New York Hockey: Los Angeles Kings

W2W4: Devils at Kings

June, 6, 2012
At a glance: Down 3-0, the Devils will try to stave off elimination in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The Devils have never been swept in 42 best-of-seven series -- the longest active streak in NHL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Kings are one win away from their first championship in their 45-year franchise history.

Bucking history: The 1942 Maple Leafs are the only team in league history to ever win the Cup after trailing 3-0. Only three teams all-time have ever recovered from such a deficit: to win a playoff series: the Leafs, the 1975 Islanders and the 2010 Flyers.

Changes: Devils coach Peter DeBoer has elected to insert Petr Sykora and Henrik Tallinder into the lineup in favor of Jacob Josefson and Peter Harrold. Sykora has not played since Game 3 of the conference finals, while Tallinder has been out since mid-January with a blood clot in his left left lower leg.

Good to be Kings: Los Angeles is 15-2 this postseason, 10-0 on the road and has outscored its opponents 49-24. The Kings have averaged 2.88 goals per game, while allowing just 1.41.

Bad to be Devils: New Jersey has never led in the Stanley Cup finals and been outscored by the Kings, 8-2. The Devils have fired 74 shots on netminder Jonathan Quick -- he’s saved 72 of them. Quick is the favorite to capture the Conn Smythe if the Kings finish off the Devils in Game 4.

Powerless: The Devils are 0-for-12 on the power play in the series -- including 0-for-6 in Game 3.

From zero to heroes? Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk have been held off the scoresheet in the series. They combined for 10 points in New Jersey’s six-game series victory over the Rangers in the conference finals.

Five keys for Devils in Game 4

June, 6, 2012
Win a game or two, and all of a sudden, it’s a series.

But for now, the Devils are just playing for pride.

Only one team has ever won the Stanley Cup finals after trailing 3-0 in a series: the 1942 Maple Leafs.

And they weren’t facing the 15-2 Kings.

Game 4 is Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

How do the Devils finally get a win?

Here’s five things that need to happen for them to pull it off:

1. Focus on the now: The Devils can’t win the series in Game 4, but they can at least get on the board as they try to generate some semblance of momentum. And they need to bring that mantra with them into Wednesday night’s game.

2. Forget scoring first: Just score, period. The Devils were shut out in Game 3 and have just two goals in the first three games of the series. Obviously, getting an early lead would be nice -- they still haven’t had one yet in the series. But ultimately it comes down to just getting one by the seemingly impenetrable Jonathan Quick (.946 save percentage in the finals) and trying to go from there.

3. Step up: Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk have been held off the scoresheet the entire series. Parise and Kovalchuk obviously need to elevate their games. But it’s not just them, it’s every one on the roster. If the fourth line -- New Jersey’s best trio in the series -- combines for four goals on Wednesday night, no one’s going to complain.

4. Don’t get frustrated: OK, given that their power play has gone 0-for-12 this series, that won’t be easy. But instead of focusing on that, the Devils need to start making quicker passes. The Kings have pressured their point men aggressively and been successful on the penalty kill as a result. It also wouldn’t hurt to think about making some personnel changes. Devils coach Peter DeBoer played Kovalchuk on the half wall in one situation and two defensemen on the points. Heck, if nothing’s working, give the fourth liners a shot. They can’t be any worse than the alleged “skill” players.

5. Change is good: DeBoer had been pressing all the right buttons through the playoffs, but he can’t seem to get it right in the finals. While the Devils coach may not be making wholesale changes -- lines have been juggled -- Petr Sykora and Henrik Tallinder have been inserted back into the lineup in favor of Jacob Josefson and Peter Harrold. Perhaps the moves will pay off.

Five keys for Devils' win in Game 3

June, 4, 2012
The Devils still believe they can win the Stanley Cup.

And why shouldn’t they?

After all, the Bruins were in the same position as the Devils last season. But after losing a pair of one-goal games to go down 2-0 -- albeit on the road -- Boston took four of the next five from Vancouver to take the finals in seven.

