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Posted On Thursday, 06.07.2012 / 1:25 AM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings don't get the bounces in Game 4

LOS ANGELESSimon Gagne went from not playing in an NHL game in five months to having a potential Stanley Cup-game-winning goal on his stick.

In the second period of a scoreless Game 4, Gagne broke in for a partial breakaway on Martin Brodeur. As the building collectively held its breath, Brodeur made a left pad save and the New Jersey Devils emerged untouched.

"I would have liked to try another chance like that," Gagne said. "On this play, I tried something on the glove side and he made a big pad save. He played well tonight. He was really in it. We knew that he was going to be one of the best goaltenders [we've faced]."

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.06.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Gagne will remain in Kings lineup for Game 4

LOS ANGELES -- Simon Gagne will have more than a one-off cameo in the Stanley Cup Final.

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter indicated that Gagne would be back in for Game 4 on Wednesday. Sutter inserted him in Game 3 in Gagne's first game since a Dec. 26 concussion.

Gagne saw 6:39 of ice time and took a slashing penalty.

"Hopefully he’s better tonight," Sutter said.

Gagne said it was somewhat of an eye-opener to be thrust into a Final game after five months off. He feels more comfortable for the second go-around.

"I watched the tape. I watched what I did," Gagne said. "It was good to get back on the ice. I kind of had this feeling what the speed was, but until you play you don't know. It was good to get on it and know how much the game is so intense and so fast. Going there now, I know what to expect and watching the tape of all my shifts, I could change a couple of things. Now I definitely want to take it to the next level tonight."

It is a victory for Gagne just to get back on the ice. He has a history of concussions, and if the Kings didn't make it this far he would have had to wait another six months to play in an NHL game.

"My goal is just to get back to healthy and be 100 percent," Gagne said. "Until you play a game, until you take the time to heal 100 percent, you don't know. That's what's great about this season. This team went far this year to help me, to know that right away instead of waiting in September or October when the season is going to start. For me, with all my past and all the injury I had, it was great to know right away that everything's good. I felt really good. It's been a while since I was feeling good."

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:32 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Sutter's blunt, no-nonsense style clicking in L.A.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There's no ambiguity with Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter.

He's long known as blunt and honest, and he will drop an expletive now and then to get a point across, such as in December when he called Dustin Penner’s play "horse [expletive]."

Sutter reminded everyone of his no-nonsense way of communicating Tuesday when he was asked, on microphone during his off-day press conference, where he was when Kings general manager Dean Lombardi called him about the coaching job.

"I think I was in the barn [in Alberta]," Sutter said. "I wasn't shoveling [expletive]. I remember that. But I had that day."

It was the line of the day for many who are not around Sutter regularly, and even for those who are. For his players, it's just another daily dose of Darryl, who tends a farm in the family's home near Viking, Alberta.

"It doesn’t surprise me at all," Colin Fraser said. "He likes using farming references all the time -- 'strapping the feedbag on' and stuff. He looks intimidating and all that stuff, but he actually has a good sense of humor. I think he's got a good balance of when guys need a kick in the butt and when they need a pat on the back. He's got good timing with both the humor and the seriousness."

Players actually had trouble understanding Sutter when he first arrived because he mumbles. Dustin Brown said they didn't bother going to the grease board in the first few practices, but they eventually learned Sutter's nuances and delivery.

Most players like that he's a throwback-type of coach.

"He's pretty rough around the edges," Rob Scuderi said. "But I think most guys in hockey can kind of appreciate it because we all come from pretty humble backgrounds, so it's more funny than anything."

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings announcers to make 'call' of Game 4

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Longtime Los Angeles Kings television announcers Bob Miller and Jim Fox will get to call a potential Stanley Cup-clinching game after all.

The pair will record a call on their own for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday and the recording will likely be made available later for fans, team spokesman Mike Altieri said.

The Los Angeles Kings will attempt to sweep the New Jersey Devils for their first Cup in franchise history. Kings fans have missed hearing Miller, the play-by-play announcer since 1973, and Fox, the analyst since 1990, call the games on a remarkable 15-2 run by L.A. and they naturally want a Miller-Fox Cup-clinching recording for posterity.

Miller and Fox called the Western Conference Quarterfinals before NBC and its affiliate networks assumed broadcasting rights.

Altieri said Miller and Fox were excited to do it as the plan has been in the works for weeks.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 4:22 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Gagne's return provided Kings with 'extra jump'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It was difficult to tell whether Simon Gagne had the desired impact when he returned to the lineup for the first time in five months.

Gagne played fewer than seven minutes of ice time Monday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter wouldn't elaborate on Gagne on Tuesday. Game 4 is Wednesday.

"Well he hadn't played for six months," Sutter said. "He played six minutes. So we'll make that decision tomorrow."

In a stunning move, Sutter activated Gagne in place of Brad Richardson on the fourth line. Gagne had not played since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, but eventually got healthy and, remarkably, became available in late May.

Gagne's teammates were naturally happy to see him return after such a long road back.

"He's been my teammate for a while, and to see him come back from something that didn't look very good for him -- it was a big thing, I think, for our hockey team," Mike Richards said. "It gave us probably a little extra jump to see him in the lineup."

Richards identifies with Gagne, a former Philadelphia Flyers teammate, because Richards also had a concussion in December. Richards only missed eight games and hinted he might have come back too soon. Gagne was out for so long it was thought to be a potentially career-ending concussion.

"A good friend, to come back from an injury like that -- sometimes you don't know with things like that," Richards said. "It was nice to see and I'm sure he enjoyed being on the ice and we definitely enjoyed having him."

By playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gagne is eligible to get his name engraved on the Cup, although a team can also petition for a player to receive the honor.

