunately, they’ve had a tendency to take their foot off the gas late in the second period in these playoffs, and New Jersey made them pay. The scoring play began with a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point by New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made the stop, but the rebound hit Kings defenseman Slava Voynov as he battled to keep Patrik Elias from getting to the puck. The carom went straight into the goal with 1:12 left in the second period, tying the score, 1-1. Just before the play, Quick made his second sloppy turnover behind his own net, then laid on top of Devils forward Zach Parise before giving him an extra downward push and a taste of the ice. If Quick has any weaknesses in his game, it’s his puck-handling.

The in between: With 16:02 left in the third, a New Jersey goal was waived off by referee Dan O’Halloran after the puck had ricocheted through traffic to Parise on the opposite post. He had an open side of the net, but didn’t hit the puck cleanly, leading to a mad scramble. The puck didn’t appear to be completely secured by Quick, but the whistle had been blown before Parise tapped it across the goal line. … Kings forward Trevor Lewis took a hard lick in the second period and stumbled off the ice. He took a brief trip to the locker room for repairs, but was soon back on the third line. … Brodeur made the save of the game on Doughty with 7 minutes left in third. Mike Richards had room to work but decided to leave the puck for a trailing Doughty, who had time to take a couple strides closer to the net. Brodeur threw out a two-pad stack and stopped the shot.

Kings: Pressure builds as Stanley Cup finals begin

May, 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Not just another playoff game – If the moment hasn’t hit the Kings yet, it very well could some time today. L.A. breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs like a sports car on the autobahn, barely noticing the competition as it sped by. With the realization that they’re now at the doorstep of the Holy Grail for only the second time in franchise history, will the Kings suddenly stiffen up and forget what got them here? The first period could be a clear indication. New Jersey has come out strong in these playoffs, scoring 23 of their 47 regulation goals in the first 20 minutes.

2. Big names, big games – Both sides have their share of stars on the roster, but who will step up on the biggest stage in hockey? It’s safe to say, based on the attention he received during Tuesday’s media session, that Kings second-line center Mike Richards is the most popular player on a North American scale. He’s Canadian, spent the first six years of his career playing on the East Coast for the Philadelphia Flyers, and now fits right into the Southern California fabric. Ilya Kovalchuk of the Devils may have something to say about stealing the limelight, however. He might be the most skilled player on the ice for both teams, though he’s not the media darling that Richards has become.

3. Young gun vs. old guard – The goalie matchup figures to take center stage right from the opening drop. Kings netminder Jonathan Quick has been the better player all season, but Martin Brodeur of the Devils has been here before… a few times. Both have stepped up their games in the postseason, but Quick is still a half goal better in the all-important goals-against column. At 40 years of age, will Brodeur’s reflexes stand up against the pressure of the Kings? He has played only one period against L.A. this season and that was back in October. Quick, on the other hand, is overdue for an off night. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a playoff game this spring and has given up two consecutive goals only twice in 14 playoff games. Those just happen to be the only two games the Kings lost.

4. On the road again – The Kings are on virgin ground when it comes to road success in the NHL playoffs. They’re the first team to win eight straight playoff games on the road to start the postseason and the first to win 10 straight overall. The Kings have won the first two games away from Staples Center in each of the first three rounds, and they’re starting out on the road once again. Like any record-breaking streak, it has to end some time. The Kings just hope it’s not tonight.

5. Lagging behind – After benefiting greatly from secondary scoring early in the postseason, the third and fourth lines for the Kings are a bit overdue. Jarret Stoll hasn’t scored since his overtime series-clinching goal in Game 5 against the Vancouver Canucks, and Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson haven’t scored since the opening-round series either. Jordan Nolan also has just one goal in the postseason, and fourth-line center Colin Fraser is still looking for his first. Dwight King has been phenomenal in the last two rounds, scoring five goals, but the Kings can’t expect a rookie to carry all the weight of the bottom six.

Kings: Brad Richardson brings the intangibles

May, 25, 2012
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- He buzzes around the ice like a flea in an opponent’s ear, racing from one end of the rink to the other, never seeming to back off or even slow down until he heads to the bench at the end of a shift.

Brad Richardson might be one of the most unsung members of the Los Angeles Kings, but he’s far from unnoticed.

As the Kings prepare for the Stanley Cup finals beginning next week against the winner of the New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils series, nearly every player has been part of a defining moment in these playoffs.