Still, the Devils can’t afford to look that far ahead. Their goal on Monday night is to beat the Kings in Game 3, then go from there.

Here’s five things that need to happen for them to pull it off:

1. Score first: It may not have mattered in Philadelphia, but it has this series. The Devils have yet to put any doubt in Los Angeles’ minds. Getting the first goal -- especially on the road -- and finally playing from ahead is of the utmost importance.

2. Pelt Quick: The Devils were the better team in Game 2 after being outplayed by the Kings in Game 1. They got shots (33 in all) and traffic (which led to Ryan Carter’s redirection goal) in front of Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick. Re-establishing their forecheck is imperative so that they can generate offense from it.

3. Stars must star: Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise combined for 10 points in the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers. So far, they have none in the finals, though Kovalchuk did hit the crossbar with 18 seconds left in Game 2. That has to change. Devils coach Peter DeBoer tweaked his lines and has reunited Kovalchuk, Parise and Travis Zajac to try and get his team going. New Jersey only has two goals so far: one by Carter and one by Anton Volchenkov. That isn’t going to cut it.

4. Power up: The Devils are 0-for-6 on the power play during the series. Kovalchuk called New Jersey’s man-advantage “embarrassing” following Game 2.’s Scott Burnside has more on the Devils’ PP woes.

5. Vintage performer: Martin Brodeur has been extremely steady in net, allowing just four goals. Maybe you can blame Colin Fraser’s tally in Game 1 on him, but when Anze Kopitar moves in on a breakaway or Drew Doughty runs circles around your defense, there’s not really much you can do. If the Devils come back and win the Cup, Brodeur deserves the Conn Smythe trophy that eluded him in the 2003 finals.

Familiar territory: Down after Game 1

May, 31, 2012

NEWARK N.J. -- There is, at least, the comfort of knowing that they have been here before.

After dropping the first game of a series for the third consecutive time this postseason, the Devils will fight a familiar uphill battle against the Kings in the Stanley Cup final.

"The good news is we started in the same hole against Philly, we started in the same hole against the Rangers," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We responded to the situation in the right way the last two rounds, and I expect the same."

The Devils were nervous and sloppy -- both Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk called it the team's worst game of the playoffs -- which is to say, not nearly good enough to beat a Kings team that has dominated the Western Conference.

The Kings have surrendered only two losses in 15 games this post-season and have won Game 1 in all four rounds.

Veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur said he expects the Devils to respond with a better effort in Game 2 at home on Saturday.

"We're a resilient bunch of guys that work really hard and our work ethic gets us through the hump sometimes," he said. "I think we're gonna go work really hard the next game and see what that's going to bring us."

The eighth-seeded Kings are a staggering 9-0 on the road -- an unblemished record Brodeur hopes the Devils can change this weekend.

"This team hasn't lost on the road," Brodeur said. "They feel good about it and they're finding ways to win. We've just gotta get ourselves a win and that's gonna be a tough loss for them if we're able to get them, because they haven't lost on the road."

"How are they gonna react to that? " he asked. "We have to put that doubt in their mind as quick as possible."

Quick makes key saves as Kings prevail

May, 31, 2012
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesMartin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick will take the ice again on Saturday.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Some goaltenders might be fazed by having to match up with arguably the greatest netminder ever, Martin Brodeur.

Jonathan Quick isn’t one of them.

"I'm not looking to match him step for step," Quick said after making 17 saves in the Kings' 2-1 overtime victory over the Devils in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.

"I'm not looking to score on him. He's not looking to score on me. That's what our forwards and defensemen are for. I'm just trying to make saves and help my team win the game."

Quick, who improved to 13-2 in the playoffs with a 1.49 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage, wasn't tested often. But when he was -- save for a fluke goal by Anton Volchenkov late in the second period -- he was equal to the task. The 26-year-old has now posted 11 straight road playoff wins, the longest streak in NHL playoff history.