Gagne had seven goals and 10 assists in 34 regular season games.

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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings excited by mild weather, good ice conditions

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles in June is not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of crisp ice surfaces and fall-like weather conditions. But defenseman Willie Mitchell sounded giddy after the morning skate at Staples Center on a mild, gray Monday.

"I don't want to say it, but it felt like the [Edmonton] Oilers ice in the mid-'90s out there," Mitchell said. "It felt great.  We could have a decent hockey game on our hands -- not too humid. It's cold out there, the ice is nice. You can actually make passes.

"You don't say that about Staples ice too often. It tells you how bad the ice was out in New Jersey. It felt really nice out there and guys were quite excited about it, and I'm sure the Devils will be as well. I think you'll probably get much more up-tempo hockey game because of that."

Both the Kings and Devils are looking forward to a smoother surface for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after they slugged through a humid Game 1 at the Prudential Center. Several players complained about the poor ice causing bouncing pucks as both teams had to play more conservatively.

It's a common issue with hockey in June, no matter the city or venue. Mother Nature seemed to be in compliance in L.A. on Monday as it was expected to be 69 degrees with 71 percent humidity.

A full building will affect the ice slightly, but the Kings players said a Staples surface that isn't known for smoothness felt good.

"It was a lot better -- which is funny considering Staples ice," captain Dustin Brown said. "We complain about Staples ice all year. Granted, it's a lot better when it's an empty building … I think it will be a quicker game because of the ice."

Said Jarret Stoll, "I think the temperature in the building is a difference, for sure. I noticed it during the skate this morning. We expect to be sharp. We expect to be crisp, and we'll go for there."

Home ice hasn't really been kind to the Kings. Their only two losses of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have come at Staples. They have outscored opponents 34-15 on the road and 11-9 at home. They have one power-play goal at home against five on the road.

Those five shorthanded goals by L.A.? All came on the road.

The Kings will otherwise look to feed off their home crowd. Although cavernous, Staples Center is known as one of the louder arenas come playoff time, and the adrenaline level can be elevated for players.

"You got to harness it," Mitchell said. "I think you can't play outside yourself. Just do what we do and do it hard, and kind of find that fine line where you don't get overly excited and use it to motivate you."
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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Brown still seeking first point of Stanley Cup Final

LOS ANGELES -- Kings captain Dustin Brown was the early favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy but the New Jersey Devils have kept him off the score sheet in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Brown, who had seven goals and nine assists in the first 14 playoff games, had no shots on goal with four hits in Game 2. He said the Devils have been effective defending his line of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.

"I think they've done a good job on us," Brown said. "I think it's up to me, Kopi and Williams to make adjustments to be better. I think collectively we had one shot on goal last game, which is not good enough, individually or as a line. And that's up to me, Kopi and Will to find a way to better. I know I can be personally better along the walls. I'm sure if you ask Kopi and Will, they'll say they can be better."

Brown, of course, does other things that count. He had three shots and three hits and a blocked shot in Game 1.

"Brownie does a lot of things that people don't notice," Jarret Stoll said. "He's doing his thing. He's a player that can break out offensively at any moment. He does a lot of things out there that help our team win the game. Every facet, on and off the ice, he's phenomenal."
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Posted On Sunday, 06.03.2012 / 6:18 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings comfortable playing in tight games

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The obvious knock on the Los Angeles Kings for most of the season was that they were stellar defensively to stay in games, but didn't have enough offense to close it out a victory.

Even after Darryl Sutter was hired on Dec.21, the Kings struggled to score for two months. However, they still managed to go 25-13-11 under Sutter.

That last number is telling. Los Angeles played in 24 overtime or shootout games in the regular season, tied with the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks for the second-most in the League. The Kings also played in 46 one-goal games (the New Jersey Devils played in 37). L.A. is 6-0 in one-goal playoff games, while New Jersey is 6-4.

So did the experience from playing in all those close games carry over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the Kings are 4-0 in overtime games?

"It would be interesting to see how many one-goal games we've played the last three years," Dustin Brown said.

That's a reflection of former coach Terry Murray, who was instrumental in molding the Kings into the defense-first team that is the foundation of this edition's juggernaut. L.A.'s lack of offense got him fired, though, and Sutter made them more aggressive without compromising that defense.

It also helps to have a unique mix of veterans and young stars, too.

"It's part of the makeup of our team and how we play," Brown said. "I think we're definitely comfortable in tight games, and that's due to some guys having a lot of big game experience and some guys playing here the last few years have been in a lot of those situations."


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Posted On Saturday, 05.26.2012 / 6:55 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Mitchell has warm memories of New Jersey

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Willie Mitchell wonders what would have happened if Les Widdifield hadn't seen him play 16 years ago.

Widdifield was a longtime scout for the New Jersey Devils, and he spotted a young Mitchell playing in tiny Melfort, Sasakatchewan. Widdifield, who died last September, liked what he saw and told his bosses to give this Mitchell kid a long look.

"I still remember that phone call," said Mitchell, who was drafted 199th by New Jersey in 1996 and spent five seasons in the organization. "They took a flyer on me – eighth round, 199 in 1996 playing Tier 2 junior. Probably if they didn't do that, I would have never got the chance."
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Posted On Saturday, 05.26.2012 / 6:16 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Richards not surprised by DeBoer's success

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Of the many ties between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, one of the stronger ones is between Mike Richards and Peter DeBoer.

DeBoer coached Richards as coach of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL for four years, from when Richards was 16 to 19. Richards served as captain on some of those teams, and the relationship helped produced a Memorial Cup in 2003 (New Jersey's David Clarkson was also on that team).
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