Los Angeles Hockey: Matt Greene

LOS ANGELES -- As Los Angeles Kings governor and AEG president/CEO Tim Leiweke sat on a dais set up inside Staples Center, he began to get emotional looking around the Chick Hearn Press Room.

To his right was Bob Miller, the voice of the Los Angeles Kings for the past 37 years. To his left were Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, coach Darryl Sutter and president of business operations Luc Robitaille. And seated in front of him were Kings players Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and Jonathan Quick.

Leiweke hadn't been sure when he would see all these men in the same room again. There were several times during the 113-day NHL lockout when it looked like the Kings would never get to defend their title and properly celebrate winning the Stanley Cup seven months ago.

“When you wait 45 years to win a Cup, the last thing you want to do is wait to raise that banner,” Leiweke said. “I think for our fans, in particular, asking them to wait another three months was not a great process. They were as equally as frustrated as we were.”

For the first time in recent memory, the defending Stanley Cup champions return completely intact the following season. Not a single player left the squad. The closest defending champion with that kind of return was the 1983 New York Islanders, who had 23 of 24 players come back after winning the Stanley Cup. That team returned to the Stanley Cup finals but lost to the Edmonton Oilers. No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

“To me, the most important thing is winning again,” Leiweke said. “No one has repeated as Stanley Cup champions in 15 years. We’re most interested in allowing our players the right to go out and defend the Cup. This was never about winning a Cup. This was about creating a legacy, and I think we have the team and the character to do it.”

Leiweke is so confident the Kings will be adding more than one banner to Staples Center in the coming years that he and the team decided to raise the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship banner and hang it from the rafters, as opposed to placing it on the wall with the other championship banners and retired jerseys from the Kings, Lakers and Sparks.

“We’re going to do something different,” Leiweke said, “so we have room to hang the others.”

The Kings will announce Friday that the banner-raising ceremony will take place before the Kings’ season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 19 at Staples Center. Fans attending that game will receive a replica championship banner, Robitaille said.

Later in the season, the Kings will host a game during which fans will receive replica championship rings. The Kings also have reopened the outdoor public ice skating rink at L.A. Live across from Staples Center through Feb. 4. Meanwhile, Leiweke announced that the Kings and McDonald's will donate $1 million to local charities, and credited Lakers forward Metta World Peace with another promotion the Kings have in mind to raise money for those charities.

“We’re going to donate a few rings to different charities to help them raffle them off and make money,” Leiweke said. “We’re going to follow the lead of what World Peace did when he raffled his ring. That was phenomenal.”

While the Kings will not play Eastern Conference teams during the shortened 48-game season, Leiweke said the Kings and the Los Angeles Galaxy, who won back-to-back MLS Cups, will make a joint visit to the White House to meet President Barack Obama during the NHL season.

“We have a tentative date and we’re waiting to see if it works on the president’s schedule,” Leiweke said. “We’re going to take the Kings and the Galaxy on the same day, and do it in one shot with both teams. No one’s ever done that before, but then again, no city has ever had two championships like this. We’re going to bring all our guys back from the Galaxy, including Mr. [David] Beckham, and all of the Kings during a road trip.”

Despite the impending sale of AEG, Leiweke assured Kings fans that Lombardi has the green light to sign any player and make any deal he thinks will improve the Kings ... and that the ownership already showed its commitment by keeping the entire team intact in the offseason.

Lombardi didn’t seem overly anxious to mess with the chemistry the team developed during its Stanley Cup championship run, but he admitted he'd continue to evaluate the team as training camp opens this weekend.

“It’s not about recapturing the feeling,” Lombardi said. “It’s about writing a new story. The one thing we know about that story is when they fulfill it and get to the end, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Kings come out on top again after lockout

January, 6, 2013
1/06/13
3:25
PM PT
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 relive Stanley Cup on silver screen

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
10:19
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- With the Stanley Cup and Clarence S. Campbell Bowl sitting below a giant 70-foot screen and nearly 700 fans, the Los Angeles Kings premiered their official Stanley Cup Champions DVD on Monday night at the Regal Cinema in L.A. Live.

[+] EnlargeStanley Cup DVD
Gary MiereanuLos Angeles Kings players Matt Greene, left, and Jarret Stoll carry the Stanley Cup into the theater at the premiere of the team's championship DVD.
Walking down a press line at the theater normally held for Hollywood movie premieres, Kings defenseman Matt Greene smiled at the thought of seeing his formerly bearded mug on the silver screen for the first time. “This is my first feature length film,” he said. “It’ll be exciting. I was in acting class, but I never made the cut.”

The DVD, which comes out on Tuesday, traces the Kings’ journey to the Stanley Cup all the way back to 1967, when they were being assembled as an expansion franchise and the Forum in Inglewood was under construction. It highlights the Kings’ trade for Wayne Gretzky in 1988 and the team’s Stanley Cup Finals run in 1993, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens. The film then transitions into the rebuilding of the Kings with the drafting of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty.

“Touching on the history of the franchise is key,” said Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations and Hall of Fame former left winger for the team. “They did a great job. We were so busy when we won, we didn’t really get a chance to enjoy that moment. So today it will be great to see it again and the reaction from our fans.”