"The last series, I played in games where I'd see around 20 shots," Quick said. "I really didn't know what to expect coming into this game, seeing as how we hadn't played them in so long. But watching the Ranger games, they had anywhere from 40 shots to 20 shots against [Henrik] Lundqvist. I was just going shift by shift, and if the team needed me to, I just wanted to try and make the save."

In the first period, Quick made a brilliant save on Travis Zajac, and in the third he stopped Zach Parise and David Clarkson to help send the game into overtime and set up Anze Kopitar's heroics.

"Jonathan was great in net for us again," Kopitar said.

Kopitar's nifty breakaway goal wins Game 1

May, 31, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- Anze Kopitar waited in the middle of the ice, hoping for a chance to end Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

(It didn't take long for Kopitar to get that chance -- and when he did, he didn't miss it.

Kopitar took a Justin Williams pass, moved in on a breakaway and beat Martin Brodeur 8:13 into overtime, giving the Kings a 2-1 victory over the Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center. Los Angeles is now 9-0 on the road in the postseason.

Jim O'Connor/US PresswireAnze Kopitar slips the winner past Martin Brodeur.

"Anytime you get a chance to finish it off in OT against a world-class goaltender like Marty, it's a great feeling," said Kopitar, 24, who moved into a tie with captain Dustin Brown for the team's postseason lead in points with 16 (seven goals, nine assists).

The Devils had several chances to finish it off in the sudden-death session. Kopitar only needed one.

Drew Doughty chipped the puck up to Williams along the boards. Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador both went to battle him, leaving Kopitar all alone. Williams sent a perfect backhanded pass to Kopitar, and he did the rest, faking a backhand before going forehand for the game-winner.

"I don't know if he heard me or not, but I yelled for the puck," Kopitar said. He chipped it perfectly, right onto my tape. It all happened pretty quickly and I was able to finish it off."

"Anytime you see your own guy going in overtime on a breakaway, especially No. 11, you think he's gonna score, and he made a great play," Williams said.

Kopitar had a reason for going to his forehand against Brodeur.

"I guess it was back a few years when we were in a shootout in L.A. and I went backhand," Kopitar said. "Maybe that's why he thought I was gonna go backhand again. I guess I just wanted to mix it up."

Both teams lament ice conditions

May, 31, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils didn't spend much time complaining after a 2-1 overtime loss to the Kings -- coach Pete DeBoer said "we didn't deserve to win the game" -- but both teams seemed dissatisfied with the ice conditions for the Stanley Cup finals opener at Prudential Center.

"We both saw the same thing with the puck bouncing," Kings forward Dustin Penner said after the game. "It spent more time rolling than it did flat."

Andy Marlin/Getty ImagesMark Fayne sent ice flying when he missed a shot on an open net in the third.

"It was like playing with a tennis ball," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.

Devils defenseman Mark Fayne probably had the biggest reason to gripe; he was forced to grapple with his bungled chance on a wide-open net in the third, when he was unable to corral a bouncing puck and sent it wide.

"It just kind of hopped up at the last second," Fayne said. "I got a little bit of it, but not as much as I would've liked to."

Regardless of the ice conditions -- not entirely surprising given the day's high temperatures and humidity -- both teams were saddled with the same constraints.

"It's nothing that out of the ordinary at this time of year," Devils defenseman Andy Greene said. "It's bouncing, it's warm out, it's going to happen. Obviously, they're playing on the same ice, too. You just have to fight through it."

Rapid Reaction: Kings 2, Devils 1 (OT)

May, 30, 2012

Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: L.A.'s Anze Kopitar made a pretty move to beat Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur on a breakaway and score the winner, giving the Kings a 2-1 overtime win and a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night at Prudential Center.

While the Kings racked up another road win, the Devils open yet another series with a loss after a strange game that featured bad ice, weird bounces and a couple of demoralizing missed chances in the third period.

