Los Angeles Hockey: Kevin Westgarth

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.

Kings: How they got from there to here

May, 2, 2012
Dustin PennerRich Lam/Getty ImagesDustin Penner's resurgence has been one of many reasons the Kings find themselves where they are.

EL SEGUNDO -- Forget trying to put a finger on what turned this season around. You won't have enough hands.

One of the favorites to finish high in the Western Conference standings coming into the season, with a roster full of skill, youth and experience, the Los Angeles Kings were underachievers almost from the start.

Well, except for goalie Jonathan Quick.

They fired coach Terry Murray in mid-December, during a stretch in which they didn’t score more than two goals in any of 14 straight games, and brought in a more leathery figure in Darryl Sutter.

He got the Kings to stand up straight all right, but still couldn’t coax the players to put the puck in the net. Over the next two months, the offense continued to languish at the bottom of the league in scoring, averaging little more than two goals a game.

Just as the trade deadline came and went in late February, the Kings suddenly turned a corner, finishing 13-5-3 and averaging just over three goals a game to sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Not what many envisioned coming into the season, but part of the postseason, nonetheless.

They hit the reset button and came out motivated, healthy and ready for the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, won the first two games in Vancouver and upset the President Trophy winners in five games.

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Kings: Series returns home for Game 3 vs. Canucks

April, 14, 2012
Western Conference Quarterfinals

Game 3

Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

(Kings lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0)

Five storylines to track:

1. Two down, two to go – The Kings haven’t been in this situation in a loooooong time. They went to Vancouver for the opening two games of this series and brought back more than most expected; two decisive victories. They haven’t led a series, 2-0, since 1968. Calling this the biggest set of back-to-back home playoff games in 20 years might be a stretch, as they were in a similar position the last two seasons, but a lot of pent-up misery will be erased if the Kings can finish off the Canucks. It’s important for the players to realize they haven’t won anything yet. And if they don’t, you can bet coach Darryl Sutter will give them plenty of reminders.

2. Passing the test – Almost from the first drop of the puck in this series, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty has been a marked man. The Canucks have taken open-ice runs at him, roughed him up along the boards and tried to entice him into retaliation penalties. Except for a big hit he took on the opening shift of the series, he has dodged every effort by the Canucks to get him off his game. As the clear leader in on-ice time, both in the regular season and the playoffs, it’s important for Doughty to stay out of the penalty box and away from the trainer’s room, and let his natural abilities do the rest. He’s doing an admirable job so far.

3. Unexpected contributions – The third line of Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis has been another pleasant surprise. The trio has accounted for three goals in the series, including both game winners. Just how remarkable is that? They combined for three goals the final two months of the regular season and one game winner the entire year. If the Kings can continue to get offense from the third line, it will surely take some of the pressure off the top six forwards and dump even more on the Canucks.

4. Similar situation – The news out of Vancouver isn’t getting any better for Daniel Sedin. The team’s leading goal scorer has missed the last 11 games because of a concussion and didn’t fly to L.A. with his team Saturday. He has already been ruled out for Game 3, and it doesn't seem likely he'll make the trip for Game 4 either. The Kings can relate. They lost their leading point scorer last season, Anze Kopitar, to a broken ankle with seven games remaining in the regular season. His absence from the playoffs possibly made the difference in the six-game loss to the Sharks. If Vancouver fans are looking to make excuses, they won’t find any listeners in L.A.

5. Clifford still out – The Kings will also be without a forward due to injury, only their missing piece isn't the sniper that Sedin is, but rather fourth-line left wing Kyle Clifford. He suffered an upper-body injury when he was slammed into the glass by Vancouver right wing Byron Bitz during Game 1, earning Bitz a two-game suspension. Sutter made the interesting choice before Game 2 of replacing Clifford in the lineup with a finesse player, rookie Andrei Loktionov, rather than another bruiser in Kevin Westgarth. Loktionov was limited to six shifts, but did manage a takeaway and a blocked shot. He gives the Kings another element of speed, something they’ve been better at through the first two games. If he can avoid getting bumped off the puck in the three zones, Loktionov should continue to fill in nicely for Clifford.

