Los Angeles Hockey: Minnesota Wild

Kings: Late lead gets away in shootout loss vs. Wild

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
9:05
PM PT
Minnesota Wild 4, Kings 3 (SO)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Considering the situation -- the second road game in two nights at the back end of a four-game road trip -- the Kings would normally be satisfied escaping with a point Saturday night in St. Paul, Minn. But they were in great position to steal another against the Wild, holding a 3-2 lead with just over nine minutes remaining at Xcel Energy Center before unraveling down the stretch.

THE STAT: After finishing 10-2 in shootouts a year ago, the Kings fell to 6-8 this season. Jonathan Bernier, who started in goal for just the 14th time this season, failed to stop a shot in the shootout, falling to 1-3 in his career in the tiebreaker. Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, meanwhile, improved to 17-29. If the Kings don’t make the playoffs, that’s one stat that will haunt them during the offseason.

TURNING POINT: Just as it appeared the Kings were on the verge of wrapping up their final multi-game road trip with three straight wins, Justin Falk skated straight at Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, cut into the middle and dumped the puck off to Jason Zucker. He took a shot toward the net and the puck glanced off the left skate of Erik Christensen, redirecting it past Bernier. Christensen appeared to make a slight kicking motion, but it was unclear if the skate of Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell had bumped into Christensen’s and caused the motion. Regardless, the goal stood, tying the score, 3-3. The Kings killed off a four-minute power play in the final minutes of regulation, then failed to score on a power play of their own that extended into overtime. Later in the overtime, Minnesota forward Devin Setoguchi hit the post on a penalty shot, leaving the game to be decided in the shootout.

HOT: A healthy scratch in 12 of the previous 13 games before getting a chance to play Friday in Edmonton following the ankle injury to Jeff Carter, forward Brad Richardson scored two goals for the Kings, the last giving them a 3-2 lead 57 seconds into the second period. It appeared that might hold up as the game winner until Christensen’s goal.

NOT: The Kings have been brutal in the opening minutes the last two games. They allowed the Oilers to tie the score in the second minute Friday night, then gave up a goal on the first shot against the Wild, just 42 seconds into the game. After the Kings tied the score about three minutes later on Richardson’s first goal, the Wild needed just 17 seconds to take back the lead.

GOOD MOVE: The Kings came back to tie the score for a second time in the opening period, 2-2, on their second power-play goal in two games. Mike Richards sent a blast at Backstrom, who left a juicy rebound for Dustin Brown to shoot into the net with 4:29 left in the opening period. Anze Kopitar picked up one of his three assists on the play, and Brown also finished with a three-point night.

BAD MOVE: Under normal circumstances, coach Darryl Sutter’s decision to start Bernier would have made perfect sense. The Wild passed up the Kings as the lowest-scoring team in the NHL this month, Bernier shut out Minnesota, 4-0, on Feb. 28 at Xcel Energy Center, and the Kings had played the night before in Edmonton. But with just four games remaining in the regular season and the Kings in a mad scramble for one of the final three playoff spots, the safest move would’ve been to start Jonathan Quick, who had allowed just two goals in his last three starts, all on the current road trip. At least Quick should be fresh for Monday’s huge game against the visiting Oilers.

NOTABLE: The Wild have now won six times when trailing heading into the final period, tied for fourth-most in the NHL. The Kings have won just once this season when trailing after two periods, tied for last in the league.

UP NEXT: Monday vs. the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Kings: Jonathan Bernier steps in and shuts out Wild

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
12:34
AM PT
Kings 4, Minnesota Wild 0

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier made his first start in three weeks and used the time wisely, stopping 26 shots to earn his first shutout of the season and fifth of his career in the victory at XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

THE STAT: With 18 games remaining, the Kings remain in 10th-place in the Western Conference standings but now have the same number of points (70) as eighth-place Dallas and ninth-place Colorado.

TURNING POINT: The Kings scored 44 seconds into the game on their first shot on net. Rookie defenseman Slava Voynov took a shot from the point and it deflected off Justin Williams and through the legs of Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. They scored their second goal at the 9:39 mark of the opening period when Williams won the puck on the forecheck behind the Wild net. The puck came out to Anze Kopitar who spotted Dwight King in front of the crease and he one-timed it past Backstrom for a 2-0 lead on the Kings' fourth shot on goal.

HOT: Kings captain Dustin Brown continues to elevate his game ever since he was mentioned in trade talks last week. With two assists against the Wild, he has five goals and four assists in the last five games.

