Los Angeles Hockey: Rostislav Klesla

Kings: Pair of Cinderellas begin same dance

May, 13, 2012
Western Conference finals

Game 1

Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, 5 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. The Unpredictables: If there’s anyone out there who predicted this conference final back in September, or even February, they might want to move to Las Vegas for a while. The Kings have overcome the preseason holdout of a key player, a mid-December coaching change and a three-month scoring slump to reach their second conference final in the franchise’s 45-year history. Phoenix's debut in its first conference championship was even harder to envision. The Coyotes traded away last season’s No. 1 goalie in the offseason, played in front of a half-full arena for much of the season and were still outside the top eight in the West with five games remaining in the regular season. That's why they play the playoff games, folks.

2. Key factor: The comparisons have been made and the opinions shared. Which team has the better goalie? Who is stronger on the power play? How many games will the series last? Those are just a few of the questions that figure to be asked and answered as the week rolls along. When it comes to determining a winner, Kings captain Dustin Brown said it will likely come down to just one factor: “This time of year, I think it’s more about who really wants it more.”

3. Masked men: Undoubtedly, the matchup between Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick and Coyotes netminder Mike Smith will get the most attention. Quick comes into the series with the No. 1 save percentage in these playoffs at .949, while Smith is a tick behind at .948. Quick has struggled against the Coyotes in his career, but was better this season, posting a 3-1-2 record. Smith is 8-2-1 in his career against L.A., including 3-1-1 this season. The team that scores two goals first could be in good shape for a win.

4. Hit man: Brown has been the best offensive player for the Kings during these playoffs, and has been the most productive against the Coyotes this season, with three goals and two assists. There's another aspect of Brown the Coyotes need to be very concerned about: his ability to lay a good hit on just about anyone, just about anywhere. Vancouver learned the hard way when he laid out Henrik Sedin in Game 3 of their first-round series. The Coyotes were given a reminder in February, when Brown drilled defenseman Rostislav Klesla in open ice, knocking him out for three weeks with an upper-body injury.

5. Missing D-man: The Coyotes will be without another key defenseman, Adrian Aucoin, who suffered an undisclosed injury in the series-clinching win against the Predators in the last round and has been ruled out of Game 1. He’ll be replaced by David Schlemko. Aucoin, 38, has played in 60 career playoff games but never a conference final. Aucoin has four goals and 12 assists in 47 career games against the Kings. Schlemko, meanwhile, has appeared in seven playoff games in his career, including three this postseason. He has two assists in seven career games against the Kings.

Kings: Third-round playoff primer

May, 8, 2012


Opponent: Phoenix Coyotes

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

Playoff schedule: TBA

Previous meetings this season:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playoff fact: The Kings and Coyotes, formerly the Winnipeg Jets, have never met in the postseason.
After the 1st period:

Kings 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

The good: The first period was better than good for the Kings, it was outstanding. They scored three goals, played solid defense and even handily won a fight. Anze Kopitar turned in one of the better offensive moves of the season on the first goal, generating speed through the neutral zone, weaving past two Columbus players at the red line and then sliding a nifty pass behind his back to Dustin Brown, who was skating down the right side. Brown didn’t waste any time letting the puck fly, sending it past goalkeeper Mathieu Garon 2 minutes 13 seconds into the game. It was the third shot on goal for the Kings, and the 17th goal of the season for Brown. Alec Martinez added a power-play goal midway through the period, and Jarret Stoll scored for the second straight game on a perfectly timed centering pass from Drew Doughty for a 3-0 lead. Columbus, by the way, has allowed 11 straight goals dating back to a 4-2 loss Tuesday against Phoenix.

The bad: This one’s aimed at Derek Dorsett of Columbus. Derek, do your homework, buddy. Haven’t you been watching Kings rookie Kyle Clifford pummel one middleweight after another this season? Dorsett jumped in after Clifford came after Rostislav Klesla after his hard check on Trevor Lewis. Clifford not only landed a few good rights, but then switched up and bloodied Dorsett’s face with a couple lefts. The Kings might have lost five straight games, but they’ve won their last two fights going away.

The in between: Can’t get too excited yet. The Kings gave up five straight goals after the first period Thursday against Nashville and lost, 5-2. They need to stay out of the penalty box (except for Clifford, Wayne Simmonds and Kevin Westgarth, they can fight as much as they'd like). Stoll was called for holding late in the period and the Blue Jackets will have a clean slate of ice and 49 seconds remaining on the power play when they return for the second period.

Kings: Smyth strikes again, ties score

November, 17, 2010
After the 2nd period: Kings 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

The good: Ryan Smyth continues to be a pain in the side for the Blue Jackets. He whirled out from behind the net and shoved the puck past the goal line just before the net was dislodged. The play was reviewed and the goal quickly verified, tying the score, 2-2, with 1:22 remaining in the period. It was Smyth’s 17th goal and 39th point in 35 career games against Columbus, and this one couldn’t have come at a better time. Justin Williams was credited with one of the assists on the play, extending his point streak to a career-best 11 games, and Drew Doughty got his second assist of the game. The Kings continue to be strong on the penalty kill, wiping out all four extra-man situations so far and running their home mark to 35-of-35 on the season. Of course, the Blue Jackets came in last in the league in power-play efficiency, so their ineptitude has helped.

The bad: The Kings gave up another goal from a prime scoring area. Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla scored his first of the season on a slap shot from between the hash marks, ringing the puck off the cross-bar and into the net at the 11:22 mark. The goal came just 12 seconds after Columbus had killed a power play. The first goal by the Blue Jackets came 15 seconds after the Kings had killed a power play. The second defense pair for the Kings, Matt Greene and Jack Johnson, are both minus-four over the last five periods.

The in between: The Kings still have a period to extend their home-winning streak to nine games and head out on a four-game road trip on a positive note. They’ve outshot the Blue Jackets, 24-16, taking a page out of the San Jose playbook and sending plenty of shots at Columbus goalie Steve Mason. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets are doing a good job of getting in the way of most pucks.