Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pre-Game Notes: Ducks vs Kings for the 100th Time

It's been more than a decade since both the Kings and Ducks were in the playoff hunt this late in the season.

Surprisingly, the two teams have never participated in post season play at the same time. Could this be the year?

When it comes to regular season match-ups, this will mark the 100th time the Kings and Ducks have squared off. LA holds the edge in the lifetime series 45-36-18, including 2-1 so far this season.

How many goals does your favorite Kings forward have against the Ducks?

Take a look - Anze Kopitar 12 goals in 29 games, Dustin Brown 12 goals in 40 games, Michal Handzus 9 goals in 41 games, Ryan Smyth 8 goals in 55 games, Justin Williams 6 goals in 14 games, Jarret Stoll 5 goals in 29 games and Wayne Simmonds 5 goals in 15 games.

TRIVIA QUESTION - How many total goals do the Kings six defensemen have against the Ducks lifetime? (answer below)

Other notes and links of interest...

Dustin Penner Looking to Bring the Penner Cup to LA

Tonight will be another first for Dustin Penner, as he suits up for the Kings against their cross-town rival - and his former club - the Anaheim Ducks.

Players always have a special bond to their first team. It's usually the team that drafted them or where they scored their first goal. And if they happen to have won a Stanley Cup there, as Penner did in 2007, the attachment is even stronger.

However, unless you're Steve Yzerman or Joe Sakic, at some point reality sets in - hockey is a business and that guy is traded or leaves town a different way. When it happens, it's jarring. A new city, new teammates, a new routine and so on.

Then, if it happens again (and it usually does), the transition is often much easier on all involved. Guys have a thicker skin at that point.

So, tonight's game vs. the Ducks won't stir up all the same feelings for Penner as it did when he first played the Ducks in 2007 as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Still though, it means just a little more than most regular season games.

MM: How different will this be for you, the 'first time' against Anaheim as a member of the Kings?

DP: I think it's a lot different. I remember what a big rivalry it was when I was with the Ducks several years ago. It should be interesting, especially with the position of the teams and how the season has been going for both clubs. It's been a hard fought series too and it always has been. Both teams are in a playoff position now and looking to increase their lead.

MM: They've had some turnover there, like every team in the league. You still have some friends there though, right?

Drew Doughty Comments on Mark Hardy

photo courtesy of Michael Zampelli
Earlier this week former Kings defenseman and assistant coach Mark Hardy was a guest on the MayorsManor podcast.

Among the myriad of topics discussed was the play of the Kings current defensive group, many of whom Hardy coached over the last few seasons. Specifically, he broke down some of the challenges Drew Doughty has faced the last two years and the changes he's had to make in his game. Hardy also had plenty of praise for #8, even calling him his "favorite player on the Kings."

After practice yesterday Doughty provided a few thoughts on his former coach in return...

Doughty - "Harpo's a good coach. You know, as a player he really taught me a lot. I think when I first came into the league I was kinda - not that I was laid back, but my intensity wasn't where it is now defensively. He really taught me to be hard in the corners and strong in front of the net. That's one thing he really helped me with and from day one he gave me that confidence, he started playing me over 20 minutes (a game) in my rookie year. That confidence really helps me today, making the Olympics last year - a lot of that was just all confidence. He instilled that in me. He's a great coach and we miss him here."

The Mayor

RELATED LINK:  Mark Hardy on Kings Defense and Power Play

Friday, March 18, 2011

More Notes on Yesterday's Prospect Report

The Hockey News 'Future Watch' list has created several questions for some people, so here are a few follow-up notes on yesterday's article...

* Why Oscar Moller wasn't ranked is a multi-part answer. First, the list is pretty much for 21-and-under prospects. Moller turned 22 in January. However, he wasn't ranked last year either. So, what's the deal? Well, each team provides a list of their top prospects (believed to be 10 players) and then THN cross references that list against a panel of NHL scouts. Essentially, the top 75 is the consensus list from the panel and the 'other' prospects come from the teams list. Thus, if Moller wasn't on the list, perhaps you can assume his name wasn't submitted.

* In addition to the top five players listed yesterday, the 'other' prospects this year were Jake Muzzin, Colten Teubert (since traded in the Dustin Penner deal), Thomas Hickey, Maxim Kitsyn and Martin Jones.

* According to THN, last year's top 10 list was:

Update on Kyle Clifford and Last Night's Fights

Brad Richardson will be in the line-up tomorrow night, playing left wing.