Easy review: Devils fans jeered, but the call to wave off a goal for New Jersey early in the third was the right one. After captain Zach Parise fanned on a chance with an open net, he tried sweeping the puck past Kings netminder Jonathan Quick on a second attempt 3:58 into play. The no-goal was reviewed and ultimately upheld.

Another open net: Mark Fayne will be haunted by a glimmering opportunity missed midway through the third that could've given his team a go-ahead goal. With the game tied, the Devils defenseman shot a bouncing puck wide of an open net.

All tied up: With 1:12 remaining in the second period, the Devils pulled even with Anton Volchenkov's first goal of the 2012 playoffs, originally credited to Devils veteran Patrik Elias. Volchenkov's shot appeared to deflect off Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for the equalizer. Before earning the primary assist on Volchenkov's marker, Elias entered Wednesday's match having been held off the scoresheet in seven of the previous eight contests.

Depth scoring: With both teams boasting impressive offensive depth, the Kings drew first blood with a goal from their fourth line. Kings winger Jordan Nolan forced the puck from Andy Greene behind the net and dished the puck to find Colin Fraser at the right circle for a 1-0 Kings lead at 9:56 of the first period.

Quick-silver: Quick faced only five shots in the first frame and robbed Travis Zajac from the slot at 13:07 on the period's only power play. New Jersey's David Clarkson also missed the net on two high-quality chances.

Slow second: Quick didn't have to do too much work in the second, either. The Devils didn't register a shot on goal until 14:30 minutes into the period, when Parise was credited with one as he drove to the net on a short-handed attempt. The Devils finished the game with 17 shots. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the franchise record for fewest shots in a home playoff game is 14 (Game 5, Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2007).

Up Next: Game 2, Devils vs. Kings, 8 p.m. Saturday.

DeBoer, Richards share special bond

May, 28, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer will always have a bond with Kings center Mike Richards.

DeBoer used to coach Richards in juniors, and the two won a Memorial Cup together in 2003 with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesMike Richards

DeBoer and Richards have exchanged texts throughout the postseason -- just not lately.

And certainly not during the Stanley Cup finals, which begin Wednesday at the Prudential Center.

"He grew up as a player and a young man in the organization I was running in Kitchener," DeBoer said of Richards. "Winning follows him around. We won a Memorial Cup together and a World Junior championship together. So obviously he's a special kid and I'm very happy to see what he's done. I'm not surprised.

"But I also know Mike Richards would run you over with his car to win the Stanley Cup. He'd visit you in the hospital after, but ..."

Richards also has the utmost respect for DeBoer -- even if he wants to beat him.

"He's such a smart hockey coach, not only X's and O's, but knows how to get the most out of his players," Richards told the Los Angeles Times. "In games, he's very smart at matchups and stuff like that. I'm not really surprised by (his success)."

Top 5 landing spots for Rick Nash

February, 14, 2012
ESPN Insider's Craig Custance probed a little further on the market for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash with a post on his blog Tuesday afternoon detailing the top five destinations for the star Insider. Earlier today, Katie Strang wrote how the Rangers are rumored to be among the teams interested in acquiring Nash, but they are clearly not alone.

According to Custance, the Rangers might be the second-most likely landing spot, behind the goal-starved Los Angeles Kings who are seeking the final piece for a Stanley Cup run.

Acquiring Nash would certainly come at a steep price, with names like Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Dylan McIlrath being thrown around. After building for so long from within -- and seeing the immense dividends on the ice this season -- would the Rangers really alter their course to snap up the biggest prize of the trade deadline? I suppose we'll find out soon enough. The trade deadline looms Feb. 27.

W2W4: Kings vs. Devils

October, 13, 2011
The Devils would love to build some early momentum with a win over one of the West’s best teams. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops at The Rock tonight.

A familiar face

Mike Richards is no stranger to the Garden State. Richards already has a goal and an assist in two games with his new team, but in his former life as a Flyer, Richards never really tormented the Devils in their own lair. In fact, the last time he scored a goal in New Jersey's barn was a little over two years ago, Oct. 3, 2010. He’ll have a little extra help tonight however as Dustin Penner will make his season debut alongside Richards and Dustin Brown.

