Saturday, March 26, 2011

To Be Continued...

Anze Kopitar suffers season ending ankle injury vs. Avs (photos by Michael Zampelli)

Coming up on Monday afternoon (after practice)...comments from Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Trevor Lewis on where the Kings go from here.

The Mayor vs. Kopitar

RECAP: Dean Lombardi's Meeting with Shareholders

Dustin Penner on PennerMania

Shane Doan Would Pick Kopitar

Dustin Penner talks about facing the Oilers for the first time

One-on-One Interview with Hockey's #1 Prospect - Brayden Schenn

Interview with Kings college prospect, dman Derek Forbort

 Standing 6'5" and a freshman at the University of North Dakota, Derek Forbort is still years away from seeing time on the blue line in Los Angeles.

Still, when he goes from being the Kings number one draft pick in June 2010 to the team's highest rated defensive prospect eight months later (according to The Hockey News), people take notice.

He was a member of the Team USA squad that won a bronze medal at the recent World Junior Championships and later this afternoon his Fighting Sioux team will enter the NCAA tournament as the number one seed in their regional.

As part of our 'prospect playoff preview' series this week, Forbort made another visit to MayorsManor...

MM: The recent Hockey News 'Future Watch' edition listed you at #49 among all NHL prospects, covering all the teams in the league. That also placed you as the highest rated defenseman among the 10 Kings prospects. Did you see it and does that mean anything to you?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Interview w/ Kings Prospect Nic Deslauriers (QMJHL dman)

Timing is everything in life. How many times have you heard that saying?

For Kings prospect Nic Deslauriers it rang true earlier this season.

A year after being taken by the Kings in the third round of the NHL draft he found himself traded by his junior team over the summer. He was off to join the Gatineau Olympiques and a few months later he attended Team Canada's evaluation camp for the 2011 World Junior Championships.

Things were falling into place for a breakout campaign from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) defenseman. Then, a knee injury occurred early in the season, putting him on the shelf for over a month and gone was any hope of playing at the WJC.

He pressed on, came back from the injury, posted solid numbers and tonight he made his return to the playoffs.

Prior to game one of Gatineau's series with Rimouski he made his third visit to MayorsManor...

MM: You guys finished the regular season with nine straight wins. How much confidence does that give you and the team heading into the playoffs this weekend?

Interview with Kings Prospect JF Berube (QMJHL Goalie)

The future has never...NEVER, EVER!...looked brighter in net for the Los Angeles Kings.

Already blessed with two solid aces at the NHL level (Jonathan's Quick and Bernier), plus two gems in the making at Manchester (Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff), it's easy for some to forget about JF Berube.

After all, he plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the often less publicized of the three Canadian junior leagues.

However, Berube - taken by the Kings in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft - isn't somebody to be ignored. He was under consideration for the goalie slot on Canada's recent World Junior team (in fact, he provided a report here from their summer camp last year) and he just finished the regular season in the 'Q' as one of the top goaltenders, statistically speaking.

Last night, his Montreal Junior team won their opening round playoff game against the visiting Halifax Mooseheads 5-3. Of course, Berube was is net.

Prior to the game though, I spoke with him as part of our 'prospect playoff preview' series this week on MayorsManor...

MM: Last summer you said you wanted to approach this season with the goal of being one of the top goalies in the league and you wanted to have a "big season." Did you feel you accomplished that?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dustin Penner on 'Smart and Edgy' Oscar Moller

As if there hasn't been enough change in his life recently, Dustin Penner gets a new linemate for tonight's game with the San Jose Sharks.

It's well known by now that former Kings draft pick Oscar Moller was recalled this week and will start on the top line - much to the chagrin of Kevin Westgarth - along side Penner and Anze Kopitar.

In what could be a good sign for the Kings struggling offense, Penner has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) against the Sharks - the most versus any opposing team in his career.

Here's what he had to say about things...