Some have been bigger than others. Richardson’s was huge.

After missing the first two games of the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks following an emergency appendectomy, he scored the tying goal in the third period of Game 5, allowing the Kings to eventually win in overtime and clinch the first-round series against the top-seeded team in the West.

Typically, his contributions as a fourth-line left wing fly much lower on the radar.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not afraid to go into dirty areas,” fourth-line center Colin Fraser said. “He’s not the guy putting guys into the third row, but he’s physical in the fact that he’s not afraid to be first on the puck.”

Richardson also brings an element of speed that’s more typical of a top-six forward. He combines that speed with the willingness to play rough, allowing him to quickly skate in on the forecheck and gain possession of the puck or disrupt the opponent’s clearing attempts.

Richardson said he’s willing to do anything to stay in the lineup.

“You’re always trying to improve and be at your best,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that can play, so you’re just trying to play well every time you get in there.”

Richardson has seen his playing time and role with the team fluctuate during his four years in L.A. He was a bottom-six forward for most of his first three seasons then was elevated to a top-line center role for the 2011 playoffs after a season-ending ankle injury to Anze Kopitar.

That line, with rookie Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, turned out to be the most productive of the series.

With a Kopitar back this season, as well as the addition of Mike Richards and Fraser, the center position became extremely crowded, forcing Richardson to display his versatility as a winger.

Still, that wasn’t enough to keep him in the lineup on a consistent basis.

At one point in late February and into March, he was a healthy scratch in 14 of 19 games.

Richardson got another chance to show what he could do when Jeff Carter went down with a deep ankle bruise with five games left in the regular season. Richardson was reinserted on the top line with Kopitar and Dustin Brown and in his second game scored two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss in Minnesota.

Richardson appeared to have a tight hold on a fourth-line spot heading into the playoffs, but he had been bothered with stomach pains in the days leading up to the first-round series with the Canucks. His mother, a registered nurse who just happened to be visiting at the time, recommended he visit a doctor who discovered he needed an appendectomy.

By the time he was set to return, Richardson may have been the odd-man out again, but another spot opened up on the fourth line when Clifford suffered a concussion in Game 1 against the Canucks.

While Clifford was on the mend, Richardson took the opportunity to show what he could provide in a fourth-line role, and his goal against the Canucks in Game 5 was the type of contribution that usually keeps a player in the lineup.

Even when Fraser returned home to be with his then-ill 19-month-old son and missed Games 2 and 3 of the Western Conference finals, giving Clifford an opportunity to return to the lineup, Richardson remained on the fourth line when Fraser returned, leaving Clifford on the list of healthy scratches.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Richardson has one tangible that Clifford does not.

“Cliffy is probably the youngest player in our room, and experience is a big part of it,” Sutter said.

This is Richardson’s fifth trip to the postseason. The Kings lost in the first round the past two years, and he was twice swept in the second round while a member of the Colorado Avalanche from 2005-08.

He won't forget this experience, even when he's old and grey.

“It’s really nice to get this far, and get a chance to play for what we all dreamed about,” he said.

Kings chasing history heading into Game 4 vs. Coyotes

May, 20, 2012
Western Conference final

Game 4 (Kings lead series, 3-0)

Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center, noon

Five storylines to track:

1. Record pace – This isn’t just an L.A. thing anymore. The Kings have gone international. Not just because the world-class Amgen Tour of Southern California bike race will come skidding to a halt outside Staples Center as hockey fans are pouring in, but because no one has seen anything like the playoff run the King have strung together. They’ve won eight straight playoff games and 11 of 12 overall, leaving them one win shy of the Stanley Cup finals. Since the first round of the playoffs was stretched to best-of-seven in the 1987 season, no team has reached the finals in less than 14 games. The Kings would become the first if they can wrap up the sweep against the Coyotes.

2. Not as hot – The only major professional sports team that’s hotter than the Kings right now is the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, who have won 17 consecutive games, including all seven in the playoffs. Interestingly enough, the Spurs are scheduled to play inside Staples Center later Sunday night, when they’ll try to finish a second-round sweep against the Los Angeles Clippers. Like the Kings, the Spurs got hot in the weeks leading up to the playoffs and built on that momentum. Unlike the Kings, the Spurs have won multiple championships.

