Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
The Los Angeles Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the past three seasons, without ever finishing better than fifth in the Western Conference in the regular season. Today, the defending Cup champs are in a dog fight just to make the Top 8 and qualify for the post-season, typically beginning to find their game as the playoffs near.
“For sure it’s stressful,” said soon-to-be UFA centre Jarret Stoll. “People keep saying it, and we don’t want to hear it, to be honest, anymore. It’s an easy way out, ‘These guys will flip the switch.’ We’ve done it a couple of times, but we can’t rely on that.”
They can’t. But they do. Truly, these guys are the ultimate “flip-switchers” in recent history.
This just isn’t the same team in the regular season that it is come playoff time, when they relentlessly grind out physical, low-scoring wins — to the tune of 11 playoff series’ over the past three seasons. That is more spring hockey than any other NHL club, and perhaps the answer to why the Kings seem to be wavering this season.
continued plus two more topics...
from Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider,
Tough decisions on free agents-to-be lie ahead, as you are well aware. Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Martin Jones, Andy Andreoff and Nick Shore are bound for restricted free agency, while Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera and Jamie McBain are due to become unrestricted free agents if they don’t receive new contracts. Based on financial information that was available when CapGeek.com was operational, Los Angeles has roughly $62.75 million allotted to 16 players for the 2015-16 season, a figure that includes both Mike Richards’ and Slava Voynov’s contracts; next year’s salary cap isn’t expected to rise much farther than $69M, if at all. So, as has been explained many times previously, difficult decisions lie ahead.
As for the restricted free agents, I’ve been told by hockey operations that the Pearson and Jones contracts are likely to be the next two to fall, and that Toffoli’s next contract is expected to take a bit longer to be finalized. There doesn’t appear to be a concern in regards to negotiations with Toffoli; as noted, from my understanding it’s just going to take a little bit longer. The team’s focus has been handling its own players before looking elsewhere, hence the recent extensions signed by Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford.
more on the Kings...
from Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register,
Life is tough in the NHL. The Kings’ recent eight-game win streak did little more than get their heads above turbulent water in the Western Conference playoff race. Now the Kings have to start swimming.
With 21 games remaining in the regular season, the Kings are fighting simply to make the postseason. They did it to themselves, largely because of an awful January. The good feelings built up during the winning streak have now dissipated after consecutive losses to Ottawa and the Ducks.
The Kings, who play Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg, suddenly find themselves back in regroup mode.
“We’ve just got to keep winning,” defenseman Matt Greene said. “I think we’ve got ourselves in a position where we’re back in the hunt. Now we can’t let our foot off the gas. These last two games haven’t been to the level that they were at and we’ve got to get back to that level in a hurry here with two more on the road.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown laughed sardonically after Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Ducks when a media member asked him about consistency issues. An eight-game win streak is fairly consistent, indeed.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
It sounds like Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi made several interesting comments on Wednesday's conference call following his acquisition of premier defensive trade target Andrej Sekera, but one stood out in particular. According to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, Lombardi indicated that the team's strong play recently prompted the move, saying "what they've accomplished and what they've fought through, it's almost like you owe it to them." I like this. It's Lombardi's way of acknowledging that, however sluggish their start and inconsistent their season has been, the team is all-in now, and he is, too.
Making the trade to upgrade the Kings' defense with Sekera is a strong statement that he believes in this team and what they are capable of, despite what their current record or spot in the standings suggest. Lombardi has won two Stanley Cup Championships since 2012 and he prides himself on an organization that he has tried to make feel like family. This sort of brazen confidence and steadfast faith he has shown in his club has paid off in the past. Can't blame him for going all-in again.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
As I had written hours earlier in Rumblings, Lombardi and his management staff had agonized for weeks about the Slava Voynov situation as it pertains to their salary cap and potential trade deadline plans, but ultimately decided the risk involved in adding a player was smaller than the risk of not helping the team. If Voynov should be acquitted of domestic violence charges in his trial next month and somehow return as an active player, the Kings will just have to deal with a complicated salary cap situation when it arises.
For now, it's full-steam ahead and the Kings just acquired the top rental blue-liner on the trade market. They paid a hefty price -- a first-round pick in a deep draft this year (if Kings make playoffs it's a 2015 pick, if not it's 2016) -- but the Kings' window to win won't be open forever.
Interestingly, I spoke with a Hurricanes source who figured the team hopes the Kings make the playoffs so the pick is theirs this June, not only because it's a deeper draft, but also because the Kings aren't that high in the standings right now and should be better next season, which would drive a potential 2016 pick further down in the first round.
more topics include Patrick Kane/Blackhawks...
added 6:47pm, LA Kings release is below...
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have signed forward Kyle Clifford to a five-year contract extension, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today.
The 24-year-old Clifford (born on Jan. 13, 1991) is a 6-2, 208-pound native of Ayr, Ontario, has appeared in 333 career NHL regular season games, all with the Kings, totaling 58 points (25-33=58) and 462 penalty minutes.
This season, Clifford has tallied 10 points (3-7=10) a plus-1 rating and a team-leading 66 penalty minutes. Clifford appeared in his 300th NHL game, Dec. 2 vs. BOS.
A second round (35th overall) selection of the Kings at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Clifford has been a part of both Stanley Cup runs with Los Angeles in 2012 and 2014. He has played in 47 career postseason games, registering 14 points (4-10=14) and 56 penalty minutes, including assisting on the Stanley Cup clinching goal scored by Alec Martinez in Game 5 against the New York Rangers.
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have signed forward Jordan Nolan to a three-year contract extension, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today.
The 25-year-old Nolan (born on June 23, 1989) is a 6-3, 226-pound native of Garden River, First Nation, Ontario, who has appeared in 170 career NHL regular season games, all with the Kings, totaling 24 points (14-10=24) and 155 penalty minutes.
from Lisa Dillman of the LA Times,
For the Kings, it is back to scoreboard watching and heavy lifting. They've won a season-high seven consecutive games to regain a measure of control over their fate with 24 games remaining in the regular season. Their winning streak is their most-successful run since they won eight games in a row last season, from Feb. 6 to March 10.
“We have 14 road games and 12 division games, so I wouldn't put too much emphasis on where we are right now,” Coach Darryl Sutter said. “In fact, I'm going to put money on it that we have more points this year at this time than we did last year after this.”
Sutter knows his numbers.
After 58 games last season, the Kings had 66 points. They have 68 through 58 games this season and are three points behind second-place Vancouver in the Pacific Division.
from Rory Boylen of Sportsnet,
The NHL’s Stadium Series swung through California for the second time, with the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks facing off in what was the most important outdoor game yet. This one had very real playoff implications, with both teams hanging on the playoff bubble.
And just like the first outdoor California game, the second one was a huge success. The 70,205 in attendance made up the third-largest crowd for an NHL outdoor game. Here are some of the best photos from the 2-1 Los Angeles victory.
continue for some great pictures from the outdoor game
Here are the game highlights...
from David Pollak of the Mercury News,
An NHL idea that may have seemed like a gimmick when it was launched in 2003 has turned into a special event. Nearly three-fourths of a million people have turned out for 14 similar games in the United States and Canada.
"I can't say we would have predicted it," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, "but we were confident it would be well-received by our fans."
Daly thinks of it as an opportunity for fans to celebrate hockey on a grander scale, "in an environment that is really, in some respects, endemic to the sport."
Yet it goes beyond a chance to see the game in an updated, high-tech version of where it all began.
There's something about outdoor hockey that gets to the romanticized character of the relationship between the game and the frigid climate of Canada where it became popular before spreading south into the U.S.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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