"That's good news. Hopefully I can get a goal (tonight). It's been a few games. We have Oscar on our line now, so I'm looking forward to playing with another Swede. Hopefully we can get some chemistry early on and maybe have a breakout game where we get, maybe, six or seven points for the line."

So far you've been playing on a pretty big line here in LA, with Kopitar and Williams. Have you played much with smaller guys in your career, guys known more for their speed than their size?

"I haven't played with him enough to give him a fair analysis. But, I played with a few who are similar in Edmonton - small, skilled. For one, his quickness reminds me of Robert Nilsson a bit. I played with him and (Oscar) knows him. The Swedes all have that skill set - where they're really good on their edges, they're smart, their head is always up and they have a pretty good shot. He's not unlike that. He also has the quickness and the vision. So, we'll see how it translates onto the ice surface (tonight). Hopefully, it's all good."

The Mayor

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Stoll, Shootouts and San Jose

A few weeks back, Kings forward Jarret Stoll was very humble when I asked him about being all but guaranteed money in the shootout - saying "I don't know about that," and later adding "But, yeah, they're going in for me. I'm just trying not to change too much. Maybe it looks like I only have one option down there, but I have a couple options in my head."

After reaching into his bag of tricks on Monday night against Calgary and showing something different - and scoring again - I went looking for a follow-up...

"I'm just trying to pick a spot and hit my spots, I guess. It's good to shoot in a couple different places. I can't go to the same spot all the time. So, I'm kinda switching it up a bit. Just picking my spots I guess and getting some breaks."

Still humble for a guy who's converted seven of eight chances in the shootout this season (second most in the league).

Looking ahead, how about the game with the Sharks tonight, another big game...

"Yeah, they're all big - in our division especially. We have a lot of games left within our division. They're so big, but they all have been recently. So, there's nothing new, nothing new to prepare for. It's just a different team, different personnel. So, it's all about us. We know that. I'm sure they're saying the same thing. It's just a matter of who makes fewer mistakes and who can execute the best."

In a somewhat related note, earlier this season Sharks captain Joe Thornton stopped by MayorsManor to share some thoughts on playing the Kings and talk about replacing Rob Blake as the leader in San Jose (article here).

The Mayor

Is Matt Greene Coming to Twitter Soon?

After 'When is Brayden Schenn going to play for the Kings again?' and "Who's starting in goal tomorrow night?' - perhaps the question I get asked most often is 'When is Matt Greene going to join twitter?'

So, I took the question to the man himself...

MM: Dustin Brown is on twitter, Dustin Penner says he's thinking about, Oscar Moller was just called up and he's on twitter - when are we going see you tweeting?

MG: I doubt that will ever happen. I don't even know how you would go about doing that or why I would go about doing that.

MM: People want to hear what you have to say, you're a pretty funny guy...

MG: I get told to shut up at numerous points during the day. I don't think there should be any kind of a platform where I need to talk any more than I actually do.

MM: Well, here's something that would have made for a great tweet for you - over in the NCAA playoffs it looks like the brackets have been set up for a possible North Dakota - Boston College final. Are you working on any bets with Rob Scuderi yet?

MG: They have to win a couple games before that happens. But, I'm sure we'll figure something out if it does get down to that.

[note: last season Davis Drewiske lost a bet with Scuderi on the NCAA Championship Game, something he talked about here]

I'll be checking back in with Greene on that one for sure. 

UND opens the college hockey playoffs this weekend and Kings prospect Derek Forbort (a freshman for the Fighting Sioux) will be on MayorsManor to preview things before their game on Saturday.

The Mayor

Interview with Hockey's #1 Prospect - Brayden Schenn

Schenn (photo by Steve Hiscock)
If there was a Justin Bieber of hockey, it most certainly would be Brayden Schenn.

Rarely does a pro prospect garner as much interest as Schenn has over the last year.

Like Bieber, he's everywhere. Schenn's world tour this season has seen him make stops in Los Angeles, Manchester, Buffalo, Brandon and now Saskatoon.