As the film chronicled the Kings’ roller coaster 2011-2012 season leading up to their unpredictable and unprecedented postseason run, the theater crowd cheered after every big goal as if the team's followers were across the street at Staples Center again.

“We were so focused and our mind was so straight forward during the playoffs that you miss some things,” said Kings center Jarret Stoll, who, along with Greene, carried the Stanley Cup to the front of the theater before the premiere. “So it’s great to see it again.”

Everyone in the theater knew how the film would play out, but it was a finale they didn’t mind seeing again.

“I knew the ending,” Robitaille said. “But I never get tired of it.”

The Stanley Cup goes to Dodger Stadium

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
9:40
PM PT
Los Angeles Dodgers, Kings, Angels AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Kings brought the Stanley Cup to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and took a rare picture together with the Dodgers and Angels.

LOS ANGELES -- A day before the Los Angeles Kings will parade the Stanley Cup through downtown L.A., the team gave a sneak peak to fans and players at Dodger Stadium before the Dodgers played the Angels on Wednesday night.

The Stanley Cup arrived at Dodger Stadium less than an hour before the opening pitch, carried by Rob Scuderi and Justin Williams. Kings players mingled with Dodgers players in the Dodgers' clubhouse as Dodgers players took pictures with the Stanley Cup, which was placed in the center of the clubhouse and later brought out to the team’s dugout before being carried out onto the pitcher’s mound.

While manager Don Mattingly was filling out the night’s lineup in his office wearing a Kings Stanley Cup championship T-shirt, Kings defenseman Matt Greene was busy putting on a Dodgers uniform, from head to toe. By the time the Kings and Dodgers players hit the field, Greene looked as if he were ready to play first base for the Dodgers.

“Greener stole the show,” said Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Kings captain Dustin Brown, who grew up as a Yankees fan in Ithaca, N.Y., said the biggest thrill of the night was getting to meet Mattingly.

“I’m a big Don Mattingly fan,” Brown said. “I grew up in upstate New York so the Yankees are my American League team. He was one of the players I always liked. I liked the Yankees before they were good and he was on those teams. I wasn’t a fan of the Dodgers before I came here, but they’ve started to grow on me.”

Before they threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the Kings, Dodgers and Angels all gathered around the pitcher’s mound for a rare triple team picture. The Kings didn’t stay for the game, as they gathered for a team dinner before their victory parade in the morning.

“I’ve thrown out the first pitch a couple of times, but it’s different now being a Stanley Cup champion in the city of Los Angeles,” Brown said. “It’s always fun to come to Dodgers games and be a part of this. It’s special to bring the Cup here. There are a lot of things you get to do with the Cup, but bringing it here and sharing it with the city of Los Angeles is pretty special.”

Kings again leave the Cup on the table

June, 10, 2012
6/10/12
8:28
AM PT


NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the Los Angeles Kings took the ice for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, Dustin Brown smiled and said that since the Kings had to fly back home after the game anyway, they might as well bring the Cup with them on the long flight.

Although the trophy was once again in the building, for the second straight game the Kings left the ice empty-handed, destined to drink out of regular cups instead of a silver chalice on their flight to L.A. on Saturday night.


Jim O'Connor/US Presswire
Since taking a 3-0 series lead against the New Jersey Devils and being in position to win the Cup, the Kings have failed to take the lead in each of the past two games.


"We want the Cup!" has become a rallying cry around Los Angeles over the past couple of weeks, but maybe the Kings need to forget about the trophy they are playing for. Ever since the Stanley Cup has arrived at the arena they are playing in, they have seemingly crumbled in its presence. Since taking a 3-0 series lead against the New Jersey Devils and being in position to win the Cup, the Kings have failed to take the lead in each of the past two games. Suddenly this team’s mystique is beginning to fade as quickly as its lead in this series.

For the first time in more than two months, the Kings returned to a visiting locker room and took off their white uniforms in defeat. It was a feeling so foreign to most players, they didn’t quite know how to react.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick got defensive when a reporter said this was the first time this postseason that the Kings had been tested or faced adversity.

“I thought we were tested pretty hard in the first, second and third rounds,” he said. “Just because we were able to come out on top it doesn’t mean we weren’t tested. If you don’t think we were tested in those series, you should be covering a different sport.”

Well, it was the first time the Kings had dropped a road playoff game in nearly 14 months. The Kings have won an NHL playoff-record 10 straight road games this year, and 12 straight dating back to their first-round series against San Jose last year. They had always responded to a loss with a win, until now.

So now the question is how the Kings will respond to their first back-to-back losing streak of these playoffs, in the first Game 6 they will have to play after closing out each of their previous three series in four or five games.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Devils 2, Kings 1

June, 9, 2012
6/09/12
8:01
PM PT

Stanley Cup finals

Game 5

New Jersey Devils 2, Los Angeles Kings 1

(Kings lead the series, 3-2)

The good: So, the Kings have lost two straight for the first time in this postseason, and watched their 10-game road winning streak in these playoffs skid to a halt inside Prudential Center. But look at the bright side, they still lead the series heading back to L.A. Right from the opening drop, Kings right wing Justin Williams had an extra jump to his step and a little more zing on his shot. After drilling his second post in as many games 2:40 into the first period, he didn't let his second prime scoring chance go to waste. The play began with a run-of-the-mill clearing pass by defenseman Matt Greene. Williams collected the puck at his own blue line with Anze Kopitar in front of him. Williams smartly elected to keep the rubber, darting toward the high slot and forcing defenseman Mark Fayne to back off. Kings left wing Dustin Brown cut toward the goal, drawing Zach Parise with him. As Williams reached the high slot, he let go of another wrister that beat goalie Martin Brodeur cleanly, tying the score, 1-1, about 3 1/2 minutes into the second period.