That's per coach Terry Murray after practice today.

You can extrapolate from that the fact that rookie Kyle Clifford will get the night off. Murray also talked about Clifford a little when talking about Kevin Westgarth's fight last night vs. the Blues.

MM: Earlier in the season you talked about Westgarth needing to pick the right spots when engaging in a fight. Last night, early on in the game, was that the right time?

TM:  "I thought it was great. I really do. I think that was absolutely what the team needed. We didn't respond the right way, it's what we needed though going in. Coming off a road trip like that you need a player to really take on some of that responsibility to fire your team up and say 'Hey, we're here to play. We're here to compete,' and he did the right thing. So did Clifford. He responds the right way to get us going. These are rookie players. Westgarth is a young guy, but a rookie. And Cliffy's 19 years old (MM: actually 20) and he recognized the need for something, again, to spark a fire here. He tried to do the right thing."

Regarding Clifford not coming back into the game, he went on to say...

Coach Murray: 'I screwed up' Preparing for St. Louis

OK, so fan-gate is behind us now.

Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray re-addressed his comments on the booing last night here.

Let's move on...

They say if you don't learn from your mistakes (and/or history), you're bound to repeat things in the future.

As such, after practice today Murray provided some thoughts on the Blues going 4-0 against the Kings this season and specifically the loss last night...

Murray - "They play a hard game. They play gritty and we're not matching the intensity. That's probably the bottom line. The other part of it too, in that game last night, is when you come back after four games and the way we dug in with the physical effort and the emotional effort that we had to put into it (the road trip), there's really not a lot left to draw on when you only have one day off. I think I screwed up. I think we should have practiced (note: Wednesday's scheduled practice was cancelled by Murray late Tuesday night). I think I should have brought the team to the rink for a 30-minute skill session only. Just to keep your mind in it, keep your body going, flush the legs out. I have to take a lot of responsibility for that. I think with a young hockey club, especially, it's very easy to take that sigh of relief again coming off the road and say 'Now it's going to be a little bit easier,' when it only gets harder."

Still more to come later.

The Mayor

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Kings Coach Murray Still Talking About Fans Booing

At practice today, Kings fans were still a hot topic.

As you're probably heard by now, coach Terry Murray was very peeved after the game last night - specifically about fans booing the team off the ice heading into the second intermission.

During his super short post-game press conference yesterday, part of his quote was "That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That’s the worst I’ve ever been through, in all the years I’ve been coaching. I’ve been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL, and booed off the ice by your own fans at the end of the second period, here after this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places, very disappointing."

Today, when asked about his comments last night, well - it was a little softer...

"I was very upset about how things went last night, with the way we played right from the very start of the game. The turnovers, being outbattled along the boards, dot to boards, giving up the great scoring chances we did. Our power play, right at the start, we have an opportunity to do something and we don’t. We turn the puck over, we go offside on it right at the start. There’s just a lot of things that were frustrating. And obviously the fact that we had six shots at the end of the second period was glaring at me the whole game. Then to give up that late goal, it was a reaction by a very frustrated coach. It’s just disappointing. That's the last thing you want to hear, really. Going into the dressing room you're trying to find a way to start a fire there, to get a good 20 minutes of hockey. If that's what you go into the room with, that's probably what you're remembering as much as anything else that's happened during the game. So, I was frustrated. Look, I've said this many times - we have great fans here, I know that. They mean a lot to this hockey club. They've brought a lot of energy, a lot of emotion to our games and helped us through a lot of difficult times. The atmosphere in our building from the middle of the year last season, all the way through the playoffs, has been incredible - because of the fans. So, I overreacted, probably. You don't want to drag that (the booing) into the reason why (the team performed poorly), but I did. There's nothing I can do about it now. It's never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget."

More notes from practice coming up later this afternoon.

The Mayor

Thursday, March 17, 2011

LA Kings Prospect Report - Close to The End

The college hockey season is over, junior hockey wraps up this weekend and the AHL isn't far behind.

That's right - the playoffs are almost here.

Most junior teams have a pair of games left this weekend and nearly all of the Kings top prospects in the CHL are poised for great playoff runs, as detailed below.

Also making the rounds recently is The Hockey News 'Future Watch' special edition, which crowns Brayden Schenn as the number one pro prospect.

Other Kings in the top 75 were Andrei Loktionov (#39), Derek Forbort (49), Tyler Toffoli (51) and Viatcheslav Voynov at (54).