3. Hot n’ cold – Special teams continue to be a mixed bag for the Kings. They’ve scored just six power-play goals in 64 man-advantage situations in the playoffs, well below their dismal regular-season average. On the positive side, they haven’t allowed a power-play goal since Game 5 of the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve allowed just three power-play goals in all. What's more impressive, they’ve scored four shorthanded goals to put them at plus-1 on the penalty kill.

4. Fraser returns – After missing Games 2 and 3 for a family matter, it appears Colin Fraser will return to the lineup. Fraser, who has been a fixture on the fourth line since returning from injury last fall, practiced with the team Saturday. It should be interesting who’s the odd man out. Kyle Clifford had replaced Fraser the last two games, but Clifford was also a regular fourth liner before suffering a concussion in the first game of the playoffs, causing him to miss the next nine. Brad Richardson and rookie Jordan Nolan would be the other likely options.

5. Hanzal returns – The arrival of Game 4 means the return of Phoenix center Martin Hanzal. He was suspended for Game 3 for his boarding penalty on Dustin Brown in Game 2. Hanzal will certainly add another dimension to the Coyotes’ forward group, but the Kings have seen top players come and go for Vancouver and St. Louis as well, and it hasn’t changed their mindset. They wait for coach Darryl Sutter to send them over the wall and play against whomever's on the ice at time. They simply focus on their role and let everything else take care of itself.

Kings set club record with seventh straight road playoff win

May, 15, 2012

Western Conference finals

Game 2

Kings 4, Phoenix Coyotes 0

(Kings lead the series 2-0)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: If the Los Angeles Kings didn’t have such a fervent fan base waiting for them back home, they might want to play all their postseason games on the road. The Kings won their franchise-record seventh consecutive game away from Staples Center in these playoffs, outplaying the Phoenix Coyotes for the second straight game at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

THE STAT: Two players who weren’t even on the Kings during the first four months of the season, who missed out on the December coaching change and most of the frustrating, low-scoring losses, gave L.A. all the points it would need Tuesday night. Jeff Carter broke out of his playoff slump with a hat trick against the Coyotes, and rookie Dwight King notched the other goal, giving him three goals in the first two games of this series. Carter’s hat trick was the first by an L.A. player in the postseason since Wayne Gretzky in 1993.

TURNING POINT: King gave the Kings a 1-0 lead on a deflection off a point shot from defenseman Drew Doughty about 13 minutes into the game, and that held up through the first period. The Coyotes came out with much more intensity in the second, but the Kings killed that momentum when Dustin Penner did some nice work down low to get the puck to Carter, who scored 4:47 into the period for a 2-0 lead. After that goal, you could almost hear the puck drop inside Jobing.com Arena.

HOT: Carter and King, who combined for two goals in the first nine playoff games, have scored six in the past two. Over the long haul, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick might have edged ahead of teammate Dustin Brown as the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Quick stopped 24 shots for his second shutout of the postseason. He has allowed 16 goals in 11 playoff games and stopped 309 of 325 shots for a sizzling .951 save percentage. He has allowed more than two goals in a game only once in the playoffs, a Game 4 loss against the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round, L.A.'s only playoff defeat of 2012.

NOT: Coming into the postseason, Phoenix forward Radim Vrbata was hotter than the 108-degree temperature outside the arena, owning five goals in the final five regular-season games to give him a career-high 35. He has been a no-show in the postseason, however, producing two goals in 13 playoff games.

GOOD MOVE: Some of Carter’s best plays of the postseason have come off his skates. Interesting, considering that coming into the playoffs, his foot injury was one of the main storylines. He used his skate to redirect a centering pass to Penner in Game 1 of the Vancouver series, and Penner scored the game winner in the 4-2 victory. His skate was in the right place at the right time Tuesday after Anze Kopitar walked the puck in on a 5-on-3 and took a close-range shot that banked off Carter’s laces and into the net for a 3-0 second-period lead.

BAD MOVE: Two of the best offensive players for the Coyotes, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal, were ejected from the game for careless boarding penalties, and goalie Mike Smith likely will hear from the league as well after intentionally swinging his stick like a lumberjack and thwacking the back of Brown’s legs as he camped in front of the crease. Even more amazing, Brown was called for diving on the play. He was in so much pain, he could barely skate to the penalty box.