NOT: Kings second-year forward Kyle Clifford was a healthy scratch for the first time since early in his rookie year last season. Clifford managed one point in February, a goal Feb. 7 in a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay. Probably more discouraging is his minus-2 rating for the month, which dropped him to minus-7 for the season.

GOOD MOVE: Brown’s second assist came on a beautiful pass from the left side of the net, past a Minnesota defenseman and onto the tape of Kopitar, who scored from two feet away for a 3-0 lead.

BAD MOVE: Nursing a four-goal lead in the third period of a must-win game, the Kings got a little sloppy with their sticks, getting called for hooking and slashing penalties in the final eight minutes, which put the Wild on the power play and gave them a chance to get back into the game.

NOTABLE: The Kings took a season-low 15 shots on goal but are now 3-1 when taking 20 or less … Kings forward Jeff Carter, acquired in a trade with the Blue Jackets last week, went his third straight game without a point for the Kings … L.A. finished 5-7-2 in February.

NEXT UP: Saturday vs. the Ducks at Staples Center.

Kings: Latest loss isn't much of surprise

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
11:13
AM PT


LOS ANGELES—At least the Kings are living up to expectations lately.

They arrived at Staples Center on Thursday night with the worst offense in the NHL, lined up against an opponent with the best record and third-stingiest defense and then proceeded to dig themselves a hole right off the opening faceoff.

The Minnesota Wild scored 24 seconds into the game to give rookie goalie Matt Hackett some wiggle room in his first NHL start and they didn’t let up, cruising to a surgical 4-2 victory against the offensively zapped Kings.

Kings coach Terry Murray spent more time than usual speaking with the team after the game, trying to coax them into taking more responsibility for their individual efforts.

“Minnesota is the No. 1 team in the league right now. They’re a good team with good balance, but they work hard, they’re intense, and their attitude is right,” Murray said. “I like our team a lot. We’ve got good people, most every game we bring the right attitude with the right competitiveness, but it has to be there for 60 minutes. That’s the start of the game, the start of the second period … those things are the difference today.”

The Kings did avoid their third shutout in 15 games at Staples Center by scoring two third-period goals, but were still held to two goals or less for the seventh consecutive game.

“We are going to have to score some goals, it’s as simple as that,” said Kings forward Anze Kopitar, the leading goal scorer last season who hasn’t scored in seven games. “It doesn’t matter how, deflections or rebounds, we need to pick the corner.”

The Kings put up a season-high 44 shots on goal against Hackett, a 21-year-old who made his first NHL appearance in relief of an injured Josh Harding on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

After the Wild took a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second period, the Kings had a golden opportunity to cut into the lead a few minutes later when Kopitar was shouldered violently into the boards by Minnesota center Kyle Brodziak, resulting in a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct for Brodziak.

The Kings managed to get off 10 shots during the ensuing power play, but eight were off mark and one was blocked.

“We’ve got to find a way to capitalize,” said Kings forward Dustin Brown.

Brown, who had a career-high 12 hits against the Wild, was guilty of turning the puck over just prior to the Wild’s second goal, which came off the stick of Darroll Powe.

“I just couldn’t make a strong play and then it was in our net and it was 2-0,” Brown said. “It’s a tough team to play against when you are down 2-0.”

Especially when your offense is struggling to score as badly as the Kings.
Dave Joseph of 710 ESPN Radio discusses another Kings loss, this time 4-2 against the Minnesota Wild at Staples Center, the seventh consecutive game they have scored two goals or less.

Kings: Need to start scoring like Wild

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
12:44
PM PT
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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Ducks: Jonas Hiller doesn't hide his anger

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
10:02
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- Even a mask probably wouldn’t have hid the frustration overflowing inside Jonas Hiller.

The Anaheim goalkeeper was at the mercy of another spotty effort by his defense Sunday night, and he held little back after the Ducks lost for the 18th time in the last 21 games, 5-3, against the visiting Minnesota Wild at Honda Center.

“You can see why we’re not winning,” said Hiller, the only Western Conference goalie to make an All-Star team last season. “Guys always seem to get inside, walk through two guys and suddenly get a 2-on-1 out of nothing. … Even though we have guys back [on defense], it seems like we’re just too cute. I don’t know if we think we’re the best team out there.”

Hiller was speaking in generalities but was also disturbed with the ease in which the Wild scored the winning goal with 5 minutes remaining. Cal Clutterbuck brought the puck down the right wall with Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman on his hip. He found enough room to get off a centering pass toward Nick Johnson, who was crashing the crease with Luca Sbisa in pursuit. Johnson used his momentum to redirect the puck off a skate and past Hiller for a 4-3 lead.