Here's a quick run down on those five and a few other notes on the CHL and NCAA playoffs...

Schenn - has posted incredible numbers since being acquired by his hometown team, the Saskatoon Blades, at the trading deadline (20 goals and 29 assists for 49 points in 25 games). Regardless of the outcome in their final games this weekend, the Blades will end the regular season with the best record in the WHL. Thus, they're heavy favorites to win the league championship and move on to the CHL's Memorial Cup.

Blues' Janssen Still Studying Clifford and Westgarth?

Had it not been for several injuries, "I believe the St. Louis Blues could have challenged the Detroit Red Wings for the division title this season." Blues radio play-by-play guy, Chris Kerber, on NHL radio yesterday afternoon.

That's one man's opinion.

However, at this point, the St. Louis Blues don't have much to play for - except pride.

They last made the playoffs under former Kings coach Andy Murray two seasons ago. He was then let go a few months into the following season when it was thought the team was underachieving. Ninth place was where they finished then and they currently sit in 13th place.

So, in many respects they may be further away from postseason play than they were two years ago.  Add to that the fact that some of their best players were traded away over the last month and now their most veteran presence is Andy MacDonald - yes, the former Duck.

Even so, the Kings can't take this game lightly - especially considering the Blues have won all three games between the two teams this season.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Anze Kopitar Undisputed - full, extended video

Throughout this season Kings Vision has been producing behind-the-scenes bio pieces on several of the players - including Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown.

The newest segment is posted below, featuring Anze Kopitar.

A small portion of this will be shown during the next Kings telecast. Here, you get the full, extended version...

The Mayor  

RECAP: Kings GM Dean Lombardi on NHL Live

Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was a guest on NHL Live this morning.

Below is a recap of what was discussed (as always, these are near exact quotes, with selected paraphrasing for brevity)...

* [topic: Kings have been good on the road lately] True. However, I think a lot of that is when you're a young team it's easier to keep your players focused. I think there is a lot more structure in their day when they're on the road. I also don't think there are a lot of buildings anymore that are intimidating to play in.

* [What was the hot topic at the GM meetings today?] We spent a lot of time on the shootout, defining when the spin-o-rama crosses the line between being a good play and going backwards. I think the biggest issue is we just have to define it. We just want to know what the rule is and there is a bit of grey area right now. I dread the thought of that Flyers-Rangers game (last regular season game of last season), where a season is determined by that play. They'll get on it though. It came to the forefront and we realize the importance of getting some structure in there.

* [Concussions and the Drew Doughty situation earlier this season] That's the problem, 'Should your decisions be based on the identity of the player?' We all know the reality is if it's a top player, it comes to the forefront more. I thought the league did a tremendous job the first two days here of getting all the facts out there. I'm pretty proud of the fact that people are saying we're ahead of the NFL right now. We were the first ones to have a protocol. The amount of data that went into analyzing where these concussions come from, the science of it, what's causing them, etc. I thought the background information was fabulous. There are two things involved here. It's not only what you do, it's how you do things. I thought procedurally the league was excellent. This does not lend itself to an easy sound-bite answer. I love the fact that we took the time to look at the science and have data to back up our thinking. There's no doubt we're ahead of the NFL here and as a league we can be proud of that.

Video Highlights: Kings 4-2 win over Predators

Anze Kopitar has found his groove, 17 points in 11 games.

PennerMania continues, as Dustin Penner now has points in six straight games.

Jonathan Bernier continues to play well against Nashville, pushing his record to 5-1 lifetime with a 1.80 goals against average.

That's the story, here are the highlights...

The Mayor


Kings at Preds Pregame Notes - items on Bernier, Kopitar, Brown, Weber, Suter, etc.

Interview with Mark Hardy - new podcast with former Kings coach, talking what's next

Penner comments on PennerMania

order here --> MayorsManor Store

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PRIMER: LA Kings at Nashville Predators

Los Angeles has won all three games on the current road trip and is trying to close things out with another two points in Nashville - to mark their first four-game road sweep in franchise history.

Here are seven points to get you primed for the Kings at Predators game coming up in just over an hour...

* Jonathan Bernier will be in goal. Four of his career 20 games started against Western Conference opponents have been against Nashville. In those games he's 3-1-0 with a 1.75 goals against average.

* The suddenly hot Anze Kopitar (7 goals and 15 points in his last 10 games) will be looking to set a new Kings record for consecutive games played. Assuming he's in the line-up, it will be his 325th straight game, passing Marcel Dionne's 324-game mark set from January 1978 through January 1982. If he plans on aiming for the NHL record, he has a ways to go. That's held by Doug Jarvis at 964 consecutive games played.