Kings: Nothing safe about this lead vs. Canucks

April, 12, 2012

Western Conference Quarterfinals

Game 2

Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, 7 p.m.

(Kings lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0)

Five storylines to track:

1. One is done – The Kings needed that one. Not just to grab a 1-0 series lead, or steal home-ice advantage from the top-seeded Canucks. They needed to win Game 1 because they had outplayed Vancouver in every facet of the game except the scoreboard. Dustin Penner, of all players, gave the Kings a reason to exhale when he scored with about 3 minutes remaining to give the Kings a 3-2 lead. Dustin Brown, the longest-tenured member of the team, cemented the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute. The Kings deserved the victory and they got it, putting themselves in position to drop the Canucks in a deep hole even before the series heads to L.A.

2. History lesson – For the third straight year, the Kings have swiped away home-ice advantage in the opening two games. They were up 2-games-to-1 against the Canucks two years ago and held a one-goal lead with 13 minutes remaining in Game 4, but folded like a cheap deck chair under a 400-pound man. Last season, they evened the series, 1-1, in San Jose and owned a 4-0 lead in Game 3 at Staples Center before giving the game away in one of the great collapses in franchise history. As happy as some seemed to win Game 1, from the team’s Twitter keeper to Joe Fan, the Kings haven’t accomplished anything yet. As long as the players and coaches realize that, everything should be fine.

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Kings: Feeling the heat in Phoenix

February, 21, 2012
Kings (27-21-11, 65 points) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (29-21-9, 67 points) at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Shuffling the deck – After the Kings were shut out, 1-0, for the second straight game Saturday night, coach Darryl Sutter called out his top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, citing their lack of contributions. He questioned whether he could break the trio up, however, seeing as there weren’t much better options. Well, he came up with a few during practice Monday, dropping Brown back to right wing on the second line with Mike Richards and rookie Dwight King, and moving another rookie, Jordan Nolan, to left wing on the top line.

2. Uncharted territory – In their 44-year franchise history, the Kings have never experienced three consecutive shutout losses. They've been shut out three straight times, way back in the 1968-69 season, but two of those were 0-0 ties. The Coyotes were the team that blanked the Kings on Thursday at Staples Center, and Mike Smith will likely be back in goal for Phoenix. Smith has been red-hot, allowing one goal or less in his last six starts. Interestingly, Smith was in goal during the middle game of three straight shutouts by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick back in October, which was also a first for the franchise.

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Kings 4, Dallas Stars 2

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Rookie forwards Jordan Nolan and Dwight King, recalled from the American Hockey League on Friday to provide a spark for the league’s lowest-scoring team, each scored their first NHL goals Sunday evening at American-Airlines Center in Dallas, lifting the Kings to a much-needed victory in the finale of a six-game road trip .

THE STAT: Andrei Loktionov, another rookie forward for the Kings, scored the second goal of the game. Combined with the goal Loktionov scored in a 2-1 overtime loss Saturday against the Islanders, Kings’ rookies scored four straight goals over the weekend. The last time two Kings scored their first NHL goal in the same game was Oct. 20, 2008 against Colorado (Drew Doughty and Oscar Moller).

TURNING POINT: The Kings blew a two-goal lead when Dallas scored late in the second period and early in the third to tie the score, 2-2, but they didn’t quit. About seven minutes after the Stars tied the score, King kept the puck alive in the offensive zone with a persistent forecheck, then slid it to Mike Richards behind the net. Richards made a beautiful no-look backhand pass to the front of the net, where Nolan was waiting to slap it in for a 3-2 lead with 8:31 left in the game.

HOT: While several other veterans continue to put up zeroes, Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar continue to put up real numbers for the Kings. Williams scored an empty-net goal in the final minute and assisted on King’s first-period goal, giving him 15 points in the last 15 games. Kopitar assisted on King’s goal and Loktionov’s, giving him 14 points in the last 15 games.

NOT: On the eve of his much-publicized Pancakes with Penner fundraiser at a restaurant in the South Bay, one in which fans entered a drawing to eat breakfast with the maligned veteran, Kings left wing Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. With the success of Nolan and King so far, Penner might want to consider filling out an application while he’s there.

