Los Angeles Hockey: Marco Sturm

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: Top 10 moments of 2010-11

April, 26, 2011
Drum roll, please ...

10. Show stopper: The most spectacular scoring effort of the season belonged to center Jarret Stoll on Jan. 22 in Phoenix. Just under five minutes into the third period, Stoll dived for a loose puck near the Phoenix crease and backhanded it into the goal while still airborne. The goal held up for the winner in the 4-3 victory, ending a three-game losing streak. The Kings were desperate for goals after scoring just two in their previous three games and Stoll showed he was willing to risk injury to get them one.

9. Wearing it well: Anze Kopitar produced the second hat trick of his NHL career in a 4-2 victory March 11 in Columbus, giving him 24 goals on the season. Unfortunately, he would appear in just seven more games and score just one more goal before suffering a season-ending right ankle injury two weeks later against the visiting Avalanche. His offensive production was a big loss during the postseason but probably not as much as his ability to calmly clear pucks from the defensive zone.

8. Ready to rumble: In the most rough-and-tumble game of the season, the Kings matched their best start in franchise history with a 3-1 victory Nov. 11 against the visiting Dallas Stars. The teams combined for four fights and 91 penalty minutes. Kyle Clifford established himself as a fan favorite by decking Brandon Segal in his first NHL fight. As the season went along, Clifford also established himself as a quality NHL player and one of the great success stories.

7. Clipping the Wings: Following their first slump of the season, the Kings faced a huge test Dec. 4 against the visiting Detroit Red Wings, who came into the game sporting a 17-3-3 record. But the Kings were up to the task, as Kopitar scored with 56 seconds remaining in overtime in the 3-2 victory. Kings rookie defenseman Alec Martinez, called up from the AHL a week earlier, also took a big step in establishing himself as an NHL-caliber player with a goal and an assist.

6. More Detroit dominance: The victory over the Red Wings nine days earlier was a solid team effort, but the one on Dec. 13 in Detroit made the Kings looked like a Stanley Cup contender. In the opener of a five-game road trip, Jonathan Quick stopped a career-high 51 shots for his 10th career shutout in the 5-0 victory. His diving stick save on Tomas Holmstrom’s rebound attempt was seen on highlight shows across North America. Kopitar pitched in two goals and third-year defenseman Drew Doughty had three assists.

5. Stunning the Sharks: In what many perceived to be their best all-around effort of the season, the Kings overwhelmed the sluggish Sharks, 4-0, on Dec. 27 in San Jose. Quick had 27 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season and Dustin Brown scored two goals. Things went so well, even left wing Marco Sturm scored his first goal since coming over from the Bruins. That excitement would be short-lived, however. Sturm struggled to regain his step after offseason knee surgery and was eventually placed on waivers to make room for a bigger bust, Dustin Penner, and the Kings lost their next five games.

4. Capital gains: The Kings went in to Washington D.C. in the middle of a season-long 10-game stretch away from Staples Center and pushed the Capitals all over the ice in a 4-1 victory Feb. 12. Washington, the top-seeded team for the Eastern Conference playoffs, allowed a tie-breaking goal to Kings rookie forward Andrei Loktionov about 3 minutes into the third period, and Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier stopped 22 shots to highlight a sold late-season run.

3. Train keeps a rollin’: A day after they beat the Capitals, the Kings took the train to Philadelphia and knocked off the Flyers, 1-0, behind 40 saves from Quick. Philadelphia, the second-seeded team in the East, lost in regulation to the visiting Kings for the first time in 18 years. Doughty scored the lone goal for Los Angeles, which earned at least a point in its ninth straight game and pulled itself back in the playoff hunt.

2. Postseason clincher: The Kings clinched their second consecutive playoff berth with a 3-2 shootout victory April 6 against the visiting Coyotes. More remarkable was the continued success of Quick and Stoll in the shootout. Quick improved to 10-0 on the season, only the second goalie to achieve that mark in the six years since the shootout was added, and Stoll converted his ninth shootout goal in his 10th attempt, the best percentage by any player with more than four attempts in a season.