NOTABLE: The Kings have won nine consecutive road playoff games overall, tying the NHL record set by the New York Islanders in 1982-83. ... Kings fourth-line center Colin Fraser did not play because he was tending to a family matter. Kyle Clifford, out since Game 1 of the Vancouver series because of a concussion, replaced him in the lineup but had just 2:29 of ice time, long enough to earn a holding penalty on Doan. ... The Kings have not trailed in the playoffs since midway through first period of Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. ... The Kings have scored first in eight of 11 playoff games and won the other three. ... The Kings have outscored their opponents 13-5 in the first period of the playoffs. ... The Kings have killed 28 straight penalties and 44 of 47 overall in the playoffs.

UP NEXT: Game 3, Thursday at Staples Center, 6 p.m. PT.

Kings looking for repeat performance in Game 2

May, 15, 2012

Western Conference finals

Game 2 (Kings lead series, 1-0)

Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Just getting started – The Kings have won the opening game in the first three rounds of this postseason, and each time the opponent vowed to be more assertive in the second game. Well, the Kings have outscored their previous two opponents by a combined score of 5-0 in the first period of Game 2, scoring two goals while shorthanded. The Kings are a confident, confident group right now, and the Coyotes will need to do more than just try harder if they want to slow down this runaway locomotive.

LOSPHO2. Road warriors – The Kings have won all six road games in these playoffs, eight straight postseason games away from Staples Center overall and four straight Game 2s on the road dating back to 2010. Only one other team in NHL history has won nine straight road games in the playoffs, the New York Islanders in 1982-83. The Kings have become so focused on their play that they seem to forget whether they’re playing at home or on the road. When a team is that locked in, it’s no surprise they’re playing so well.

3. Line mismatch – The Coyotes had no answer for the Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown-Justin Williams line. None. Not only did they combine for two goals and two assists in Game 1, but they did a great job of playing keep away with the puck, and as soon as they lost it to Phoenix, they usually swiped it right back. The Coyotes tried to counter the Kopitar line with their own No. 1 group of Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata, but they had no chance. Even after Phoenix coach Dave Tippett juggled his line combinations late in the game, they didn’t have much of an answer for the KBW line.

4. Surprise, surprise – Kings goalie Jonathan Quick gave up the softest goal of the playoffs, and possibly his career, when Derek Morris scored from the red line late in the first period to tie the score, 1-1. The Kings were dominating the first period and out-shooting the Coyotes, 13-3, just before the goal. If Quick has an Achilles heel, it’s his tendency to get complacent when not facing a lot of shots. That said, expect Quick to be extra focused from start to finish in Game 2 and give the Kings every chance to win another game.

5. Saving face – The referees were throwing players out of the faceoff circle right and left in Game 1, which could leave teams at a disadvantage if they don’t have another capable option on the ice. Good thing for the Kings, their roster is loaded with centers who can step in and do the job. Brad Richardson was called upon after Colin Fraser got tossed, and he came through by winning all four of his draws. Jeff Carter had to step in when Mike Richards was asked to leave, and he went 2-0 on the drop. It’s that type of depth that’s serving the Kings well in all phases of these playoffs.

Kings make comparisons to recent Cup winners

May, 9, 2012
kingsDan Arritt/For ESPNLA.comThe Kings continued preparations Wednesday for their Western Conference finals series against Phoenix.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In some ways, the Los Angeles Kings are very similar to the Stanley Cup champions from the past six years. In other ways, they’re quite different.

Nobody knows better than the handful of L.A. players who have won a Stanley Cup title since the 2004-05 lockout season.

Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, who won a championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, said both teams seemed to regroup after in-season coaching changes and then caught fire down the stretch and into the playoffs.

The Penguins made their coaching change in mid-February, when they were five points out of the final playoff spot, then went 18-3-4 to finish fourth in the East. The Kings made their switch two months earlier and took two months longer to catch fire, finishing 13-5-3 to take the final playoff spot in the West.

The year before Scuderi’s Cup win, the Penguins reached the finals but lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games. Heading into that postseason, Pittsburgh had not won a playoff series since 2001.

Coming into this postseason, the Kings had not won a series since 2001.

“When you win one round, you feel pretty good, like you really accomplished something, and then you win two rounds and you feel real good,” Scuderi said following practice Wednesday at Toyota Sports Center. “You still realize that, when you really step back, you’re only halfway there. … But it is fun, it’s OK to be excited, it’s OK to have fun with it, but you have to realize it’s not our end goal.”