"I should have stayed inside of him, kept him behind me and not let him go to the net like that," said the 21-year-old Sbisa. "It wasn’t the best play on my side, but I have to learn from that and it won’t happen again."

Especially frustrating, the Wild don't exactly perform well in high-scoring games. They came in 26th in the league in scoring and produced five goals in just one other game this season.

But this was against the Ducks, who have allowed at least four goals in seven of the last eight, all losses. The organization took the drastic step of firing coach Randy Carlyle after a rare victory last week and bringing in Bruce Boudreau, who's quickly learning that the Ducks won’t be an easy fix.

“We have to play 60 minutes,” he said. “We played about 12 good minutes in the first period, then we stopped playing. The second period we just stood around and watched and felt a little bit sorry for ourselves.”

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Kings: Scoring won't get easier vs. Wild

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
3:20
PM PT
Kings (7-6-3, 17 points) vs. Minnesota Wild (8-4-3, 19 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Knowing their limitations: Just when it appeared there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, the passage faded to black again Thursday night in a 3-2 loss against visiting Vancouver. The Kings were limited to two goals or less for the sixth time in the last seven games and 11th overall this season. Scoring doesn’t figure to get any easier against the Wild, who are second in the league in goals-against average, allowing 1.9 goals a game. On the offensive end, Minnesota is second-to-last in scoring. On paper, it appears the Kings and Wild are headed for another 2-1 game.

2. Early foul trouble: Taking a page out of the list of things that make NBA coaches cringe, the Kings have fallen into a troubling trend during their recent skid. In each of the last six games, a member of the Kings (or two) has gone to the penalty box in the opening minutes of the game, taking away any chance of building early momentum. The Kings killed off the early penalties in the first five games, but weren’t so fortunate against the Canucks after Trevor Lewis went to the box for a five-minute elbowing penalty. Drew Doughty joined Lewis 2 minutes later, giving the Canucks a lengthy 5-on-3. Vancouver scored twice with the extra manpower and never relinquished the lead.

3. Milestone game: Kings coach Terry Murray will be behind the bench Saturday night for his 1,000th regular season game. Murray is tied for 20th on the all-time list with Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who will also coach his 1,000th career game Saturday night. Murray has 493 career victories, which is 18th overall and sixth among active coaches. It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to predict Murray needs to get his 500th career win by the end of the year, or he probably won’t be in L.A. for his 1,050th career game.

(Read full post)

Kings: Simmonds doesn't mind this employment line

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
11:49
PM PT


LOS ANGELES — Wayne Simmonds may have found a permanent job location.

After spending most of the season on the third line, the 22-year-old right wing is making the most of his recent audition with top-line center Anze Kopitar.




Simmonds scored two goals Thursday night to help the Kings defeat the Minnesota Wild, 4-2, at Staples Center and move into sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference standings.

It was his first goal in 16 games and the second multi-goal game of his three-year career. Simmonds scored twice against Phoenix in October, but that game ended in a 4-2 loss. He had a lot more to celebrate this time around.

“I just haven’t been getting a lot of bounces,” Simmonds said. “I’ve been going to the net hard and tonight I was just getting bounces, trying to get my shots off quick, and I got two goals.”

Each time Simmonds hit the net, his shot came from directly in front of goalie Niklas Backstrom. On the first score, he received a pass from behind the Minnesota goal from defenseman Jack Johnson during a first-period power play and hammered the puck into the net for a 1-0 lead.

After the Wild tied the score in the second period, Simmonds worked to retain possession along the boards, dumped it off to Kopitar and then skated between the face-off circles. Kopitar passed the puck back to Simmonds and he blasted a shot into the top left corner.

“It’s one of those things where I’ve played with Simmonds before,” Kopitar said. “It takes a little bit of time to get the chemistry going ... now I think we’re getting to the point where we’re going to get over the hump, and now we’re creating chances.”

Kings coach Terry Murray said the second goal by Simmonds stood out in his mind.

“He was moving his feet,” Murray said. “That, in my opinion, is why he has been playing really well in the last dozen games. He’s doing the right things in the offensive zone when he’s getting the puck on his stick. He’s creating separation and now everything opens up to make some plays.”

Simmonds now has 11 goals on the season, well within reach of the career-high 16 he scored a year ago. More important, Simmonds helped the Kings stay in the middle of a tight playoff race.

“We’re going to have to scratch and claw for everything,” he said. “Whether you get one point or two points, every one is valuable.”
Dave Joseph of 710 ESPN radio reflects on the Kings' latest victory, a 4-2 triumph Thursday night against the visiting Minnesota Wild at Staples Center.