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Kings: Offense no-shows again in 3-1 loss to Panthers

February, 9, 2012
Darryl SutterSteve Mitchell/US PresswireKings coach Darryl Sutter suffered through another game of little offense by his team.
Florida Panthers 3, Kings 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Kings eliminated any chance of finishing their longest road trip of the season with a winning record, giving up two goals in a lackluster second period at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., then sealing the loss by giving up an empty-net goal to the Panthers in the game's final minute.

THE STAT: The Kings continue to show their Eastern Conference opponents why they’re the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, managing one goal or fewer for the 21st time in 55 games. They fell to 11-19-9 when scoring two goals or fewer. The good news is, they scored in the closing minutes to avoid getting shut out for the seventh time this season, which would have tied them for second in the league.

TURNING POINT: When these teams last met Dec. 1 at Staples Center, Florida left wing Sean Bergenheim delivered a hit on Kings center Mike Richards that sidelined him for eight games and sent the Kings reeling even further into an offensive abyss. Some thought the Kings might look to exact revenge, but it was Bergenheim who got the last laugh a day after turning 28 years old, scoring the first goal of the game early in the second period.

HOT: Kings center Anze Kopitar continues to scrape together points while most of his teammates put up zeros in the box score. He made an alert pass to defenseman Drew Doughty with about 2 minutes remaining in the game and Doughty scored his fifth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1. Kopitar has 12 points in the last 13 games.

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Kings: Kyle Clifford earns Gordie Howe hat trick

January, 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- Nobody seems to remember the last time a member of the Kings scored a goal, recorded an assist and engaged in a fight, all in the same game.

But it might be a while before anyone in attendance Monday night at Staples Center forgets the Gordie Howe hat trick delivered by second-year forward Kyle Clifford.

Clifford, 21, led the charge against the Senators, assisting on the first goal and scoring the second, which turned out to be the first game-winner of his career in the 4-1 victory against visiting Ottawa.

The Gordie Howe hat trick is not an official NHL statistic, but 10 teams keep track for their own records, none of them the Kings. Howe, the Hall of Fame right wing known for his scoring and fighting, only had two such hat tricks in his career.

Clifford’s night started off with a lengthy scrap with Ottawa enforcer Zenon Konopka and only got better from there.

“It’s good to see him get a Gordie Howe hat trick,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “The last time that he had a fight in here, we didn’t play as well right after. We talked about it. A kid like that goes to war for you, you better respond in an emotional way for him.”

Clifford, whose fourth line had seen their ice time reduced in recent games as the Kings manufactured just four goals in the previous five games, said he thought he last accomplished the rare tripleheader while playing at the junior level.

“I guess I would have to look back at the stats, back in the glory days,” he said.

The accomplishment was nice, but Clifford was most pleased that his contributions led to a victory, especially heading into an eight-day layoff for the All Star break.

“It’s always nice scoring, but it’s even greater winning,” he said. “When the buzzer goes off at the end of the game and we have more goals than them, it’s always positive.”

Playing alongside Colin Fraser and Kevin Westgarth, the trio met the Senators with a physical attitude right from the opening drop. Clifford fought Konopka on his first shift of the game, then later assisted on Willie Mitchell’s goal with 4:21 remaining in the opening period.

Clifford made it 2-0 midway through the second period when he, Westgarth and Fraser converged on a loose puck in the crease and Clifford got to it first, slapping it past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.

“We’ve had chances all year just around the net,” Clifford said. ”We’re really bearing down and our will to score is paying off.”

Sutter was asked what the difference was with the fourth line against Ottawa compared to recent games and he pointed to the addition of Westgarth and the subtraction of Trent Hunter, who watched the game from the press box as a healthy scratch.

“They’re all guys that have to play hard and bang, and if they don’t they’re not very effective," Sutter said. "It's simple."

Westgarth, the team's heavyweight enforcer who had a dinner bet with Clifford to see who would get the first Gordie Howe hat trick, will be happy to pay up, likely with a porterhouse steak.

“It’s going to be a nice little dinner,” Westgarth said. “I don’t feel bad about buying him that one at all.”