All the girls have crushes on him, all the guys want to be like him. He's uber cool and an unstoppable force...and he's yet to score his first NHL goal.

Plus, if you hit up the local newsstand (do people still do that?), you'll see his face plastered on a magazine cover too! Schenn was just announced as the overall number one NHL prospect by The Hockey News.

Earlier this week I spoke with WHL scoring champion Linden Vey and OHL scoring champion Tyler Toffoli. Today, our 'prospect playoff preview' continues - it's a conversation with Brayden Schenn...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kyle Clifford Gives a Health Update, Responds to Westgarth

Two big news items coming out of practice today. One, Kevin Westgarth is not playing on the top line after all.  Of course he's not!

Second, rookie Kyle Clifford was cleared and will be in the line-up tomorrow night versus San Jose.

Clifford spoke a little about each issue...

MM: First off, everybody wants to know - how are you feeling heading into the game tomorrow night?

KC: I feel good, no problems. There never was any problems to begin with really. So, I'm good to go.

MM: When you sat out for the two games, did you get a chance to see anything different about the way the team is playing? It's a different perspective in the stands versus being on the bench.

KC: You always get a different perspective from the press box. The game looks a little easier out there when you're watching it, but really when you get out there it's a lot different.

MM: Westgarth is disappointed he's not going to be up on the top line after all. He was looking to bag a goal and win that bet with you.  [note: the bet was explained earlier today in the Westgarth article - available here]

KC: Well I'm sure it will continue next year if we don't get it this year, right?

MM: That's what he said too. He says it continues until there's a winner.

And the battle continues...

The Mayor


Kyle Clifford Explains His Nickname

Kings Holiday Gifts - including 'The Colonel' bobblehead

Clifford on the Impending Decision

The Dream is Dead for Kevin Westgarth

You know the saying - when one door closes, another one opens.

Well, with Justin Williams unavailable (due to a shoulder injury sustained Monday night), Kings coach Terry Murray had a hole to fill on the top line with Dustin Penner and Anze Kopitar.

Sure, he could have gone with frequent fill-in Wayne Simmonds or the guy who started there early this season, Dustin Brown.

Instead, Murray does what he does best - he mixed things up!

Low and behold, like an early April Fools joke, the coach put Kevin Westgarth up on right wing.

The ripple effect of that decision was felt throughout twitter, facebook and the social media world yesterday. However, things were back to normal today when Oscar Moller arrived in town and was promptly given the purple jersey before practice - indicating he would be on the top line.

After the on ice workouts, I caught up with Westgarth...

MM: So, it looks like the dream is dead. You wont be up on the top line against San Jose tomorrow night after all...

KW: Yeah. When you get an opportunity like that you have to make the most of it. Maybe next time.

[In a little known fact, earlier in the year he and Kyle Clifford made a bet. The first one to get a Gordie Howe Hat Trick - a goal, an assist and a fight in the same guy - would owe the other guy a nice dinner. Westgarth had tried to get a movie thrown in, but young Clifford wanted no part of it. Dinner only.]

MM: That would have given you a great shot at finally winning the bet with Clifford. You're running out of real estate here with only a few games left in the season.

Terry Murray on the new guy, Oscar Moller

With the injury to Justin Williams, the Kings recalled Oscar Moller from their AHL affiliate in Manchester this week.

In 59 games for the Monarchs this year Moller has scored 23 goals, second on the team (LW Bud Holloway leads with 25 goals). He also spent four games up with the Kings earlier this season, scoring one goal (against Detroit on December 13th).

The 5'10" right wing was drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

After practice today, Kings coach Terry Murray talked about Moller and the expectations for the remainder of the season...

"Having had Oscar here in the past, he's a puck skilled player. He can fit on different lines, his awareness to the responsibilities in the system are right on every time. Again, we're not going to replace Williams. There's going to be a difference. You're not going to miss all of Justin Williams. But, what is the difference? I'm not sure yet."

He was then asked about the opportunity facing Moller, for him to prove himself...