1. Who else?: Once again, it was Quick who provided the most memorable moments of the playoffs. He was back to his old self in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series, stopping 34 shots in the 4-0 victory and stealing away home-ice advantage, if only for one game. Doughty also reminded fans of his abilities, totaling two goals and two assists. Quick would be the difference in Game 5 as well, saving 51 shots in the 3-1 victory that brought the series back to Los Angeles.

Kings: Feelings vary heading into trade deadline

February, 27, 2011
EL SEGUNDO–Alexei Ponikarovsky was in his eighth season in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform when he got the call this time last year. He had been dealt to the Penguins hours before the NHL trade deadline.

He packed his bags and headed to Pittsburgh, feeling like a college graduate who was starting a new job in a different part of the country.

"It’s kind of unique because you never experienced that before," he said.

After helping the Penguins reach the Eastern Conference semifinals, Ponikarovsky signed a free-agent contract with the Kings in the offseason. Six months later, the 30-year-old left wing is feeling more relaxed heading into Monday’s deadline at noon PT.

It’s a day that causes most NHL players to wince at the sound of their cell phone, while others answer in anticipation of a new chapter in their careers.

"When you get traded the first time, you go through some emotions and stuff but that’s the way it is," Ponikarovsky said. "It’s part of the job. You just have to accept that and life goes on."

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell was injured last season and knew he wasn’t going anywhere. The two years prior to that, he was fly fishing during the trade deadline.

"If that gives you any idea, it doesn’t really matter to me," said Mitchell, who is playing for the sixth different team in his 11th year in the NHL. "One door closes and one opens."

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has been kicking the tires around the league in an attempt to add another goal-scoring forward. He has been reluctant to offer any of his prized young players, both on the current roster and in the minors.

The pursuit became more desperate over the weekend when the organization lost two forwards. Andrei Loktionov, who had been sent back to the minors five days earlier to make room for Marco Sturm’s return from injured reserve, suffered an apparent season-ending shoulder injury Friday night in an AHL game in Manchester, N.H.

Loktionov, who had recently displayed the type of offensive skill the Kings are looking for, was expected to be recalled by Los Angeles following the trade deadline, when rosters can expand. On top of that, the Kings placed Sturm on waivers earlier Friday, hoping to give the organization roster flexibility heading into the trade deadline.

Their hope was that Sturm would clear waivers, making him available to play Saturday night against the Avalanche but still eligible to be sent to Manchester if the Kings made a last-minute deal. Washington changed those plans when they claimed Sturm off waivers Saturday morning.

So, as the clock ticks toward noon, NHL players everywhere will be wondering if they’ll be wearing the same sweater tomorrow. Now that Ponikarovsky has been through it, he realizes it’s best just to pay attention to the job at hand.

"What you can do is control how you play," he said. "Everything else is up to the management and what they all decide, so you’re job is, basically, go out there and do your best and help team."

Kings: Richardson steps in and delivers the goods

February, 26, 2011

LOS ANGELES — Brad Richardson woke up Saturday morning expecting to be back in his familiar role, anchoring the fourth line with the tenaciousness of a pit bull. Then the unexpected occurred. Marco Sturm was claimed off waivers by the Washington Capitals, leaving the Kings without their choice to play left wing on the top line against the Colorado Avalanche.

Richardson, a natural center, was given a rare opportunity to be the co-pilot alongside first-line center Anze Kopitar. For one afternoon, he played like the left wing the Kings so desperately need heading into Monday’s trade deadline.

Playing in his 300th game in a Kings uniform, Richardson assisted on the first goal of the game, which turned out to be the winner in the 4-3 victory against the Avalanche at Staples Center.

“I’ve been in that situation a few times this year and last season,” Richardson said of his chance to play on the top line. “It was definitely a lot of fun, and I thought we had a good game out there.”

His contributions didn’t end with his eighth assist of the season. Throughout the game, Richardson wasn’t so much of a fly in the ointment for the Avalanche, but a mosquito in their ear.

“He’s relentless,” said Wayne Simmonds, who was Richardson’s wingmate against Colorado. “He’s great with the puck. He makes a lot of little plays that you don’t really notice.”