Kings: Need to start scoring like Wild

December, 8, 2011
Kings (13-10-4, 30 points) vs. Minnesota Wild (18-7-3, 39 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Back of the pack: The Kings officially dropped to last in the league in scoring after their 3-2 loss Tuesday in Anaheim. They’re eight goals behind their 27-game pace last season, when they finished 25th out of 30 teams in the league in scoring. The answer to their scoring woes seems to be consistent from players, coaches and management. Get pucks to the net as often as possible and good things will happen. That’s certainly no guarantee, as the the Kings took 23 shots on goal in the third period alone against the Ducks and only one hit the net.

2. Some positives: While the Kings haven’t scored more than two goals in their last six games, they have at least received some secondary scoring along the way. Kevin Westgarth, Ethan Moreau and Dustin Penner scored their first goals of the season during the skid, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll broke out of long goal-less streaks and defensemen Jack Johnson and Slava Voynov also landed on the score sheet. The Kings just need their goal scorers to get hot now. Anze Kopitar hasn’t scored in the last six games and Simon Gagne in the last nine.

3. Here to stay? Kings defenseman Alec Martinez is set to return tonight from a 10-game absence because of a shoulder injury, which occurred when the Kings hosted the Wild in a 5-2 victory Nov. 12. Meanwhile, fellow blue liner Willie Mitchell was placed on injured reserved retroactive to Dec. 1 with a groin strain. When he does come back to the lineup, the Kings will have a tough time sending Voynov back to Manchester. Voynov has been one of the bright lights on the team this season, scoring four goals and adding three assists in 15 games. Defensively, he comes into tonight with a plus-5 rating, the highest on the team. By comparison, Drew Doughty has two goals and six assists in 22 games, and a minus-4 rating. In other injury news, Williams will be a game-time decision after suffering a hand injury against the Ducks.

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Kings: Last dance vs. Panthers?

November, 30, 2011
Kings (12-8-3, 28 points) vs. Florida Panthers (13-7-4, 30 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Final act? – With left wing Dustin Penner still at least a game away from returning from a hand injury, this could be the final audition for several other forwards. Look for the Kings to stick with the same look up front as Monday night, when they beat the visiting San Jose Sharks, 2-0. Trent Hunter, one of those on the bubble, will get another run with the top line. Andrei Loktionov, the only forward who could be sent down to the AHL without being placed on re-entry waivers, will center the third line, and Colin Fraser, Ethan Moreau and Kevin Westgarth will hold down the fourth. That means back to the press box for Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis.

2. Quick history lesson – Based on Kings coach Terry Murray’s belief that a goalie’s past performance against a particular opponent is the most valuable piece of information when selecting a starter. Jonathan Quick is a no-brainer against the Panthers. He’s 2-0 in his career against Florida with 50 saves in 55 attempts. He’s also coming off his league-leading fourth shutout of the season, when he looked especially sharp against the Sharks from beginning to end. Quick has proved he can get on a roll too, evident by the franchise-record three consecutive shutouts he posted earlier this season. Murray indicated Jonathan Bernier would start Saturday against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

3. Slow-vember – Kings right wing Justin Williams went the entire month of November without scoring a goal, a slump that has cost him a spot on the top line. Williams, who had 22 goals and 35 assists in 73 games last season, could be primed for a break-out performance against the Panthers, however. The former member of the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes has played more games against the Panthers than any other team in the NHL, and with good success, tallying 14 goals and 14 assists in 41 games. Though he’s back on the third line, he showed good chemistry against the Sharks with the skillful Loktionov and the banger Kyle Clifford.

4. Charged up – The Kings had the fourth-best penalty-kill unit in the league last season. Without that success, they might not make the playoffs. This season hasn’t started out nearly so well. They allowed at least one power-play goal in eight straight games last month, four more than their longest streak last season. The Kings have started to perform like the penalty killers of old, however, killing off 18 consecutive power plays over the last four games to move up to 11th in the league in efficiency. They’ll be tested against Florida, which brings the league’s ninth-best power-play unit into the game.