The bad: Puck-handling has long been a glaring weakness in goalkeeper Jonathan Quick’s game and it reared its ugly head in the first period. After the Kings owned the first 11 minutes, defenseman Willie Mitchell went to the penalty box for interference in his offensive zone. The Devils nearly scored in the first minute of the power play when Travis Zajac’s shot from the slot trickled through Quick’s pads, but the puck rolled away from the goal line and Drew Doughty was able to step in and clear it from the crease. About a minute later, Quick came out of the crease to handle the puck with plenty of room to send it forward, but he elected to spin and bounce it off the end boards. He didn’t put enough on the attempt and the puck hit the boards and got hung up on the back of the net. Parise swooped in, beat Doughty to the puck and scored on a wraparound before Quick could get back into position. It was Parise’s first goal of the series, as well as New Jersey’s first power-play goal. Not a good omen considering the team that scored first won the previous four games.

About 5 minutes after the Kings tied the score, New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador let go of a slap shot from just inside his blue line. L.A. defenseman Slava Voynov was battling with David Clarkson in front of the net and both attempted to get out of the way of the shot. The puck got a piece of Voynov, however, and was redirected to the left of Quick, giving the lead back to the Devils, 2-1. It was the second time in the series the puck has caromed off the rookie defenseman and into his own net. The score held up, sending the series back to L.A. for Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center.

The in between: At least the Kings and Devils won’t have to compete with the NBA Finals or the Subway Series for viewership come Monday. The NHL will have the afternoon/evening time slot all to its self.

Rapid Reaction: Game 3: Kings 4, Devils 0

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
7:48
PM PT
Stanley Cup Final

Game 3 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)

Los Angeles Kings 4, New Jersey Devils 0

The good: Barring a historic comeback in this series, the Kings are well on their way to their first Stanley Cup title. They reached this point with perhaps their best all-around performance of the playoffs, getting a superb effort from their penalty-kill unit, another strong game from goalie Jonathan Quick and a pair of goals in the second and third periods.

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez put the Kings on the board first for the third time in this series, pouncing on Dwight King’s leftovers to notch his first career playoff goal. King shot the puck at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur from the right circle, hitting him in the chest. King was right there for the rebound, shooting it off Brodeur’s right pad and getting in a couple more whacks before Martinez raced into the play and shoved it across the goal line. Brodeur thought the play should have been called dead, but he had no clue where to find the puck during the scramble. Martinez is the 17th member of the Kings to score a goal in this postseason.

While the first goal was a result of persistence and hard work, the second was pure skill. Justin Williams collected a stretch pass that banked off the boards and left it for a trailing Dustin Brown. He looked to his left and spotted Anze Kopitar with a step on the defense and skipped a pass in his direction. Kopitar took a swipe at the airborne puck and put it high in the net for a 2-0 lead with 4:53 left in the second period. It was the first two-goal lead for the Kings since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

After six straight power plays by the Devils, the Kings finally got one of their own and showed New Jersey how it’s done. Willie Mitchell took a page out of Quick’s book and snagged a clearing pass with his glove at the blue line, set it down and the Kings resumed their attack. Mike Richards took the puck down low and then passed it out to his good buddy and roommate Jeff Carter just to the right of Brodeur. He put the rubber up high in the net for a 3-0 lead 4:15 into the third.

Just more than a minute later, the Kings went back on the power play. This time it was Williams jumping on his own rebound and putting it past Brodeur for their fourth goal in 20 shots.

The penalty kill was again outstanding for the Kings. They snuffed out all six man-advantage situations for New Jersey, including a five-on-three situation that lasted 60 seconds late in the first period. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came through with two blocks on Ilya Kovalchuk and Quick made pinball-lever save with his right pad to rob Zach Parise, who had received a pass on the far post.

The bad: Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

The in between: Sidelined since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, Kings left wing Simon Gagne made his first appearance of the postseason, taking the fourth-line spot of Brad Richardson. He finished with 11 shifts, 6:39 of ice time and three shots on goal. The Kings were hoping Gagne would breathe some life into the power play, but the Kings spent most of the first two periods killing penalties. Still, the Kings played their best game of the series and possibly the playoffs with Gagne in the lineup, so look for coach Darryl Sutter to stick with that lineup in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Kings looking for familiar 3-0 series lead

June, 3, 2012
6/03/12
6:13
PM PT


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If the New Jersey Devils are to prevent the Los Angeles Kings from doing something the Kings have done in every series so far this postseason – take a 3-0 series lead – they will have to overcome some major jetlag to do so.