Richardson’s speed and energy have always been one of his best attributes. At 5 feet 11 and 185 pounds, he plays much bigger than his size and has proto-type checking-line skills.

But he has proved to be more than a pest against Colorado in the past, notching a hat trick in a 6-4 victory on Oct. 23 and scoring another goal in a 5-0 victory against the Avalanche on Dec. 21. Against the rest of the league, he has two goals this season.

He showed great awareness on the first goal Saturday afternoon. Simmonds dumped the puck into the offensive zone and then chased after it, forcing a Colorado defender to pinch Simmonds against the boards. Before the contact, Simmonds was able to direct the puck in Richardson’s direction and he spun out from behind the Colorado goal and shot it off the chest of recently acquired goalie Brian Elliott, giving Kopitar a chance to put the rebound in the net.

“I chipped it in and I saw [Richardson] coming behind the net,” Simmonds said. “I heard him yelling so I kind of just tried to direct it his way. He’s a fast guy, picked up the puck, came right out front and Kopi was there on the rebound.”

The Kings will likely continue their search for a high-scoring forward in the next two days, but if they come up short, they know they can count on Richardson to fill some of the void.

“He’s a great skater, he has great intensity and he was a good player for us tonight," coach Terry Murray said.

Kings: The roll continues with 4-3 victory

February, 26, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- And the beat goes on.

The playoff race is hardly all downhill from here, but the Kings are certainly headed in the right direction just past the quarter-pole.

They gave up three unanswered goals in the third period to the struggling Colorado Avalanche but still won, 4-3, on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, running their record to 11-1-3 since Jan. 20 and maintaining their grip on fifth place in the bloated midsection of the Western Conference standings.

The Kings took a season-high 42 shots on goal while holding the Avalanche to 17, two above the season low by an opponent.

Brad Richardson stepped in for the recently claimed Marco Sturm as the top line left wing and assisted on Anze Kopitar's first-period goal in his 300th game in a Kings’ uniform.

Alec Martinez returned from a two-game stay in the press box and hammered in a slap shot for his fourth goal of the season.

Later in the second period, Drew Doughty scored on another slap shot that trickled through the legs of Colorado goalkeeper Brian Elliott. Ryan Smyth assisted on the goal for the 400th helper in his NHL career. Doughty also triggered a $212,500 bonus clause in his contract for reaching double-digits in goals.

Jarett Stoll then finished off the scoring with another well-place slap shot on one of nine power plays by the Kings, giving them a 4-0 lead early in the third period. Stoll now has 17 goals on the season. Three more and the Kings will have five 20-goal scorers for the first time since 1992-93.

Jonathan Quick came within seven minutes of his seventh shutout of the season, but the Avalanche netted a 5-on-3 by David Jones, then scored 39 seconds later on an even-strength goal by Jones.

More to come from the locker room

Kings: Richardson makes his mark in first period

February, 26, 2011
After the 1st period:

Kings 1, Colorado Avalanche 0

The good: For that period anyway, the Kings didn’t look like they were missing a top-line left wing. Brad Richardson looked spectacular in that role during the opening 20 minutes. He earned the primary assist on the only goal of the period, set up a 3-on-1 scoring chance with a spectacular move and seemed to be around the puck on every shift. The scoring play began when Wayne Simmonds dumped the puck into the Colorado zone, chased it down and forced defenseman John-Michael Liles to bounce Simmonds off the boards. The puck squirted out to Richardson, who wheeled around from behind the net and sent a backhand at goalkeeper Brian Elliott. The shot was saved but the rebound came out to Anze Kopitar who buried it into the net for a 1-0 lead 7:13 into the game. The Kings also limited the Avs to five shots on goal. In their last game Thursday against visiting Minnesota, they limited the Wild to six shots on goal in the opening period of the 4-2 win.