That doesn't mean Richards won't make his presence felt though, and the biggest beneficiary may be Anze Kopitar. The fledgling star found the back of the net three times during the Kings’ trip across the pond. While its only two games, Kopitar has been enjoying more time in the offensive zone, taking 64 percent of his draws in the O-zone, about a 12% increase over last season.

Early-season sit-rep

As the Devils know from last season, “early” can become “late” mighty quick, so it has to be encouraging that both Zach Parise (back from injury) and Ilya Kovalchuk (back from a season of underperformance) are off to fast starts with multiple points in their first two games.

It would be more encouraging if the Devils could get some more rubber on the net as a team, topping out at 26 shots on goal through first two games, but if L.A. holds true to its form from a season ago that could be tough. The Kings allowed just 27.9 shots against per game, the third best mark in the league in 2010-11.

Late legs

While the Devs have largely been able to hang at home since the start of training camp, the Kings have been flying all over Europe in the early going. In theory that should give the Devils a little edge in the fatigue department late in the game. That will be good to have, but a lead after two periods would be better. It’s a different team in 2011-12, but last season’s Devs won 22 of 24 games in which they led entering the third period. Conversely, they rallied just four times in 39 opportunities when trailing after 40 minutes.

Rapid Reaction: Kings 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

October, 7, 2011
Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: That the Rangers were relying heavily on Henrik Lundqvist in Stockholm, and for a long time the formula worked. The Kings were the more aggressive team through most of the 60 minutes and OT, but the Rangers kept it close because of their goalie's 27-save performance.

Stockholm Syndrome: Fans were ready for top-notch hockey in Sweden, and they wanted it from their favorite son. "King Henrik" provided the performance that the hometown fans desired and the atmosphere was electric throughout at the Globe Arena because of it.

Captain Crunch: Ryan Callahan was up for the challenge the Kings brought to the ice. Callahan was physical from the opening whistle right up until the final buzzer. His circus-shot-goal with 4:38 to play in the first frame brought the Rangers back even on the scoreboard, and served notice that he was the leader this evening. His 11 shots on goal lead all skaters, and he was a thorn in Jonathan Quick's side all night.

Prust in the Nick of Time: When the game fell into a bit of a stagnant phase, Brandon Prust took it upon himself to re-energize his Broadway colleagues. In a spirited scrap with the Kings' Kyle Clifford, Prust landed a big right to earn the decision and swing some momentum back New York's way.

New Kid in Town: Brad Richards wasn't a huge factor for his new club, but certainly didn't look at of place. He had lots of jump and was unlucky with some of his shots getting blocked by King defenders. He also had the second assist on the second goal. All in all a good debut from No. 19.

Friendly Fire: With the puck scrambling in his feet, Brandon Dubinsky was able to find the rubber just in time to shovel a short pass to Marian Gaborik. who made no mistake swatting home his first of the season past a bewildered Quick. It was the first time throughout the entire game that the Kings seemed to be slower than the Rangers, who took a 2-1 lead. The line of Dubinsky, Richards and Gaborik managed to take advantage at the perfect time.

Extra, Extra: With new King Mike Richards scoring the 2-2 goal for Los Angeles at 15:01 of the third, the whole Globe Arena knew what was coming. Lundqvist had carried the Rangers to overtime, while Kings sniper Anze Kopitar, with a goal and a helper, had been the most dangerous player in black through regulation.

Jack of All Trades: Though the Rangers looked good early in the extra frame, they got caught in their own end with time running down. Kopitar and Richards both had eyes for the net, but it was Jack Johnson sneaking in from the point who ended this one at 4:08 of OT.

What's next: An early practice at 10:30 a.m. at the Globe Arena, as coach John Tortorella will surely be looking for answers from his squad. It gets no easier going forward for the Rangers, as NHL MVP Corey Perry brings his Anaheim Ducks to Stockholm to finish out the NHL Premiere in Europe.