Kings: Simmonds, Doughty lead the way in 4-2 victory

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
10:19
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The roommates will be celebrating tonight.

Wayne Simmonds recorded the second two-goal game of his career and good friend Drew Doughty scored the winner 4 minutes into the third period to lift the Kings to a 4-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild in the first game at a sold-out Staples Center since Jan. 26.




With the victory, the Kings moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference, taking a two-point lead over five other teams, including the Wild.

The winning goal was a thing of beauty for the Kings, who usually rely on gritty play around the net to get their points. Ryan Smyth brought the puck up ice then dumped it off to Dustin Brown just as he crossed the Minnesota blue line. Doughty was trailing three Kings into the offensive zone and Brown hit him in stride for a smooth redirection past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.

The Kings then had to hold on the last two minutes, as Smyth was called for tripping in his own offensive zone with 1:59 remaining. The Wild called a timeout with 1:27 left and pulled Backstrom for a two-man advantage, but the Kings won the face-off and Anze Kopitar scored into the empty net from his own end for a two-goal advantage.

With the victory, the Kings improved to 10-1-3 in their last 14 games, and 6-5-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

Jonathan Bernier gave up two soft goals but stopped 24 other shots in his 17th start this season to improve to 7-8-2.

Kings: Simmonds comes through on power play for 1-0 lead

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
8:51
PM PT
After the first period:

Kings 1, Minnesota Wild 0




The good: The Kings scored on their first power play in the last five periods. Brent Burns went off for hooking with 8:27 left in the period and the Kings proceeded to hold possession in their offensive zone for the first 1:50. Dustin Brown jarred the puck loose from Marek Zidlicky along the end boards. Jack Johnson collected it and passed it out front to Wayne Simmonds, who beat goalie Niklas Backstrom from between the hash marks with his team’s sixth shot on goal on the power play. Simmonds’ joined the double-digit club with his 10th goal of the season. Minnesota was limited to six shots on goal, none for nearly a 10-minute stretch that included a power play, making for a pretty easy 20 minutes for back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier.

The bad: The Wild went on their second power play after Justin Williams was called for a phantom tripping penalty while cutting between two defenders with the puck. Not sure why he’d want to trip someone in that situation, as he was readying to score a goal.

The in between: Dallas and Chicago already won tonight, so six teams currently have 70 points, including the Kings and Wild, occupying fifth through 10th place. That smoke coming from your computer is probably the electronic NHL tiebreaker overheating.

Kings: Offense stays on hibernation in 1-0 shootout loss

February, 1, 2011
2/01/11
8:33
PM PT
Minnesota Wild 1, Kings 0 (SO)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Somebody needs to remind the Kings’ offense that the All-Star break is over after they failed to score in regulation, overtime and three attempts of the shootout Tuesday night in losing to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

THE STAT: The Kings were 5-0 in shootouts coming into the game, but Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown came up empty against Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. The same trio also failed to score in a shootout victory Wednesday against visiting San Jose.

TURNING POINT: Johnson made a nice move on his shootout attempt to get Backstrom to sprawl in the crease, but the Finnish goalkeeper lifted his right skate just high enough to deflect Johnson’s attempt. Pierre-Marc Bouchard then found the five-hole on Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, and Brown was unable to do the same against Backstrom, ending the game.

HOT: Bernier stopped 25 shots in earning his first shutout of the season and second of his career. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the offensive support he deserved.

NOT: Not only has Johnson missed his last two shootout attempts, but he failed to score on a penalty shot in the final minute of a one-goal loss Jan. 17 in Dallas. Jarret Stoll next time, please?

GOOD MOVE: After the Kings were completely ineffective on their first power play of the game, coach Terry Murray moved Johnson to the first unit in place of Stoll. The Kings were able to generate more scoring chances on the second power play, but still couldn’t beat Backstrom, dropping them to 1-for-11 on the man advantage over the last two games against the Wild.

BAD MOVE: Brown has one goal since Dec. 27 and is struggling so badly he missed a wide-open empty-net in a 4-3 victory against Phoenix Jan. 22. So who does Murray pick for the third round of the shootout? Backstrom seemed like he knew what was coming when he knocked away Brown’s attempt. Justin Williams, anybody?

NOTABLE: All three of the Kings games against Minnesota have been tied at the end of regulation, and the Wild are the only team to beat the Kings in overtime or a shootout this season.

UP NEXT: at Edmonton, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. PT.