The bad: The Marco Sturm experiment didn’t pay off, and now the Marco Sturm gamble has left the Kings in a hole. The club put Sturm on waivers Friday to gain some roster flexibility in case it made a move heading into Monday’s trade deadline. Nobody expected Sturm to get claimed. In fact, he was penciled in to play on the top line today with Kopitar and Simmonds. Well, the Washington Capitals had other plans and claimed Sturm early this morning. Coupled with the news Friday night that Andrei Loktionov suffered a shoulder injury during what was supposed to be a brief stay in the AHL, and the Kings are a bit short-handed up front. Good thing the trade deadline is still two days away. As far as the play on the ice, Rob Scuderi has three giveaways, which is usually a game’s worth.

The in between: Barely three minutes into the game, Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth tangled with David Koci of the Avs. Both players threw about 30 punches each but didn’t appear to land any. Kyle Clifford might have to give Westgarth some pointers.

Kings: A break in the trades talks for ... a game

February, 26, 2011
Kings (34-23-4, 72 points) vs. Colorado Avalanche (26-28-7, 59) at Staples Center, 1 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Bad break – Andrei Loktionov is still only a phone call away. He just won't be playing hockey for a while, according to his coach in Manchester. Loktionov, the 20-year-old rookie forward who was returned to the minors earlier in the week but was expected back with the Kings when rosters can be expanded after Monday’s trade deadline, suffered an apparent upper-body injury in an AHL game Friday night, according to the Union-Leader. Manchester coach Mark Morris told a reporter he suspects Loktionov will be done for the year. Expect this latest news to have an impact on the Kings' search for another forward before Monday's deadline.

2. A benefactor? – Loktionov’s loss could be Marco Sturm's gain. The 32-year-old left wing was on thin ice, too slow to bounce back after offseason knee surgery and too few when it came to scoring goals. He woke up Friday morning and learned he had been waived. Unclaimed as of late Friday night, Sturm is expected to be back on the top line if he's not scooped up by the 9 a.m. expiration date, re-joining Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds. If another Western Conference team really wanted to short-hand the Kings, they’d claim Sturm before then. His $3.5-million salary this season might still be too steep to pay.

3. Fear the fourth line – That wasn't a slip of the tongue during coach Terry Murray's postgame news conference, he really did credit the fourth line with the 4-2 victory Thursday night against Minnesota. Murray noted that Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Alexei Ponikarovsky changed the momentum of the game in the second period with their stiff fore-checking and high energy. Another player that seems to be adjusting to his role is right wing Dustin Brown. Relegated from the top line to the third line, he had two assists against the Wild and wore them down with relentless checking.

4. Alec’s back – Alec Martinez will be back on the blue line for the Kings. After playing 39 straight games since his call up from Manchester in November, the rookie defenseman was a healthy scratch the last two games in place of Davis Drewiske. Sometimes it’s nice just to get a different view of the game from above. Still, it will be interesting to watch how Martinez reacts. One of his best assets is his confidence with the puck. If he starts playing hot potato, you can bet he’s worried about making a mistake.

5. New addition – After losing 11 of their last 12 games to fall off the Western Conference playoff map, the Avalanche have been busy heading into the trade deadline line and don’t appear to be quite finished. Talk about skating lightly. They plan to start one of their newest acquisitions, goalie Brian Elliott, who didn’t fare so well in his debut with Colorado, a 5-1 loss Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers. The Avalanche will be without defenseman Ryan O’Byrne, who took a skate blade to the face against Edmonton and needed more than 100 stitches.

Kings: Lombardi weighs in on Sturm decision

February, 25, 2011
EL SEGUNDO – As the NHL trade deadline looms, the Kings took a step toward providing roster flexibility Friday morning, just in case that desperately needed high-scoring forward appears from thin air.

The organization put veteran left wing Marco Sturm on waivers in an attempt to give the team some wiggle room heading into Monday’s deadline.

Because the Kings are at their roster limit of 23 players, they cannot add a player without subtracting one. After the trade deadline, rosters can expand. Until Saturday at 9 a.m., Sturm and the remainder of his $3.5 million contract are available for any team to claim.

If he doesn’t get picked up, Sturm is slated to be back on the top line Saturday afternoon against the visiting Colorado Avalanche. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi decided to put Sturm on waivers Friday morning so he would be available for Saturday’s game if he went unclaimed.