When the Devils boarded a flight to Los Angeles Sunday morning for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final it was the first time the team had boarded a flight for a game since April 26 when they played the Florida Panthers in the quarterfinals. When they landed in Los Angeles, it was the first time the team had been outside of the Eastern Time Zone since Jan. 14 when they played the Winnipeg Jets.

The Kings, like most West Coast teams in the NHL, on the other hand, are used to the travel and boarded their flight back to Los Angeles right after Game 2.

"It was a good flight," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We tried to get out of there by midnight. We were off the ground by one and everyone was in bed by 4:30. We looked at contingency plans if we went to a second overtime. We had rooms at the airport so we could get there and get up early and go. I still think it was in the best interest of our team to come home. We're used to it a little bit during the season."

The Kings didn’t practice Sunday but many players did come in for treatment and for media availability.

"Most of the guys got a couple of hours of sleep on the plane," Sutter said. "A lot of the guys that didn’t have to come in today got up at mid-morning and are good to go I think."

Not only are the Kings accustomed to traveling more miles than most teams because of their location geographically with the rest of the league, but they have become used to playing on the road as the No. 8 seed this postseason. They have responded by winning an NHL playoff record 10 straight road games this year and 12 straight dating back to last season.

Don’t look for Sutter or anyone on the team to be that impressed with their road record or winning 11 of their last 12 games dating back to April 22 until they win two more games. None of their current winning streaks means anything to Sutter, who played eight years with the Chicago Blackhawks and remembers in 1991 when Chicago’s 11-game playoff winning streak ended in a sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

“What do you want to talk about?” Sutter said, when asked about the winning streak. “We won 11 in a row to go to the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago and the team that beat us in the Final won 11 in a row so I think that’s hallowed ground. That’s pretty unbelievable what Pittsburgh did that year.”

Different surroundings

The large media contingent covering the Stanley Cup Final forced the Kings to hold their availability on the practice court of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was the first time anyone on the Kings had been on the court and many took a quick look at the championship banners and trophies displayed on the office windows when they walked onto the court on Sunday.

"I didn’t even know this place existed," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "I thought it was a myth."

Drew Doughty smiled as he looked up at the championship banners before he walked off the court.

"It’s the first time I’ve actually been here," Doughty. "It would be nice to throw one of these up in our practice facility."

Carter proves doubters wrong

Jeff Carter had his fair share of doubters after he was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets last June and again in February when he was traded to the Kings. After playing in the Stanley Cup Final two years earlier with Mike Richards in Philadelphia, he was reunited with his old friend to prove his naysayers wrong. Needless to say Carter’s game-winning goal in overtime in Game 2 went a long way in silencing his critics.

"There was a lot of people doubting me out there and I l know that," Carter said. "I look at this as an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup and prove everybody wrong."

Richards, who stayed in touch with Carter after they both were traded from Philadelphia until they were reunited in Los Angeles, knows how much the game-winning goal meant to Carter and how big it was in his redemption story.

"He's a guy that has confidence and you can see that confidence on the ice," Richards said. "When you get traded you almost take that personally and as a slap in the face. Nobody likes being traded but everything happens for a reason. If there are doubters you want to prove them wrong. That’s just the nature of being a hockey player."

Kings-Devils for Lord Stanley's precious Cup

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
12:18
PM PT


The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are scheduled to kick off the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for as the series unwinds.

KINGS OFFENSE vs. DEVILS DEFENSE

The Kings managed just one goal in two meetings against the Devils this season, but those games were played back in October and this isn’t the same L.A. team. Dustin Brown continues to be the tip of the sword for the Kings, scoring at least five points in each of the first three rounds. Anze Kopitar has scored at least one point in 11 of 14 playoff games, and Justin Williams has hit the scoresheet in 10. The second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner also figures to give the Devils problems. Brown, Kopitar, Penner and Carter should be especially effective using their size against New Jersey’s defense. Marek Zidlicky leads the Devils in total ice time, but he’s only listed at 5 feet 11, 188 pounds. Andy Green, who also logs heavy minutes on the blue line, is not much bigger at 5-11, 190, and Peter Harrold, who rarely cracked the lineup while playing for the Kings the last five seasons, stands 6-0, 190.

The Edge: Kings

LANJDEVILS OFFENSE vs. KINGS DEFENSE

The Devils have a triple threat up front in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, each of whom has scored seven goals in the playoffs. What has made the Devils especially formidable in the postseason is the production from fourth liners Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. They’ve combined for nine goals and nine assists in 18 playoff games. By comparison, the five players who have rotated on the fourth line for L.A. have combined for two goals and one assist. The Kings are very aware of the top-to-bottom scoring potential on New Jersey, and they’ll counter with a blue-line group that features a nice balance of veteran stay-at-home defenders (Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene) and offensive-minded youngsters (Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov). Together, they’ve helped limit the opposition to 22 goals in 14 games, while scoring five of their own.

