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Posted On Saturday, 02.02.2013 / 3:30 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Friends Kopitar, Ryan to meet as foes

EL SEGUNDO, Calif.Anze Kopitar got to know his friend and rival Bobby Ryan when the two played for Mora IK in Sweden during the work stoppage.

Kopitar actually recruited Ryan through his agent to bring him overseas.

But the two are back on different sides Saturday night when the Los Angeles Kings play at the Anaheim Ducks. Did Kopitar glean any more knowledge on how to play against Ryan after being his linemate?

"You get to know the guy a little better," Kopitar said. "You get to know his strengths and weaknesses at the same time … We all know he's a goal scorer. You got to play [well against] him just like any other guy in the League."

Kopitar said he hung out with Ryan during their off time and it's clear the two have respect for each other. Kopitar has feasted on the Ducks, with 37 points in 36 career games, while Ryan is known to have big games against the Kings. His spin-o-rama goal to complete a hat trick at Staples Center on Jan. 8, 2009 stands out.

Their friendship might get up close and personal now that Ryan is playing center and might take a few faceoffs against Kopitar.

"We'll be facing each other pretty often," Kopitar said.

This is the first meeting of the teams since Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup to match Anaheim's 2007 Cup triumph. Outside of Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau's open dislike of the Kings, both sides have downplayed the dynamic.

"They were the champs a few years ago," Kopitar said. "It will be like any other game. It will be physical. It will be intense. The crowd's going to be into it. We're looking for two points. It doesn't matter how they come."

Penner returns to the lineup: Dustin Penner will return to the lineup as the Kings look to generate scoring from the left wing.

Coach Darryl Sutter confimed to reporters Friday that Penner would return. Penner has not played since Jan. 22. He had no points with a minus-2 rating in the first two games, and conditioning seemed to be part of the issue.

The Kings have reverted to last season and are averaging 1.83 goals a game. Their power play is 2-for-33.

"Our left side has a grand total of two goals this year," Sutter said. "We need more balance right now."

Penner will likely slide into the left wing spot on the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, a line that was quite effective for the Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Penner practically resurrected his career with 11 points in 20 postseason games.

Dustin BrownAnze KopitarJustin Williams

Dustin PennerMike RichardsJeff Carter

Simon GagneJarret StollTrevor Lewis

Kyle CliffordColin FraserJordan Nolan

Rob ScuderiDrew Doughty

Slava VoynovAlec Martinez

Jake MuzzinDavis Drewiske

Jonathan Quick

Jonathan Bernier

Injured: Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell.

Scratched: Dwight King, Brad Richardson, Andrew Bodnarchuk.

Willie Mitchell has not skated for a week but club officials have said the defenseman has not had a setback from December knee surgery to remove cartilage. Mitchell said last month he wanted to be smart in his recovery and has been working out away from the ice.

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Posted On Friday, 02.01.2013 / 3:43 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Ducks likely to give Fasth start against Wild

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Anaheim Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth will make his second NHL start Friday night, if the morning skate is any indication.

Fasth came off the ice first ahead of Jonas Hiller and, if he plays, will likely go against Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild.

It would make sense given the back-to-back situation with the rival Los Angeles Kings coming to Honda Center on Saturday. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau split Fasth and Hiller in the Ducks' first back-to-back sequence.

Boudreau certainly didn't tip his hand when asked about his goalie philosophy.

"Sometimes you can overthink it," Boudreau said. "Sometimes it's statistical in how goalies have done against teams in the past. There's a lot of little factors that go into it, and then you come up with a decision."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 3:57 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kings' Clifford making a name for himself

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Few observers of the Los Angeles Kings in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs got to know Kyle Clifford.

The Kings' rough-and-tumble wing was concussed after a hit by the Vancouver Canucks' Byron Bitz in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and didn't play the rest of the postseason. But Clifford is making up for that lost time with a role on L.A.'s second line.

Clifford is again expected to play beside Mike Richards and Jeff Carter when the Kings host the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

"I'm coming in and not changing my game -- I'm playing my style," Clifford said at the morning skate. "It's a privilege to play with those two guys -- Carts and Richards. I'm just trying to do my best and keep it simple."

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Posted On Monday, 01.28.2013 / 3:38 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kings need some big names to start contributing

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings are four games into the season and still waiting for some big guns to get going.

Anze Kopitar scored two goals in L.A.'s first win last Saturday, but captain Dustin Brown, linemate Justin Williams and second-line center Mike Richards have combined for no goals and two assists going into the game Monday against the Vancouver Canucks.

Asked about Richards, coach Darryl Sutter said, "It's been an adjustment for some of our guys in terms of getting up to pace. He's one of those guys that need to get up to pace."

Sutter will likely bench Dustin Penner for a third straight game. Sutter was typically blunt when asked about Simon Gagne playing out of his usual role, as the fourth line left wing.