"There’s nothing imminent at all," Lombardi said of a possible trade. "It’s not like this is happening because a half hour from now I’m going to have a big deal."

But the decision to put Sturm on waivers does suggest the Kings are running out of patience, and they aren’t willing to deal any of their other current players. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need to create roster space for a straight-up trade. That’s just fine with coach Terry Murray, who has consistently said he’s happy with his personnel.

When asked if he has noticed any anxiety among his crop of young players, many of whom would be targeted by other teams in trade talks, Murray said they’d be missing the club’s message if they were looking over their shoulders.

"We believe in the young players," Murray said. "We’re a young hockey club that’s moving forward and we’re staying with the program. It’s what we wanted to do and we’re seeing these young guys stepping up and becoming NHL players, becoming men in the game. We’re not changing that plan."

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Kings/Ducks: Much at stake in freeway matchup

February, 23, 2011
Kings (32-23-4, 68 points) vs. Ducks (32-24-4, 68) at Honda Center, 7 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Big game hunting – There hasn’t been a bigger game between the Kings and Ducks in a while. Both have the same number of points heading in, but the Kings are eighth in the Western Conference standings and the Ducks are ninth. The winner will be in the top eight by the end of the night, the loser won’t. In the grand scheme of Southern California sports, it would be neat if both teams made the playoffs for the first time ever, but it’s looking more like one will advance at the expense of the other. After tonight, they still play three more times against each other, including back-to-backs to end the season.

2. Strength vs. strength – Depending on how you look at it, the key match up in this game is either the Ducks’ high-flying offense against the Kings smothering defense, or the Ducks’ floundering defense against the Kings’ impotent offense. As has been well publicized, Anaheim had allowed 21 goals in the last three games, which just happens to coincide with the departure of All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller to dizzy spells. The club called up Ray Emery on Wednesday as a safety net for the struggling Curtis McElhinney, though Emery hasn’t played in the NHL since last season. The Kings, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-0 loss at the New York Islanders, who have allowed more goals than any team in the Eastern Conference.

3. Martinez gets a seat – Kings coach Terry Murray made another curious move with one of his rookies, delegating defenseman Alec Martinez as a healthy scratch for tonight’s game in place of Davis Drewiske, who hasn’t played since Jan. 6. It was just a few weeks ago that Murray was praising Martinez, even after he made poorly-timed turnovers in his own zone that led to tie-breaking, third-period goals. Some have speculated that the Kings are readying Martinez for a trade heading into Monday’s deadline. Earlier this week, rookie center Andrei Loktionov was returned to the AHL, even though the Kings are struggling to score goals and that’s his speciality.

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Kings: Sturm back in, Loktionov back to Manchester

February, 21, 2011
EL SEGUNDO–The time is now for Marco Sturm. As for Andrei Loktionov, he’ll just have to wait for another day.

Sturm, the 32-year-old left wing who the Kings acquired from Boston in December, has yet to prove he’s worth the balance of his $3.5 million price tag.

He’ll get another shot to impress his new employer beginning Wednesday when the Kings travel to Anaheim for the last of 10 consecutive road games. Sturm played 15 games for the Kings between Dec. 21 and Jan. 18 and then headed to injured reserve with tendinitis in his right knee. Sturm missed the first two months of this season while rehabilitating a from offseason surgery on his other knee.

"I knew when I came here I was not 100% but I was trying to do my best," he said after Monday's brief 35-minute practice. "In the last few weeks, I tried to catch up and do the best I can off the ice too and I feel stronger. I feel like I can play a better game."

Kings coach Terry Murray said he plans to start Sturm on the top line with center Anze Kopitar and right wing Wayne Simmonds.

"He’s hungry, he’s ready to play," Murray said. "It’s now time to put him on a line where he has an opportunity to play his game with good players and for us then to evaluate him and see where he’s at."

Making room for Sturm on the roster was a tough decision, Murray said. The Kings opted to return Loktionov to their AHL affiliate in Manchester, even though Loktionov brought sorely needed speed through the neutral zone and skillful play-making ability. The 20-year-old rookie had four points in the last six games while splitting time between left wing and center.