5. Sturm watch – The Panthers, who ruined the debut of Carolina coach Kirk Muller with a 3-1 victory Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., are the latest team to give veteran wing Marco Sturm a shot. Sturm, who played briefly for the Kings last season before he was picked up on waivers by Washington, is on his fifth team in the last 12 months. He might not be around Florida much longer either, producing just a goal and an assist in 17 games.

Kings blow late lead in 3-2 overtime loss to Stars

November, 23, 2011
Dallas Stars 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Kings were 20 seconds away from their fifth victory in the last six games Wednesday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas but the Stars tied it on a goal by Loui Erikkson and then won it on an overtime goal by Steve Ott.

THE STAT: The Kings led, 2-0, entering the final period and owned a 65-0-3 record in the previous 68 games when leading after two, but couldn't close this one out.

TURNING POINT: With 2:21 remaining in regulation, Kings forward Ethan Moreau took a slashing penalty. The Stars pulled their goalie with about 45 seconds left on the penalty for a two-man advantage. The Kings managed to kill the penalty but were still a man down when Ott won a faceoff in the neutral zone against Mike Richards as four other Dallas players crashed the net. Jamie Benn controlled the puck for Dallas after it skidded by the skates of Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, then passed to Eriksson on his left who beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to tie the score, 2-2, with 20.4 seconds showing on the clock. That gave the Stars all the momentum they’d need heading into overtime.

HOT: Richards scored first for the Kings, giving him a goal in five straight games, a career high. He also has eight goals in the last eight games. The last time a Kings player scored a goal in five consecutive games was Dustin Brown in January 2009.

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Kings: Sparks flying as Stars visit

October, 22, 2011
Kings (4-1-1, 7 points) vs. Dallas Stars (6-1-0, 12 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

DallasKings1. Plugged in – It was predicted during the preseason that the Kings would improve their power-play numbers and, so far, they’ve lived up to expectations. The Kings have converted on 25 percent of their extra-man opportunities (6-24), which is tied for sixth in the league in efficiency. The Kings finished 21st in that category last season (16.2 percent). Mike Richards, acquired in the offseason from Philadelphia, has assisted on four power-play goals, including two 4-on-3 game-winners in overtime. His presence seems to make everyone better on the first unit.

2. Richards in the red – One curious stat beneath Richards’ name, he has the lowest plus-minus rating on the team at minus-2, even though the Kings have outscored their opponents, 16-10, this season. Of course, power-plays goals don't factor into the plus-minus, and he certainly isn’t on the team for his defense, but at some point his 5-on-5 scoring should outpace his goals against. His career plus-37 attests to that. So far, at even strength this season, Richards has just one goal and no assists.

3. Back-to-back blanks – Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has shutouts in two staight games for the first time in his career. The organization has never had a goalkeeper record three consecutive shutouts. Quick, who recorded his 100th career victory Thursday night in a 2-0 victory in Phoenix, was named the starter against Dallas following practice Friday. Coach Terry Murray is obviously sticking with his preseason plan to ride with the hottest hand in goal. Quick has a career-best 10 victories against the Stars, a 2.07 goals-against average and one of his 16 shutouts. He'll need to be at his best again, as Dallas has won five straight.

4. Andrei vs. TrevorTrevor Lewis edged out Andrei Loktionov for the team’s fourth-line center role, but thus far he’s hardly running away with the opportunity. Lewis has not scored a point in six games while averaging 11:23 of ice time. He also sits at minus-1. And it’s not like he hasn’t been involved in some prime scoring chances, he just hasn't shown the hands to finish. Meanwhile, heading into Friday’s game, Loktionov leads the American Hockey League in points with 10 (three goals, seven assists in six games) and is a league-best plus-9. Loktionov is obviously proving he’s beyond the AHL. Now it’s up to Lewis to show he’s capable of playing in the NHL.

5. Searching for Gordie Howe – Against the Coyotes on Thursday night, fourth-line enforcer Kevin Westgarth made it two-thirds of the way to the Gordie Howe hat trick, which is comprised of a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. Westgarth has a dinner bet with fellow fourth-liner Kyle Clifford on who will earn the first Gordie Howe. It was Westgarth who set up Clifford with a timely cross-ice path that led to the second goal against the Coyotes. He also got into a lengthy first-period scrap with Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette. Probably no surprise Westgarth and Clifford have such good chemistry, both on and off the ice.