The Edge: Devils

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kings have been brutal on the power play this postseason, converting on just 8.1 percent of their opportunities (6-for-74). If there’s a silver lining heading into Games 1 and 2 in New Jersey, they’ve been better on the road, coming through on 5 of 42 chances (11.9 percent). Even that number dwarfs their regular season average of 17 percent. The Devils have improved their power-play efficiency in the playoffs, coming in with an 18.2 percent success rate after finishing at 17.2 during the regular season. They’ve been even better at Prudential Center, cashing in on 8 of 32 man-advantage situations, good for a 25-percent clip. The tables are turned on the penalty kill. The Kings have allowed just five power-play goals and scored five shorthanded. Their 91.2 success rate is better than their 87-percent clip during the regular season and that mark was fourth best in the league. The Devils allowed just 27 power-play goals during the regular season, leaving them No. 1 in the league at 89.6 percent, but they’ve seen 16 power-play goals hit the back of their net in the postseason for a 74.2 percent kill rate.

The Edge: Devils

GOALIES

The series is quite even until you start comparing the men behind the mask. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has built on his Vezina-caliber regular season by elevating his game to another level in the playoffs. He has allowed more than two goals just twice in 14 games and brings a minuscule 1.54 goals-against average into the finals. As great as Tim Thomas was last season while leading the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup title, his GAA was just 1.98 in the postseason. Two years ago, Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks won a championship with a 2.63 average in the playoffs. The Devils will counter with 40-year-old Martin Brodeur, a three-time Cup winner and a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when that time comes. Playoff opponents are averaging a half a goal more against Brodeur than Quick, however. He has allowed more than two goals five times in the playoffs, including three on nine shots in Game 3 of the opening-round series against the Florida Panthers, earning an early seat on the bench.

The Edge: Kings

COACHES

Both benches are backed by coaches who have been with their teams for less than a year, yet they've managed to squeeze the most from their talent after so-so regular seasons. After coming on board in mid-December, Kings coach Darryl Sutter gradually showed his players how to buy into each game both physically and emotionally. He maintained the defense-first system that previous coach Terry Murray had instilled, but made a few tweaks to the lineup that paid off in the playoffs. His most brilliant move was moving Penner on to the second line with Richards and Carter late in the first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, and dropping rookie left wing Dwight King back to the third line, giving him more favorable matchups. Penner has responded with eight points in the last nine games and King scored five goals in that span. Devils coach Peter DeBoer wears his emotions on his chest much more louder than Sutter, something his players appreciate. DeBoer’s best move of the postseason was likely reinserting Harrold into the lineup following a Game 1 loss to the top-seeded New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. Harrold provided the Devils a veteran presence on the back end, and New Jersey went on to win four of its next five games.

The Edge: Kings

KEY STATS

The Kings are 8-0 away from Staples Center in these playoffs, outscoring the hosts, 30-13, and netting all five of their shorthanded goals. They’ve swept the opening two games on the road in each of the first three rounds, putting their opponents on their heels before they had a chance to push back. The Kings are the first team in NHL playoff history to win their first eight games on the road, and their 10-game postseason road winning streak dating to last season is also an NHL record. The Devils are 5-2 on their home ice in the postseason, outscoring the visitors, 25-17. Another key area is the goals-against average for each team in the playoffs. The Kings are allowing an average of 1.6 goals on 29 shots a game, while New Jersey is giving up 2.3 goals on an average of 27.6 shots.

Prediction: Kings in six

Kings have a habit of not staying down for long

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
10:48
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Scoring one goal against the Los Angeles Kings has been tough enough in the postseason; getting two straight has been next to impossible.

The Kings have answered nearly every goal by the opposition with one of their own, and usually very quickly. They managed that again Thursday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes, tying the score just 2 minutes, 7 seconds after the Coyotes had taken their first lead of the series.

It turned out to be a key moment, as rookie right wing Dwight King later potted the game winner in the 2-1 victory at Staples Center, lifting the Kings to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with their 11th win in 12 playoff games.

“When we let it up, we’ve had a knack just to line up at center ice and get ready to go again,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “We’ve found ways to grind goals and those are huge momentum swings for us.”

The Coyotes had to feel good after Daymond Langkow found a seam in the normally tight L.A. defense and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot 1:03 into the second period, giving Phoenix a 1-0 lead. It was only the fourth time in 12 playoff games the Kings allowed the first goal.

But, once again, the Kings had a speedy answer. Justin Williams won a battle along the boards in his defensive zone, got the puck ahead to Anze Kopitar, who slid it to Brown in the middle of the ice. Kopitar raced ahead and Brown passed to him in stride. Kopitar did the rest, faking a forehand and then dragging the puck to his backhand, where he slid it through the legs of goalie Mike Smith to tie the score, 1-1.

“You’ve got to respond back, especially when you give up [a goal] that was a little uncharacteristic,” said defenseman Matt Greene. “It’s good to have a good rebound and see Kopi put a finish on a chance there. We didn’t have a lot of chances up to that point, so for him to get that was huge.”

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Kings: Jonathan Quick, Dustin Penner lead way in Game 1 victory

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
8:20
PM PT

Western Conference Semifinals

Game 1

Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Home ice doesn’t belong to the St. Louis Blues any longer, just as it was stolen from the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings took care of that Saturday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis behind two rare playoff goals by the defense, a bank-shot empty-netter by Dustin Penner in the closing seconds and another stellar performance by goalie Jonathan Quick.