In the 16 games Loktionov has played with the Kings this season, the team is 13-3-3. With Sturm in the lineup, they are 6-9-0. However, the team is averaging 2.86 goals with Sturm and just 2.52 with Loktionov.

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Kings: Long and wondrous road veers to New York

February, 17, 2011
Kings (32-22-3, 67 points) vs. New York Rangers (30-24-4, 64) at Madison Square Garden, 4 p.m. PT.

Five storylines to track:

1. Half full? – Optimists will say the Kings are one point out of fourth place, pessimists will say they’re one point out of eighth. Either way, they’re both technically correct. Western Conference teams woke up this morning to find the knot had been pulled even tighter. Only two points separate third through ninth place, with five teams all square at 68. There’s no comparison when it comes to the hottest team though. The Kings have earned a league-best 18 points in their last 10 games.

2. Passed the test, barely – Not sure why, but Kings coach Terry Murray called Wednesday’s game in Columbus the most important of the season. The players then went out and blew three one-goal leads, the last with 1:23 remaining in the game, but were thankfully saved in the shootout because they had Jonathan Quick in goal and he doesn’t lose shootouts. Maybe it was because the team spent two days in Columbus and became bored stiff but they certainly didn’t play like the game was ultra-important. Madison Square Garden should provide a more inspirational atmosphere.

3. Andrei’s becoming a giant – As the countdown toward Marco Sturm’s return from tendinitis in his knee inches closer, the decision of what to do with his roster spot isn’t getting any easier. Andrei Loktionov seemed the likely candidate to return to the AHL when Sturm's ready, as he’s the only waivers-ineligible forward that could be sent to Manchester. But the 20-year-old rookie seems to be getting more comfortable by the day, especially since moving back to his natural center position. He had a goal and an assist against the Blue Jackets for the first multi-point game of his career. Is recent healthy scratch Brad Richardson now the odd man out, or will they expose enforcer Kevin Westgarth to waivers?

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Kings: Next stop up the mountain is Pittsburgh

February, 10, 2011
Kings (29-22-2, 60 points) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-17-4, 72) at CONSOL Energy Center, 4 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Back to the climb – Last time we checked in, Kings fans were partying in the streets because their team finally moved back into the top eight in the Western Conference standings. Well, the Kings then took four days off, just enough time for a couple teams to pass them in the standings. They’ll need to re-establish a foothold and begin another ascent in Pittsburgh, a place they haven’t visited since March 2009 and haven’t won since October 2003.

2. Battered Penguins – Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby provided plenty of headlines the first three months of the season, building a 13-point lead over the league’s next highest scorer while running his point streak to 25 games. Then he went down with a concussion Jan. 5 and the Penguins lost three of four. They regrouped to win eight of nine. Now it’s third-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin who suffered a season-ending knee injury Friday and, once again, the Penguins have gone off track, losing two straight. With Crosby still out, the Kings may have caught them on a downswing.

3. Where art thou Kopitar? – A collective sigh of relief filled Staples Center when Anze Kopitar scored in the first period Jan. 15 against Edmonton, ending a streak of nine consecutive games without a goal. Time to get back on that 40-goal pace? Hardly. He has gone another nine games without a goal and now has one since Dec. 26. Kopitar is officially on pace to score the fewest goals since his rookie year in a 2006-07. Not the direction he should be headed at this point of his career.

4. Hitting the wall? – Kings rookie Kyle Clifford has seen his ice time dip to under 10 minutes a game in the last three, the first time that’s happened since early December and two of those games included five-minute fighting majors. With veteran left wing Marco Sturm close to coming off injured reserve due to tendinitis in his knee, the team will need to make room on the roster. Could Clifford be the odd man out?

5. Down the hall –Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi is the go-to guy for restaurant recommendations. He spent his first five seasons in Pittsburgh, the last of which culminated with a Stanley Cup title in 2009. This will be Scuderi’s first time in the visitor role against the Penguins. Known best for his defensive abilities, Scuderi scored his second goal of the season Saturday in Calgary, doubling his best season output in Pittsburgh.