Kings: Jonathan Quick gets career win No. 100

October, 20, 2011
Jonathan QuickAP Photo/Ross D. FranklinJonathan Quick posted his second consecutive shutout in the Kings' 2-0 win at Phoenix on Thursday.
Kings 2, Phoenix Coyotes 0

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 28 shots at Jobing.com Arena to record his 100th career victory and improve his season record to 4-0-1.

THE STAT: Quick recorded his 16th career shutout and first in back-to-back games. The last time the Kings recorded consecutive shutouts was April 1 and 3 of 2006, when Mathieu Garon posted two straight 1-0 wins against Dallas and Vancouver.

TURNING POINT: The Kings went on the power play with 17 seconds remaining in the first period after Daymond Langkow was called for hooking Anze Kopitar. The man advantage carried over into the second period and the Kings took advantage, as Kopitar passed the puck down low to Mike Richards, who sent it through the crease to Dustin Brown and he did the rest, poking it past Mike Smith for a 1-0 lead. The Kings have power-play goals in five of six games this season.

HOT: Kopitar now has 10 points in six games, scoring in each contest this season.

NOT: The Kings recorded just 22 shots on goal and have been held to single digits in seven of the last eight periods.

GOOD MOVE: The fourth line contributed the second goal for the Kings. Matt Greene forwarded the puck to Kevin Westgarth, who carried it into the offensive zone and then slid it over to Kyle Clifford, who sent a quick wrist shot past Smith for a two-goal lead with 4:37 left in the second period.

BAD MOVE: While holding a two-goal lead in the third period, Ethan Moreau and Brad Richardson were each whistled for needless penalties, giving the Coyotes a chance to get back in the game.

NOTABLE: After committing eight giveaways in the first period alone Tuesday night against visiting St. Louis, the Kings did not have any against Phoenix. ... Kopitar has not scored a goal in nine straight games against the Coyotes, his longest drought against any team in the NHL.

UP NEXT: Saturday vs. the Dallas Stars at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Buffalo Sabres 4, Kings 2

October, 8, 2011
Buffalo Sabres 4, Kings 2

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Sabres exploded for three goals in the second period Saturday night and the Kings were unable to rally at 02 World in Berlin, Germany.

THE STAT: The Kings out-shot the Sabres, 33-26 but, except for Anze Kopitar, were unable to solve Buffalo goalkeeper Ryan Miller, who had defeated the Ducks the day before in Helsinki, Finland.

TURNING POINT: After a scoreless first period, the Sabres scored twice within 2 minutes 20 seconds of the second. Luke Adam scored the first when he took a pass from Jason Pominville behind the net and beat Jonathan Bernier with a one-timer 2:40 into the period. Adam scored again moments later when Kings defenseman Jack Johnson lost the puck behind the Kings net. The rubber made its way in front of the crease and Adam dipped in and slammed it past Bernier. Adam came into the game with three goals in his career. Thomas Vanek assisted on both goals.

HOT: Kopitar scored both goals for the Kings, giving him three in two games this season. Kopitar didn’t record his third goal last season until the eighth game.

NOT: The Kings were just plain bad in front of Bernier, chasing defenders instead of staying between the puck and the goal, and letting opposing forwards camp in front of the net for far too long.

GOOD MOVE: Justin Williams made his second highlight-reel pass to Kopitar in as many days. This time, he hit Kopitar with a spot-on diagonal pass in the slot. Kopitar spun to his backhand and slammed the puck into the net with 4:14 remaining in the game.

BAD MOVE: With the Kings trailing, 3-1, early in the third period, Kevin Westgarth committed a needless cross-checking penalty while the Kings were scrambling in front of the Buffalo net. Westgarth, who was a healthy scratch in Friday’s victory against the Rangers, went to the box and the Sabres scored on the ensuing power play. Not a good way to stay in the lineup on a regular basis.

NOTABLE: Kings left wing Dustin Penner missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Trent Hunter was scratched in place of Westgarth, who recorded just 6:44 of ice time

UP NEXT: Thursday at the New Jersey Devils, 4 p.m. (PT).