Interview with OHL Scoring Champion Tyler Toffoli

Heading into the NHL Draft last June many scouts had Tyler Toffoli pegged as a late first rounder. With some questioning his skating ability, he dropped a bit and when he was still sitting there mid-way through the second, Kings GM Dean Lombardi did his thing - 'Dealer Dean' traded his second and fourth round picks to move up and nab him.

The Kings knew a thing or two about Toffoli already. Hailing from Scarborough, Ontario - the same hometown as forward Wayne Simmonds - it was in fact the same scout who tipped the Kings off on both players.

Like Linden Vey over in the WHL, Toffoli won the scoring race in his league this season. However, technically - since the OHL doesn't have a tie-breaker system - he is the co-champion.  Toffoli tied Flyers prospect Jason Akeson (Kitchener Rangers) with 108 points, even though his 57 goals more than doubled Akeson's 24.

He ended the year strong as well, being recognized as the OHL Player of the Week for the third time this season and capped everything off with a five point game in his final contest - including four goals, staring with a natural hat-trick.

As if that isn't enough, he was also just announced as a finalist for the Red Tilson Trophy, the most prestigious individual award presented by the OHL, going to the league's Most Outstanding Player.

He last visited MayorsManor in November, so I spoke with him this week to talk about all that's been going on and for a look ahead to the playoffs coming up this weekend...

MM: Prior to the season I spoke with your General Manager Brian Kilrea. Some of the things he said about you included calling you a great play maker, somebody still needing to develop physically and that you were a better right wing than a center. Any thoughts on those comments?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview with WHL Scoring Champion Linden Vey

If you've been following along all season - of even half way paying attention - you know that many of the Kings prospects are having exceptional years.

Linden Vey, a fourth round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, would have to rank right up at the top of the list, having just won the WHL scoring race on Sunday.

His 116 points (46 goals, 70 assists) helped lead the Medicine Hat Tigers to a third place finish in the WHL's Eastern Conference and they'll begin their 2011 playoffs this Friday night against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Here's a bit of a season recap and playoff preview with the newly crowned scoring champ...

MM: So - Linden Vey, WHL scoring champion - how does that sound?

LV: Obviously it's been a long year and I wouldn't have thought at the start of the year that this is something that would be happening right now. But, it's been a good season and I have to give credit to my team. I don't think I could have done it without my team. We have a good group and we've had a good year. We reached 100 points and we've all had a good year this year.

MM: You had 24 goals in each of the last two seasons and then nearly doubled that with 46 goals this season, why the big jump? What do you attribute that to?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stoll and Quick Do Their Thing Again in the Shootout

Well, the Kings are getting better as the homestand rolls along.

Zero points on Thursday, one point Saturday and (finally) two points tonight. The games are also getting longer - going from regulation vs. the Blues to needing overtime against the Ducks...and then (finally) downing the Flames via a shootout.

In a game that was set up perfectly for the triumphant return of Ryan Smyth - the missing King for the last 20-plus games, going head to head with the team he's played more than any other club in the NHL (74 games vs. the Flames) - in the end, it just wasn't meant to be. He finished the night with zero points and was a minus-one.

However, it was business as usual for Jonathan Quick and Jarret Stoll. You'd be hard pressed to think of a more 'sure thing' in the game of hockey right now. If it's a shootout, Quick will win it (8-0) and Stoll will score in it (now seven for eight on the season, that's a whopping 88% success rate).

Calgary Flames at LA Kings - Revisiting a Rivalry

For fans that have only been following the Kings since their move downtown to Staples Center, tonight's game doesn't mean much - other than the two points at stake in the Western Conference.

However, for long time fans, a game against the Flames stirs emotions from nearly 20 years ago when Calgary versus Los Angeles was one that everybody circled on their calendar.

After the Kings traded for Wayne Gretzky in '88 things really started to heat up - even though Calgary fans already had issues with the Great One from his days in Edmonton and the scars left by The Battle of Alberta games.