As far as player personnel, Scuderi said there are clear similarities between the top forwards on the 2009 Penguins and the current Kings.

“Some of our best offensive players are some of our best defensive players,” he said.

(Read full post)

Kings: Trevor Lewis has become a big hit in L.A.

May, 8, 2012
LewisKirby Lee/US PresswireTrevor Lewis has finally found his niche with the Kings after being drafted in the first round in 2006.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Nothing has ever come easy for Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis.

Maybe that’s why he's so hard on the competition.

Lewis made an impression on the St. Louis Blues in L.A.’s recently completed second-round sweep, maybe a few of them.

He led the Kings in hits the final two games, softening up the Blues just enough to give the goal scorers easier access to the net. Final score for the four-game series: Kings 15, Blues 6. Final tally in the hits department: Kings 144, Blues 140.

Lewis almost single-handedly helped the Kings edge St. Louis in hits, accounting for 14 in the final two games after getting just five in the first two.

“The first two games of the series, our line wasn’t at its best and probably because we weren’t getting in on the forecheck,” Lewis said after practice Tuesday. “I started to make a point of getting in on the forecheck, and I think we played better the last two games.”

It might have taken a while, but Lewis has finally found his niche with the Kings. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, as L.A. has reached the Western Conference finals for just the second time in the franchise’s 45-year history. The Kings will face the Phoenix Coyotes in the next round.

The deeper a team wades into the postseason, the more physical games become. Lewis has the attributes to excel at that style. His teammates recognize what he brings to the table. At the end of the regular season, they voted him the “Unsung Hero” among the forwards.

“He’s a guy that doesn’t get a lot of credit,” fourth-line center Colin Fraser said. “You don’t see his name in the paper, no one really talks a lot about him, but he does the little things out there. He plays hard every night, has lots of speed, plays on the penalty kill. He’s one of those guys that flies under the radar as a really, really good player.”

Speed has always been Lewis’ best attribute. If he had better hands, he might be a 30-goal scorer. But speed can work wonders on the forecheck, as it allows Lewis to get into the offensive zone quickly and break up the opposition’s clearing attempts with a good thud against the glass.

He’ll also stand in the way of a 100 mph slap shot, dive to clear a puck on the penalty kill and backcheck like a swarm of bees. It was his backcheck on a Vancouver Canucks player in Game 5 of the first-round series that led to a neutral-zone turnover and an overtime goal by linemate Jarret Stoll, clinching the series.

(Read full post)

Kings: Third-round playoff primer

May, 8, 2012


Opponent: Phoenix Coyotes

Regular-season records: Kings, 40-27-15, 95 points (8th in the Western Conference); Coyotes, 42-27-13, 97 points (3rd in the Western Conference)

Playoff schedule: TBA

Previous meetings this season:

Oct. 20 at Jobing.com Arena -- Kings 2, Coyotes 0

Playing in front of an announced crowd of 7,128, about 10,000 fewer than showed up for the Coyotes' series-clinching win Monday night in Phoenix, Jonathan Quick stopped 28 shots for the second of a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts. The win also represented the 100th of his career. Dustin Brown gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with a second-period power-play goal, and Kyle Clifford made it 2-0 later in the period off a centering pass from Kevin Westgarth. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty did not play for the second straight game after injuring his shoulder against the Flyers.

Oct. 29 at Jobing.com Arena -- Coyotes 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Doughty returned from a five-game absence because of the shoulder injury but wasn’t a factor as Daymond Langkow scored with 44 seconds left in overtime after his shot deflected off the stick of now-departed Kings defenseman Jack Johnson. The Kings began overtime with 1:46 remaining on a power play but couldn’t capitalize. Mike Richards had provided the Kings a 1-0 lead early in the second period, and Anze Kopitar tied the score at 2-2 with 6:30 left in regulation, ending a nine-game goal-less streak against the Coyotes, his longest against any team in the NHL.

Dec. 26 at Staples Center -- Kings, 4, Coyotes 3

By the time these teams met again, the Kings had a new coach behind the bench in Darryl Sutter. This game was memorable for a few reasons. The Kings scored more than two goals for the first time in 15 games, Simon Gagne suffered a season-ending concussion and Rob Scuderi scored his only goal of the season four minutes into the game to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. Willie Mitchell and Brad Richardson also scored rare goals for the Kings before Brown notched his ninth of the season, which turned out to be the game winner. Phoenix defenseman Raffi Torres, currently serving a 25-game suspension for an illegal hit in the first round of the playoffs, scored two goals for the Coyotes.

