Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rich Hammond of the OC Register,
The Kings’ final road trip of the season includes games against Vancouver (on Monday) and Calgary (Thursday). The Kings are three points behind the Canucks for second place in the Pacific Division and one point behind the Canucks, and hold one game in hand over both teams.
It stands to reason that if the Kings win both games, and beat non-playoff teams Edmonton and San Jose, they could finish second in the division and have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Then again, if the Kings struggle on the road this week, they could miss the playoffs entirely.
''It’s in our hands, and that’s how we want it,’’ center Anze Kopitar. ''We don’t necessarily love the position we’re in right now, but everything is still in our hands, and that’s the way we want it.’’
The Kings currently stand on the shakiest of ground. They hold the second and final Western Conference wild-card spot via tiebreaker, because both the Kings and Jets have 92 points with four games remaining.
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have signed forward Tanner Pearson to a two-year contract extension, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today.
The 22-year-old Pearson (born on Aug. 10, 1992) is a 6-1, 205-pound native of Kitchener, Ontario, who has appeared in 67 career NHL regular season games, all with the Kings, totaling 23 points (15-8=23), a plus-16 rating and 22 penalty minutes.
A first round (30th overall) selection of the Kings at the 2012 NHL Draft, Pearson has tallied 16 points (12-4=16), a plus-14 rating and 14 penalty minutes this season. He has missed 34 games this season due to a lower-body injury that he sustained on Jan. 10 vs. WPG.
Pearson was part of the 2014 Stanley Cup run with Los Angeles. He has played in 25 career postseason games, registering 12 points (4-8=12), a plus-10 rating and 8 penalty minutes.
from Alex Kinkopf of LAKings.com,
Like we've come accustomed to in recent years, the Los Angeles Kings are taking their postseason push into the final stages of the NHL's regular season. Not all hope is lost, however, especially with a roster that has continually proved to come up big in high-pressure situations.
With six games left on the regular season slate, the Kings find themselves on the outside looking in at the Western Conference’s playoff picture. As of Wednesday, as the Kings prepare to start a two-game home stand at STAPLES Center, they’re slated as having a 61.1 % chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
HOME COOKIN’: The Kings return to STAPLES Center Thursday night, where they’ve posted a 22-9-7 record this season, for two match ups (EDM Thursday, COL Saturday) where extremely earnable points are up for the taking. Edmonton is already eliminated, and Colorado is on the cusp of being such. These are four points the Kings are in dire need of.
PACIFIC PUSH: It’s very much in the Kings’ favor that they will see both of the teams they’re chasing in the Pacific Division, Calgary and Vancouver, one more time each respectively. These will be huge opportunities for the Kings to gain ground in four-point game scenarios. What’s also helpful to the Kings, is the fact that they have one game in hand on each of these division foes.
from Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Province,
There’s no other way to put it.
It would be insane for this to happen, but it could.
As first pointed out by the guys over at Jewels From the Crown, there’s a scenario where we find ourselves on the last day of the season and the Jets and Flames find themselves locked in battle, tied…only to stop trying with minutes to play and letting the game get to OT, because both teams earning loser points would mean the Kings get eliminated.
That’s quite the scene. Just imagine, in a season where negative play has become a much-discussed talking point, this would put a whole new twist on the concept of tanking.
Things are getting dire for the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, though their remaining six games include two against the also-ran Edmonton Oilers and one against soon-to-be eliminated San Jose. Their best hope was to finish third in the Pacific and face the Canucks, who flinch at the Kings' physical game, but the Kings now trail third-place Calgary by three points and by three in the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. The Kings have overcome daunting odds before, but this might be their toughest task.
-Helene Elliott of the LA Times.
from Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider,
“They were very effective,” he said. “I’ve said it lots, right? You need everybody every shift to make the playoffs. Kopi’s line was a little off last night. Basically, all it is is Koivu’s line – three big players – dominated the game.”
And while the Kings are still fighting to get into the playoffs, and while Minnesota has risen past the wild-card fray into a divisional playoff berth for the time being (and perhaps longer), Sutter crossed one particular landing point off the postseason itinerary.
“Everybody’s trying to make the playoffs,” he said while rejecting an allusion that the team would face another “desperate” team in the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. “We still have the opportunity to get home ice, as ‘desperate’ as we are. We still have the opportunity to go home in two weeks, so it’s one of the two. You’re not going to get a wild-card spot. The wild-card’s out of the picture.”
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
We always refer to the trip Eastern Conference teams make through Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim as the "California gauntlet", but the swing through the New York metro area isn't exactly a cake walk for Western teams. Cory Schneider has been an absolute wall for the Devils, while the New York Islanders and New York Rangers are high-end playoff teams.
That's what makes the Los Angeles Kings' march through that portion of their schedule so impressive. They beat the Devils, Rangers and Islanders by a combined score of 10-5 over the last week. The winning goal over the Islanders on Thursday night was vintage Kings: the trio of Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams put in a dominant shift in the offensive zone that led to Kopitar scoring the game-winner.
If they keep this up, the reigning champs may not only make the playoffs, but could end up earning home ice in the first round.
read on for Strang on the Senators, LeBrun on the Panthers and more...
from Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider,
The Kings are surely trying to focus on their own game – and Darryl Sutter said as much this morning – but it’s impossible not to acknowledge that the five-game road trip that opens tonight in New Jersey pits Los Angeles against an array of dangerous teams and Stanley Cup contenders.
Players and coaches will often say that winning the first game of an extended road trip is important, which would make tonight’s game against the Devils, who have the fewest points of any opponent on the trip, a crucially important game on trip that could “make-or-break” the Kings’ playoff chances.
“Yeah, we’ve got to look at it that way,” Anze Kopitar said. “I think a lot, not all of it, is going to depend on this road trip. Obviously you’re playing east teams where you have to get points to pretty much keep pace. We’re going to have to bring it, for sure.”...
So never mind that they’ll also play tomorrow night against the President’s Trophy-chasing New York Rangers, or on Thursday against a New York Islanders team looking to lock down home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Forget about Saturday’s game against red hot Minnesota and Monday’s Western Conference Final rematch against Chicago.
Kopitar temporarily removed the late season blinders to speak about the importance of this upcoming stretch.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Mike Richards is back with the Los Angeles Kings, and you have to wonder just what kind of player we're going to see after Richards' late-January assignment to the AHL.
Richards had 14 points in 16 AHL games, with the organization on him to improve his conditioning. Kings GM Dean Lombardi always told me there was a chance Richards would be a late-season recall, and now here we are.
There are a few factors in it the decision, including the fact that veteran center Jarret Stoll remains out with an injury and the team doesn't know how long he will be out. Stoll still isn't skating yet. So that's left the Kings a little young down the middle, with Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff as part of the group of centers on the big club. But as a team source told me Sunday, this is also about the team needing some energy.
The Kings are two points out of a playoff spot and need a spark as they begin a critical five-game road trip Monday in New Jersey. It's do or die for Los Angeles.
read on for Burnside and McDonald on the Bruins, Strang on the Rangers and Powers on Detroit/St. Louis...
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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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