Once the playoffs rolled around after Wayne's first season in LA though...well, it was on. The Kings were fresh off a first round win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers (a thrilling 7 game series).  Unfortunately, the Kings lost to Calgary in the second round that year - while the Flames went on to win the Cup.

With a rivalry now in full swing it was inevitable the two teams would meet again in the playoffs the following year. Once again, the Kings defeated the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in the playoffs, dispatching the Flames and any thoughts they had of a repeat run. Perhaps even more memorable was Mike Krushelnyski's overtime goal in game six. Take a look - it's one of those goals that will replayed forever...

Westgarth on Fight Rules, Clifford's KO, Scrap with Cam

On Friday we heard from Kings coach Terry Murray regarding the multiple fights in Thursday's night game versus the St. Louis Blues.

He said he thought Kevin Westgarth's scrap with Cam Janssen was "absolutely what the team needed" and said Kyle Clifford's injury was one of the "consequences of playing that role."

Which is something I wanted to get Westgarth's perspective on...

MM: How tough was it to watch the Clifford fight (video here)? He hasn't really been rocked at all this year.

KW: It's going to happen. He just missed his grab there and was trying to, essentially, punch himself out of the miss. He just got tagged by one. It knocked him down. But, I think we saw right away he was back up. He would have gladly gotten back into it. He's a young guy, just tough as nails. He scares a lot of the other guys (on other teams) and fights pretty wide open. That's going to happen every once and a while. He's got a lot to learn, as we all do. You have to adjust. I know this year my fighting style has kind of ebb and flowed with the guys I've fought. It's going to happen. We're glad he's here though and we're glad he's all right.

MM: How about your fight with Janssen (video here)? Did things go as planned?

...And Now You're Caught Up - March 21, 2011

It's been another busy week in the sports world, so you may have missed a few odds and ends out there.

Don't worry - we've got you covered.

Here are the ten Kings related (or at least hockey related) items you should definitely know about heading into the week ahead...

* Call it the junior hockey version of Kings Undisputed, here's a short video produced by the Saskatoon Blades with Brayden Schenn talking pre-game routines, new cars and a few other things.

* For the second straight year, a Kings prospect (Linden Vey) won the WHL scoring title. And as an added bonus, another prospect (Tyler Toffoli) won the OHL scoring title. Full story here.

* Former Kings defenseman Rob Blake was just announced as the Assistant General Manager for Team Canada at the upcoming World Championships (talking place in Europe during the NHL playoffs). Consider it an open audition to head up Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Russia.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kings Prospects Finish as WHL and OHL Scoring Champs

Vey (WHL) and Toffoli (OHL)
In what is almost becoming a broken record, the Kings prospects are at it again.

Last year Brandon Kozun won the WHL scoring title.  Then, a few months ago it was Brayden Schenn re-writing the World Junior record book...

Now this - Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey finished atop the scoring races in their respective leagues today.

Vey, taken in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft and currently playing for the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, posted 46 goals and 70 assists. His 116 points topped Tyler Johnson (Spokane Chiefs) and his 115 points.

Medicine Hat will begin their first round playoff series with the Schenn-less Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night.

Also worth noting is the fact that Jordan Weal (drafted by the Kings in the third round last summer) finished fifth in the WHL scoring race.  It was his second year in a row placing in the top-5, after finishing third last season.  He's expected to be assigned to Manchester in the next few days, as his Regina Pats team didn't qualify for the playoffs.

100 Games Later, Little Has Changed for Kings-Ducks

Game one of the Kings-Ducks rivalry was a one goal game back in December 1993, a night that began with the two teams tied in the standings.

Fast forward more than 15 years and game #100 ended 2-1 (in overtime) and the clubs were separated by just three points in the standings.

They're also now tied in the season series 2-2, with the winner to be determined over the final weekend of the season when they meet in a home-and-home series.

Here are a few post-game notes, followed by the video highlights...

* Who else, but Corey Perry, scored the game winning goal. The man voted by fans as their Least Favorite Player in the NHL gave yet another reason to dislike him.