THE STAT: The Kings have won six consecutive playoff games on the road and are 8-2 away from Staples Center over the past three postseasons. This is the fourth consecutive playoff series in which they've taken away home-ice advantage in the first two games.

TURNING POINT: With 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining in the second period and the score tied at 1, Kings rookie winger Dwight King checked St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the back, and Pietrangelo went forehead-first into the boards behind the Blues' net. Pietrangelo appeared to be bleeding, but King was given only a two-minute boarding penalty, rather than a five-minute major and game misconduct. On the ensuing faceoff, St. Louis forward David Backes won the draw, but his pass backward went off his skate, just enough to throw off defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. That allowed Kings forward Dustin Brown to take off a stride ahead of Shattenkirk. Brown’s shot attempt was stopped by goalie Brian Elliott, but Brown appeared to clip Elliott’s right pad as he skated by, knocking the netminder off balance while the puck lay in the crease. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came up from behind the play with no one defending him and shoved the puck past Elliott before he could recover for a 2-1 lead. It was Greene's first career playoff goal in his 36th game. The goal also was just the second short-handed goal by a Kings defenseman in franchise history. The other belonged to Rob Blake in 1993. To make matters worse, Pietrangelo, the team’s best defenseman and leader in ice time during the regular season and playoffs, did not return to the game.

HOT: Quick turned aside 28 shots for his fifth playoff victory in six games this postseason. No save was better than the three straight he kicked aside off the stick of Blues forward Andy McDonald when the game was still scoreless in the opening minute. Quick has allowed just nine goals in the six playoff games and has stopped 192 of 201 shots for a lofty save percentage of .955.

NOT: The Kings scored their third short-handed goal of the postseason, the same number they’ve produced on the power play. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1 against the Blues, including one stretch during the second half of the game in which they had the man advantage for eight minutes out of 8:47. They now are 3-for-31 on the power play during their playoff run. As for the Blues, Shattenkirk had a night to forget. Not only was he burned on the Greene short-hander, but he committed a delay of game penalty in the third period, just after the Blues had killed a four-minute power play. He was on the ice for all three goals, resulting in a minus-3 rating.

GOOD MOVE: Penner was given a promotion from the third to the second line late in Game 5 (the series-clinching victory) against the Canucks, and coach Darryl Sutter stayed with that lineup against the Blues. Penner obliged by setting up the first goal, holding the puck as he weaved below the goal line and then passing out front to rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, who hit the open side for his first career playoff goal and the first postseason goal by a first-year Kings defenseman since Alexei Zhitnik in 1993. Penner’s bank-shot empty-netter looked straight out of a billiards match, as he shot the puck from deep in his own end, off the wall near the red line and straight into the middle of the net with 14 seconds left in the game.

BAD MOVE: About two minutes before Greene’s goal, the Blues had a golden opportunity to break the 1-all tie when David Perron drove at the Kings' net. As he made his move, the puck went off the shin of L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty and was left in the slot with Quick out of position as he followed Perron across the crease. Scott Nichol skated in all alone but tried to be too fine with his shot and sent the puck just wide of the open side of the net.

NOTABLE: For the third consecutive year, the goalies with the top two goals-against averages in the regular season went head to head in the playoffs. ... The Kings had 44 goals by their defensemen during the regular season, the most by any team in the NHL except the Nashville Predators. ... When the Blues scored first during the regular season, they finished 34-8-3 for the sixth-best winning percentage in the NHL. The Kings were 9-23-7 when allowing the first goal, the third-worst winning percentage. ... St. Louis tied the Detroit Red Wings for the best home record during the regular season.

UP NEXT: Game 2, Monday in St. Louis, 6 p.m. PT.

Kings: Breaking down the second round series vs. Blues

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
11:43
AM PT
The Kings and Blues are scheduled to kick off their Western Conference semifinal Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for as the series unwinds.

KINGS OFFENSE vs. BLUES DEFENSE

Kings coach Darryl Sutter called the NHL a “3-2 league” when he was hired in mid-December to replace Terry Murray, a reference to the typical final score. This might be a 2-1 series, however. St. Louis was No. 1 in the league in goals-against average during the regular season, allowing an average of 1.89 goals a game, while the Kings were 29th in the league in scoring at 2.29 goals a game. The Blues are led on the blue line by 22-year-old Alex Pietrangelo, who had a breakout regular season with 12 goals, 59 points and a plus-14 rating. The Blues will be without No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak for the first two games after he injured his ankle in Game 2 of their first-round victory against the San Jose Sharks. That’s hardly a big blow for St. Louis, which features a quality backup in Brian Elliott, who won all three first-round starts and had better overall statistics than Halak during the regular season. The Kings may have finished second-to-last in the league in scoring, but they averaged 2.78 goals over the final 23 games. The top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams scored 22 goals or more apiece during the regular season and combined for five goals and eight assists in the first-round victory against the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings also feature plenty of firepower and postseason experience on the second line with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner.