Kings: Stretch runs begins in Minnesota

February, 1, 2011
2/01/11
11:34
AM PT
Kings (27-22-1, 55 points) vs. Minnesota Wild (25-19-5, 55) at Xcel Energy Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:




1. Back in the saddle – The All-Star break can be great for some teams but for others it’s like sleeping in until noon on a Saturday. It takes a while to be productive. Both teams resume play deadlocked with 55 points and just one point out of the top eight in the Western Conference. The Wild play nothing but Western Conference opponents this month, while the Kings have a mix of Eastern and Western foes over the next three weeks. Both teams will be looking to resume the season on a winning note.

2. It’s Bernier timeJonathan Bernier gets the start in goal for the Kings. He hasn’t played since a 2-1 loss to Dallas on Jan. 17, his one-game stint as the No. 1 goalie before Jonathan Quick snatched it back--with his own 2-1 loss. Kings coach Terry Murray explained to a reporter from the Kings’ web site that he was going with Bernier because Quick went home to Connecticut during the All-Star break, while Bernier stayed in Los Angeles. Hmmmm? So if Alexei Ponikarovsky would’ve went home to Russia, he probably would've been scratched for the next week?

3. Missing in action – Nobody’s more relieved to see the calendar turn to February than Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. The top line combo scored one goal each during January. Even rookie Kyle Clifford, who’s best skill is beating up the opponent’s wise guy, scored twice in January. The Kings simply can’t afford to have Kopitar and Brown take another month off in the scoring column.

(Read full post)

Kings: Here comes the Wild bunch

December, 11, 2010
12/11/10
7:25
AM PT
Minnesota Wild (12-11-4) vs. Kings (16-10-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:




1. A December to remember? – The month of December hasn’t been particularly kind to the Kings. Their franchise-best record during that span is 9-5-1 in 2005, which happens to be their worst best record for any month. Anybody recall the eight-game losing streak in December 2007? They’re skating against the grain this month, however, owning a 3-0 record heading into their game against the Wild. A victory would be just the right shove-off for their five-game road trip beginning Monday in Detroit.

2. A pleasant surprise – Anybody who has watched rookie defenseman Alec Martinez play this season must wonder why it took so long to for him to become a regular NHL player. He skates with speed, power and grace, has a slap shot that could splinter a redwood and plays with the confidence and intelligence of a 10-year veteran. Kings coach Terry Murray acknowledged Friday that Martinez has been one of the biggest surprises this season.

3. Scoring slump? What scoring slump? – With three game-winning goals in the last three games, Anze Kopitar is back on pace to match last season’s scoring totals. In 26 games this season, he has a team-high 11 goals and 25 points. Last season, he had a career-high 34 goals and 81 points in 82 regular-season games. What’s more impressive with his scoring totals, Kopitar has played with seven different left wings this season.

(Read full post)

Kings: Richardson misses practice, Moller recalled

December, 10, 2010
12/10/10
11:43
PM PT
No sign of Kings center Brad Richardson on Friday morning, a few hours after he was struck on the chin by the elbow of Calgary forward Brendan Morrison. Richardson looked dazed and wobbly as he skated off the Staples Center ice during the first period of the 2-1 victory Thursday night and did not return.

The Kings have officially labeled Richardson’s ailment an upper-body injury, and coach Terry Murray sounded doubtful that Richardson would be able to play Saturday night against the visiting Minnesota Wild.

"I don’t know about tomorrow after missing today," Murray said. "That might not be an option for me."

His availability became even more doubtful a couple hours later, when the Kings announced they recalled 21-year-old Oscar Moller from from their AHL affiliate in Manchester. Moller, a second-round draft choice in 2007, was the third-leading scorer for the Monarchs with 17 points. He’s no stranger to the NHL, having played 74 games for the Kings over the last two seasons.

Richardson has just four goals this season–getting three in one game at Colorado last month–but provides high energy and a veteran presence on the fourth line. Against the Flames, the Kings had welcomed back third-line left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who missed 12 games with a broken finger.

The Kings are close to getting back a key member of their defensive unit. Willie Mitchell suffered a fractured left wrist Nov. 6 against Nashville, the same game that Ponikarovsky was injured. He has practiced with the team the last two days.

Mitchell has yet not tested the wrist with a slap shot, but said he believes he’ll return to the lineup during the first half of a five-game road trip that begins Monday in Detroit.

"I’m looking forward to getting back going, that’s for sure," he said.

He said he doesn’t expect the injury to linger.

"Sure, you’re’ going t play with some pain for a couple weeks," he said. "It’ll go away after a while."

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