Kings: Start of something new?

January, 17, 2011
With the weight temporarily lifted from their shoulders, the Kings should skate a little taller tonight in Dallas.

They sacrificed a homestand Saturday night and may have saved a season with a 5-2 victory against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

They came into the game with their confidence lying on the basement floor of Staples Center, 1-6 on the season-long eight-game stand and losers of seven of eight overall for the second time this season.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Will Rob Scuderi see 100% from his teammates in Dallas?

The Oilers entered last in the Western Conference but their standing was of little importance to the Kings. They needed a victory just to stop the madness.

Coach Terry Murray spoke to players about compartmentalizing the game into successful individual shifts, rather than focusing on the 60-minute result. That seemed to do the trick, as they improved their puck management and kept any mistakes from snowballing.

Without identifying the culprits, Kings veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi had previously said teammates weren’t giving 100% throughout games. Murray was a little less tacit, publicly criticizing Marco Sturm, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Michal Handzus for their lack of intensity.

Now, it appears Murray has grown impatient with goalkeeper Jonathan Quick. In a move that might seem both desperate and logical, Murray announced Sunday that he would start backup Jonathan Bernier in goal against Dallas, the first time this season he’ll start back-to-back games. Quick is 4-1 in his career at Dallas, but has lost five of his last six starts after opening the season 10-1.

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Kings: Doughty, Kopitar get L.A. back on track in 5-2 victory

January, 15, 2011
LOS ANGELES—In terms of streak-busters, this one was King-sized.

Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar ended lengthy goal-less streaks Saturday night and the Kings got back in the win column after losing seven of their last eight, beating the Edmonton Oilers, 5-2, at Staples Center.

Doughty scored his first goal in 13 games early in the third period, providing the Kings a two-goal cushion and bringing a sense of relief to the sold-out crowd.

Showing the form that enabled him to score 16 goals last season, Doughty scored on a solo effort, carrying the puck from just inside the red line and drilling a shot from the slot past Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk, his third goal of the season.

Earlier in the game, Kopitar ended a nine-game goal-less drought, the third-longest of his career.

Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier steadied as the game went along. He gave up two goals on eight shots in the opening period, but turned away the next 18 for his fifth victory in 12 starts.

Jarret Stoll scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and added an empty-netter with under two minutes remaining, giving him five goals in the last five games. Marco Sturm also scored goals for Los Angeles, which plays 13 of its next 16 games on the road.

The Kings improved to 14-0-0 when leading after two periods, and ran their record to 6-0-4 in the last 10 games against the Oilers.

The victory did not come without a loss, however. Wayne Simmonds left early in the second period because of a lower-body injury and did not return. We’ll try to get an update from the locker room.

Kings: Sturm and Kopitar score, Oilers tie score late

January, 15, 2011
After the 1st period:

Kings, 2, Edmonton Oilers 2

The good: The Kings are wearing purple and gold retro jerseys for Legends Night, so leave it to the newest member of the Kings to score their first goal. Marco Sturm, acquired last month from the Bruins, finished of a 4-on-2 rush with a well-placed shot from a tough angle to tie the score, 1-1. It’s Sturm’s fourth goal in his 13th game for the Kings. Anze Kopitar then gave the Kings a brief 2-1 lead when he took a pass from Justin Williams and scored from in close, ending a nine-game goal-less drought, the third-longest of his career. The Kings also killed two power plays in the opening period.

The bad: It only took three shots for the Oilers to take a 1-0 lead, and just three more to tie the score, 2-2. As part of Legends Night, the Kings are honoring former goalie Rogie Vachon. Maybe they can talk Rogie into suiting up for the second period because it doesn’t appear Jonathan Bernier is the answer for the Kings' continued goalkeeping woes.

The in between: Kevin Westgarth is a healthy scratch tonight, with Alexei Ponikarovsky, Michal Handzus and Trevor Lewis on the fourth line. Westgarth is a bit one dimensional when it comes to hockey, but that one dimension is fighting and the Kings have already absorbed 13 hits. Just his presence on the bench tends to keep opposing teams in check.