The Edge: Blues

BLUES OFFENSE vs. KINGS DEFENSE

The Kings were no slouch on defense either, allowing an average of 2.07 goals during the regular season, second best in the league behind the Blues. The Kings and St. Louis also allowed the fewest goals in the first round of the playoffs (eight). The backstop for the Kings is goalie Jonathan Quick, a Vezina Trophy finalist who led the league and established a franchise record with 10 shutouts during the regular season. He also blanked Vancouver in Game 3. The Kings feature a nice mix of offensive-minded defensemen, led by 2010 Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty, and defensive stoppers Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene. The Blues will counter with a deep forward corps that features nine players who scored 10 goals or more in the regular season. The player to watch for St. Louis is center Andy McDonald, who missed 51 games with a concussion and six more with a shoulder injury, but flashed his talent in the first-round series, accounting for four goals and four assists in five games. Six of his points came on the power play. McDonald did not appear in any of the four games against the Kings this season.

The Edge: Kings

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Kings: No reason to celebrate just yet

April, 16, 2012
4/16/12
3:48
PM PT


EL SEGUNDO -- There was a mutual feeling Monday morning at Toyota Sports Center, one of dissatisfaction.

Strange, considering the Kings went up 3-games-to-none on the Vancouver Canucks with a 1-0 victory the night before at Staples Center, the first time in franchise history they’ve taken such a lead in the playoffs.

But the Canucks had the best record in the NHL during the regular season for a reason, and they’ve steadily played better as the series has progressed. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Kings heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

“We’re lucky to be in this situation we’re in now,” defenseman Matt Greene said.

Vancouver pelted the Kings with 41 shots on goal in Game 3, the second straight game they’ve surpassed the 40-shot mark. The Canucks killed all eight power plays by the Kings and kept possession of the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone. Most of the Kings looked as if they were a step behind the Canucks, and a couple appeared as if they were going one way while the puck was going another.

If it wasn’t for a gift rebound off the pads of goalie Cory Schneider that an unmarked Dustin Brown deposited in the net with 13:30 remaining in the game, the Kings could easily be looking at a 2-1 series lead with the opportunity for Vancouver to steal back home-ice advantage in Game 4.

“We still haven’t played our best hockey, and I thought we were probably even worse yesterday than we were in Game 2,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We definitely need to pick up our socks and every single one of us needs to play better.”

Those words sound as if they’re coming from a player whose team is facing elimination rather than one game from winning its first playoff series in 11 years.

“There are a lot of things we’ve got to address here,” Greene said. “The last two games, like I said, they’ve been playing well, they’ve been getting themselves going and we’ve been lucky, so we’ve got to regroup and have a better game.”

Vancouver didn’t practice Monday, but leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin will be flying to L.A. and begin practicing with the team Tuesday. He has missed the past 12 games because of a concussion, so it’s still unclear if his arrival will be more of a morale boost than a physical one, but the Kings are more concerned with their play anyway.

“The next game is going to be the toughest of them all,” Doughty said. “Vancouver took it to us last night. They played their best game of the series and now it’s our turn to play our best game. We can’t treat it as if we’re up 3-0, we’ve just got to win one more. We’ve got to play our hardest game yet and take it as if we’re down a few.”

Brown, who drew as much attention for his jaw-rattling check on Henrik Sedin early in the second period as he did for his fourth goal of the playoffs, said it all comes down to time of possession in the offensive zone.

“Game 1 was a really good puck-possession game for us and we made it really hard on their top guys to have offensive opportunities,” he said. “The last two games, they’ve had over 40 shots against us. … We didn’t give up a ton of Grade-A scoring chances, but if we can play in their end, it makes it a lot harder for them.”

Quickly and effectively getting the puck out of the defensive zone will also be a key, Doughty said.

“I felt we were making too many turnovers, the [defense] wasn’t moving pucks up quick enough and we weren’t getting pucks in deep,” he said. “If we’re doing that, they’re going to turn things around and create odd-man rushes and that’s what they did last game. … They peppered [goalie Jonathan Quick] with a lot of shots and so next game we’ve got to fix that.”

Maybe then they can sit back and appreciate what they've accomplished.

Kings: No longer in control of Pacific Division destiny

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
7:55
PM PT
Kings (40-27-14, 94 points) vs. San Jose Sharks (42-29-10, 94 points) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Scene setter – Before we get to the antics from Thursday night, here’s the playoff scenario heading into the final regular-season game. The Phoenix Coyotes beat the St. Louis Blues on Friday night, 4-1, moving into the driver’s seat for the Pacific Division title. Phoenix is one point ahead of the Kings and Sharks, meaning a victory Saturday in Minnesota -- a game that's scheduled to start about 2 1/2 hours before the Kings and Sharks -- will clinch the championship and give the Coyotes the No. 3 seeding for the playoffs and the all-important home-ice advantage for the first round. If Phoenix loses in regulation, the winner between the Kings and Sharks will clinch the division. And if the Coyotes earn one point by losing in a shootout or overtime, the Kings can clinch the Pacific by winning in regulation or overtime. In that same scenario, if the Kings lose in a shootout, then Phoenix would win the title. With that in mind, expect the Kings to make the rare decision to pull their goalie in overtime, giving them the best chance to avoid a shootout.