* Dustin Penner is riding a modest five-game point (2 goals and 3 assists). In 18 career games vs. Nashville he has 10 points (4 goals and 6 assists).

Monday, March 14, 2011

MayorsManor Podcast - featuring Mark Hardy

When it comes to the Kings blueline, there's Rob Blake at 805 games played, followed by Mattias Norstrom at 780.

Next on that list is Mark Hardy with 616.

He also has the second most assists, third most points and fifth most penalty minutes by a defenseman in franchise history.

His career saw him go from being drafted by the Kings, shipped to New York after eight seasons in LA, then back to the Kings for their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 and eventually behind the bench in a coaching role that lasted more than 10 seasons.

Along the way he was twice named the Kings best defenseman (1984-85 and 1986-87) and his coaching led to the second best penalty killing percentage in team history (86.6 success rate in 2001-02, third in the NHL that season).

For the last year though he's been on the sidelines, having resigned his position after being arrested in Washington, D.C. and subsequently entering an alcohol treatment program.

He first appeared on MayorsManor over the weekend, talking about the Kings power play struggles this season and the play of Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty.

He returns today for an extended conversation about life since the arrest, who has reached out to him, his earliest memories as a King, playing for the Rangers, the toughest guys in the NHL, the development of Kyle Clifford, the day Rob Blake resigned the captaincy, how that situation was handled, we break down the 1993 playoffs by round, plus he shares one of the best pranks he was ever part of and much more.

Oh yeah, and we play word association using names like Barry Melrose, Bob Berry, Andy Murray, Terry Murray and Dave Taylor.

[Audio player after the jump]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kings Earn More 'Biggest Points of The Season'

Coaches and players love to tell you these are the biggest points of the season - even though two points in March count the same as two points in October.

Regardless, as Matt Greene said before the Kings current four-game road trip started, "We need points. There's no real formula for what we're doing right now. I think every team needs them. We just have to go out and get wins."

And that they're doing. Sunday's 3-2 win in Dallas was the team's third in a row on this trip and they're now 10-1-3 in their last 14 games away from Staples Center.

Five points to the game:

Quick Aiming to Become Kings First 30-30 Man

Jonathan Quick will be back in net today for the Los Angeles Kings.

With a win, he'll become the first Kings goaltender to post back-to-back 30 win seasons.

Although the Kings have found much success in Dallas the last few years, they've split the two previous games there this season - winning 5-2 in October and losing 2-1 in January.  Jonathan Bernier was in goal for the loss.

As for Quick, he's rolled to a 10-3-1 record in his last 14 games, with two of those losses coming on the Kings most recent homestand. Even including the blowout loss to Detroit two weeks ago though, he's posted a 2.21 goals against average and .922 save percentage during that stretch.

He holds an 8-3-0 record against the Stars lifetime, including 4-1-0 in Dallas (with a 1.72 GAA).

Can Quick make some history and pick up the crucial two points today?

It's almost game time...

The Mayor

Mark Hardy on Kings Defense and Power Play

In some ways, perhaps the thing Mark Hardy knows best is the Kings defense.

He was drafted by LA in 1979, patrolled the team's blue line for 616 games (third most in franchise history) and spent ten years coaching Kings players following his retirement.

For the last year though he's been on the sidelines, having resigned his position after being arrested in Washington, D.C. and subsequently entering an alcohol treatment program.

Last night he skated in a charity game along side fellow Kings' alum Luc Robitaille and Marty McSorley - his teammates during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.

Afterwards, I spoke with him about what he's been up to and what's next for him. The conversation wouldn't best be presented in written form. You'll want to hear it from him, rather than read it. So, he's agreed to come on the MayorsManor podcast later this week (available here).

However, I wanted to pass along his thoughts on this year's team, namely the defense and power play...

MM:  How tough has it been to watch the games this year?

MH:  You know what, I like to cheer on the guys that I've coached. I was in Chicago for two years. I still like to watch them and on cheer on the guys who I know. Obviously, working with the 'D' on the Kings last year, I miss doing that. I think when it's in you, you never know how much you're going to miss the game until you're out of it. Right now, it's been very, very tough. I knew I needed to heal and now I'm just looking forward to whatever is going to happen next in my life. I take a positive attitude, I make sure I'm sober and I believe that things are going to be good for me.