W2W4: Kings vs. Rangers

February, 17, 2011
The Los Angeles Kings come to the Garden Thursday night to battle the Rangers in a contest that pits two teams battling to reach the playoffs. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.

Any Goal Is A Good Goal

Both the Rangers and Kings are excellent in their own end, ranking sixth and third respectively in goals against average. That ought to increase the value of any goal either sign can put on the board tonight. In addition to the stacked blue lines, which will feature Marc Staal and Drew Doughty, expect a solid battle in the nets between Henrik Lundqvist and talented youngster Jonathan Bernier.

Grind ‘Em Down

The gritty quality of the Rangers’ game could pay particular dividends against the Kings Thursday. L.A. is in the midst of a 10-game road trip that began Feb. 1. Adding to their potential weariness, the Columbus Blue Jackets took the Kings to a shootout Wednesday night. The Rangers should be well rested, having been off since Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh and should have the energy advantage. The Blueshirts shouldn’t expect the Kings, desperate for points in the playoff race, to simply roll over though. L.A. hasn’t lost in regulation since Jan. 20.

Special Teams Still Special?

Both the Rangers power play and penalty kill carried them in their 5-3 win over the Penguins. Now, can they keep that momentum going? The consistency on the PK has never really been in question this season, but the PP has been a work in progress. The three man-advantage goals Sunday marked the season high for the unit. It will be interesting to see if the Blueshirts can keep it up or if bad habits -- over-handling the puck, not screening the goalie -- resurface.

Devils, Kovalchuk deal imminent?

August, 23, 2010
On-again-off-again Devil Ilya Kovalchuk remains a free agent, but for how much longer?

Sources confirmed to ESPN’s E.J. Hradek that Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, GM Lou Lamoriello and Kovalchuk agent Jay Grossman convened at the NHL offices in New York today.

Does that mean a contract is imminent? Not necessarily. Last week in Toronto, Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked by the media if the league would advise teams on what an acceptable structure for Kovalchuk’s contract might be. He said that the NHL would provide such a service, but would not confirm if any team had approached the league. Perhaps that’s what the Devils were doing today. Or perhaps Kovalbucks is about to cash in a new deal in a matter of minutes and hours.

Since the Devils’ original deal was voided there’s been the lingering sentiment that Kovalchuk and New Jersey will reach another accord. But the salary cap is proving a serious complication.

The Devils only have a little under $3.7 million remaining in available cap space (according to And even if they dumped a contract -- say, Dainius Zubrus and his $3.4M hit -- they’d still only free up a total of around $7M.

If they restructured the deal so Kovalchuk was playing until 40 instead of 44 -- probably the longest term the Devils could get away with -- the average cap hit spikes from $6M to $7.8M per year. Now, even if they moved Zubrus and reduced the term to a more reasonable length, the most they could offer Kovalchuk is $91M total -- which gets the deal in at $7M per. But that would mean the Russian wing would leave $11M on the table from his voided deal. The Los Angeles Kings, thought to be another serious suitor, could offer a deal to top that quite easily, if they’re so inclined. So could the spendthrift Islanders for that matter … well, if their name wasn’t always prefaced by “spendthrift.”

But even if Kovalchuk takes less money and the Devils do a deal at $7M per, the team puts itself in a bind next year when Zach Parise’s deal comes up. Based on my English major math skills, add a Parise cap hit on par with Patrick Kane’s $6.3M on top of Kovalchuk’s $7M to the team’s existing contracts and you’re looking at about $7M (give or take a few $100K) to fill half a roster in 2011-12. It’s not impossible, but it’s quite a squeeze for future years.

So could the Devils dump a contract bigger than that of Zubrus?

As tweeted by Dmitry Chesnokov, in order to afford Kovalchuk, a former Devils trainer told a Russian paper he believes the team will deal Patrik Elias. File that one under: “Bold Moves.”