2. Sticks and stones – San Jose winger Ryane Clowe apparently saw the video. Clowe, who leaned forward from the bench Thursday night and poke-checked the puck away from Jarret Stoll while Phoenix was killing a penalty late in the third period of a tied game against the Kings --and somehow got away with it -- came clean to Bay Area reporters following practice Friday afternoon in San Jose. “It was definitely a brain cramp,” he said. Twelve hours earlier, he had feigned ignorance following his team’s 6-5 shootout victory at Staples Center, which kept the Sharks in the hunt for the Pacific Division crown, “I have no idea what you’re talking about … you’ll have to show me on video.” The league looked at the video as well, and decided no punishment would be meted out. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any retribution, whether from the Kings or the some extra-tight officiating against the Sharks.

3. Power-play surge – Aside from the spontaneous cheating by Clowe, the childish denial, and the egregious missed call, perhaps the biggest problem is the Kings would've gone on a 5-on-3 for about 40 seconds, had the play been witnessed by an on-ice official. The Kings had just scored on a two-man advantage about 50 seconds earlier to tie the score, 5-5, their fourth power-play goal of the game. They had not scored four power-play goals in the same game in three years, and the unit seemed as if it could do no wrong against the Sharks. Once again, don’t be surprised if the Kings get a few more opportunities with the man-advantage.

4. Quick U-turn? – On the night he was named the team’s most valuable player for the season, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had perhaps his worst game since Game 3 of the Western Conference playoffs last season, giving up a season-high five goals before getting beat in the shootout. Quick has melted down late in the last two seasons. At the end of 2009-10, he gave up three or more goals in seven of his last nine regular-season starts, then allowed 21 goals in a six-game loss against Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, he allowed 11 goals his final four starts of the regular season. The Kings lost three of those games, keeping them from earning home-ice advantage in the first round against San Jose. He then gave up 20 goals in a six-game loss to the Sharks, including six goals in Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center.

5. Before the poke – Lost in the hullabaloo surrounding Thursday night’s game were a few other accomplishments that made it seem like a “full-moon” night. Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, who will turn 35 later this month, had a career-high three assists, Anze Kopitar notched his 50th and 51st assists of the season, which is also a career high, and Justin Williams scored two goals in a game for the third time this season. Then there was Drew Doughty and Matt Greene earning fighting majors for the first time this season, and Gordie Howe hat tricks for both Clowe and San Jose captain Joe Thornton. Unfortunately, Clowe’s antics buried all those storylines.

Kings: Victory vs. Oilers worth five spots in standings

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
9:52
PM PT
Mike RichardsAndy Devlin/Getty ImagesMike Richards came up with his fourth short-handed goal of the season for the Kings.
Kings 4, Edmonton Oilers 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: With the back end of the Western Conference playoff race so compressed, a contending team can take a giant step in either direction once the nightly dust settles. Never was that more evident than Friday night, when the Kings earned a key victory at Rexall Place in Edmonton, about a half hour before Dallas lost in Vancouver, moving them from eighth in the West to third with four games remaining.

THE STAT: After six straight games against teams trying to get into the playoffs, or just better their position, the Kings finally matched up against an opponent who didn’t have much to play for. It showed, as the Oilers managed just five shots on goal through the halfway point of the game and 14 overall.

TURNING POINT: Kings center Mike Richards has been somewhat of a disappointment lately, but he continues to be spectacular when it comes to short-handed goals. He pocketed his fourth of the season midway through the first period to put the Kings back on top, 2-1, and steal any wind that may have sneaked into the Oilers’ sails.

HOT: The defensive corps in L.A. continues to chip in on the offensive end, and that’s always a boost for a team scratching to make the playoffs. Drew Doughty scored the third goal of the game and Alec Martinez the fourth, giving the defensemen 13 goals in the last 19 games. The blue-liners also chipped in with four assists against Edmonton.

NOT: Kings left wing Dustin Penner returned to the city where he spent 3 seasons until he was sent to L.A. at last season’s trade deadline. He must have been in the giving mood because he had four giveaways and no points.

GOOD MOVE: Getting off to a good start was crucial and the Kings didn't waste any time, taking a 1-0 lead 52 seconds into the game. Rookie left wing Dwight King took a shot from the right faceoff dot and he appeared to catch Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin by surprise. His reaction became clearer about 45 minutes later, when the goal was changed to Anze Kopitar on a deflection in front of the net, his 25th of the season.

BAD MOVE: The Kings gave the lead right back after defenseman Matt Greene went to the penalty box for hooking former teammate Ryan Smyth, opening the door for Jordan Eberle to cash in the power play goal 42 seconds after the Kings had taken the 1-0 lead. The shot came from the half wall and beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick on the short side for one of those “soft goals” he has been giving up a little too often. Fortunately, the Oilers weren’t in the mood to test him much tonight.

NOTABLE: The Kings played without forward Jeff Carter, who suffered an ankle injury late in Wednesday’s victory against Calgary. He’s also expected to miss Saturday’s game in Minnesota. There was also a late scoring change on the third goal by the Kings. It was originally awarded to Dustin Brown on a deflection in front of the net during a second-period power play, but later credited to Doughty, who took the original shot ... It was an especially tough night for Edmonton blue liners as Latislav Smid suffered neck injury in the second period and did not return, and Jeff Petry was hit in the face with the puck during a second-period power play and left the game with a facial contusion.

UP NEXT: Saturday at the Minnesota Wild, 5 p.m. PT.

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