Jan. 5 at Staples Center -- Kings 1, Coyotes 0 (OT)

Quick had another Vezina Trophy-caliber performance, outdueling Phoenix goalie Mike Smith for his sixth shutout of the season. Doughty scored a controversial goal in overtime after banking a shot off the skate of Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson as Johnson stood in the crease. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett and team captain Shane Doan complained vigorously to reporters after the game, saying Johnson had interfered with Smith on Doughty's goal.

Feb. 16 at Staples Center -- Coyotes 1, Kings 0

Tempers flared early as Brown laid out Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesla four-and-a-half minutes into the game, leading to a fight with Doan a few minutes later. Klesla ended up missing three weeks with an upper-body injury. Richards later fought Martin Hanzal, and Colin Fraser completed the fight-filled first period by scrapping with Torres. Radim Vrbata ended up scoring the game’s only goal with four minutes left in the second period. Vrbata had five goals against the Kings this season, the most against any team.

Feb. 21 at Jobing.com Arena -- Coyotes 5, Kings 4 (SO)

In perhaps the lowest stretch of the season for the Kings, they let a two-goal second-period lead slip away and lost for the third straight game. After getting shut out in the previous two losses, the Kings figured they were back on track after scoring three unanswered goals in the opening period. Even when the Coyotes cut the deficit to one, the Kings answered with a goal by Justin Williams with just over eight minutes left in the second period. But the Coyotes got one back on a goal by Doan, and Vrbata tied the score with two-and-a-half minutes left in regulation on his team's third power-play goal of the game, giving Phoenix a chance to win in the shootout.

Playoff fact: The Kings and Coyotes, formerly the Winnipeg Jets, have never met in the postseason.

Kings: Not settling for one and done this postseason

April, 9, 2012

EL SEGUNDO -- Been there, done that.

It was just two years ago that the Kings were simply satisfied to qualify for the postseason, ending an eight-year drought that seemed like an eternity for their long-suffering fans.

They played loose and lucid against the Vancouver Canucks to start the 2010 Western Conference playoffs, even taking a 2-games-to-1 lead and then holding a one-goal advantage with 13 minutes remaining in Game 4. That’s when they suddenly began playing as if they were in over their heads, allowing four goals in the final period and eventually losing in six games.

After a near-repeat performance last season against the Sharks -- only this time it was a four-goal lead they tossed aside in Game 3, flipping the series on its ear -- team captain Dustin Brown said the Kings were ready to take that next step when they open the playoffs Wednesday against the Canucks and win just their second playoff series since 1993.

“Part of getting to that next level is losing,” said Brown, who did plenty of that during his first five seasons with the Kings. “We lost in the regular season for two, three years, and then we finally figured out what it took.”

The key, Brown said, is simply taking the series one game at a time. Losing their grip on a chance to go up 2-games-to-1 against San Jose last season has definitely reinforced that train of thought.

“We’re up 4-0 [and] guys start thinking about the next game,” Brown said. “Right now, it’s a one-game series and that’s Wednesday.”

The Kings have stacked their lineup with players who have made deep playoff runs, and Brown is hoping that experience will rub off on the rest.

Jeff Carter, who is on track to return for Game 1 in Vancouver after sitting out the final five regular-season games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle, reached the Stanley Cup finals two years ago with the Philadelphia Flyers. So did his teammate at the time, Mike Richards, both of whom joined the Kings in the last 10 months.

Fourth-line center Colin Fraser, who came over from the Edmonton Oilers last summer, was a member of the Blackhawks team that downed the Flyers that season.

He joins a select group of Kings who have also won Stanley Cup titles; Justin Williams with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, Dustin Penner with the Ducks in 2007 and Rob Scuderi with the Penguins in 2009.

Along with the hunger some of the longer-tenured members of the Kings have developed, Brown is hoping they have the right combination to get over the first hump of the postseason.

“We’ve had two years in a row now where we’ve had opportunities to maybe close, or give ourselves a better opportunity later in the series to have the upper hand, and we let it slip by,” Brown said. “Now, it’s important for us to give ourselves an opportunity to get that upper hand.”

And this time close the door.