"He better get used to it or it will be a totally different role," Sutter said.

The Kings have basically picked up where they left off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an 0-for-23 drought on the power play. A lot of times it's a matter of getting that first goal out of the way.

"We've created some good chances on the power play, I think everyone can see that," Drew Doughty said. "But the bottom line is, it doesn't matter how many chances you're creating, you need to put the puck in the net. It's something that all of us on the power play are frustrated with right now. Going into tonight, we've just got to be hungry to score that goal."

The bright spot on offense is, of all players, usual fourth line wing Kyle Clifford, who leads the team with five points. Clifford emerged as a scorer two postseasons ago and played in the ECHL during the lockout.

Clifford is a Sutter-type player and Sutter naturally had no reservations putting him on the second line with Richards and Jeff Carter.

"He was so happy that he won [the Stanley Cup], he was still disappointed because he didn't get to play after he got [concussed] in the Vancouver series," Sutter said in reference to last season's Western Conference Quarterfinals.

"That was his whole purpose when he left -- to put himself in a position to play regularly."

Sutter predictably downplayed the rematch against the Canucks, who were the sixth Presidents' Trophy winner to lose in the first round. But Doughty acknowledged the subplot.

"They're a good team, so you kind of learn to hate them," Doughty said. "Tonight's going to be a full-out battle and we're all looking forward to it.

"Waking up this morning, knowing that we're playing them, everyone's so pumped to get out there and get after them. It's going to be a physical matchup -- which everyone loves -- you're getting banged, but at the same time you're giving it back. We love that, and there's nothing more rewarding than beating a team that's won the conference the last couple of years in a row, so we're really looking forward to hopefully doing that tonight."

Dustin BrownAnze KopitarJustin Williams

Kyle CliffordMike RichardsJeff Carter

Dwight KingJarret StollTrevor Lewis

Simon GagneColin FraserJordan Nolan

Rob ScuderiDrew Doughty

Alec MartinezSlava Voynov

Jake MuzzinDavis Drewiske

Jonathan Quick

Jonathan Bernier

Injuries: Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene

Scratches: Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson, Andrew Bodnarchuk

Roberto Luongo is expected to start in goal for Vancouver. Luongo was replaced by Cory Schneider after he allowed seven goals against the Kings in the first two games of the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 3:52 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Gaustad ready to return for Predators

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Paul Gaustad will return to the lineup for the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Gaustad said he’s fit to go after he missed the previous three games with an upper-body injury. He is expected to take his center spot on the fourth line against the Anaheim Ducks.

“It’s good to be back tonight,” Gaustad said. “It wasn’t too long, and it’s good to be a contributor again.”

Nashville gets back one of the top faceoff men in the League and a key penalty killer. Coach Barry Trotz likened it to Vancouver Canucks faceoff ace Manny Malhotra.

“You can dictate where you’re putting the puck and hopefully if you have it, you’re getting out of your zone," Trotz said. "The great thing about 'Goose' is that he’s good on the left, but he’s one of the few guys that switches over the right and takes the right-hand draw.”

Fasth to start?

Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was non-committal on whether goalie Viktor Fasth would make his NHL debut Saturday night against the Nashville Predators.

“I’ll have to go check and see what the goalie coach says,” Boudreau said, in reference to Ducks goaltending consultant Pete Peeters.

Jonas Hiller played Friday in a 5-0 loss to Vancouver. Three of those goals came on Vancouver power plays, but Hiller looked shaky on even-strength goals by Aaron Volpatti and Mason Raymond.

The Swedish Elite League’s Goaltender of the Year the past two seasons, Fasth was signed last May to be Hiller’s backup. His season was interrupted in November because of hip and groin issues and he was sent to the AHL to get playing time earlier this month.

Boudreau has previously suggested that he would like to split the goalie starts in back-to-back situations. The Ducks had an optional skate and, for what it’s worth, Fasth came off the ice first.

Speaking generally on how he manages the starts, Boudreau said, “You do it on feel. You can script out the first five games on who is going to play. But we’ll see how it works out. Viktor played three games last week in the American [Hockey] League last week, so it’s not like he’s totally rusty.”

PREDATORS

Colin WilsonMike FisherMartin Erat

Gabriel BourqueDavid LegwandPatric Hornqvist

Sergei KostitsynNick SpalingCraig Smith

Rich ClunePaul GaustadBrandon Yip

Roman JosiShea Weber

Hal GillRyan Ellis

Kevin KleinScott Hannan

Pekka Rinne

Chris Mason

Injuries: None

Scratched: Jonathon Blum, Brian McGrattan, Matt Halischuk

DUCKS

Kyle PalmieriRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Bobby RyanNick BoninoTeemu Selanne

Andrew CoglianoSaku KoivuDaniel Winnik

Matt BeleskeyPeter HollandBrad Staubitz

Toni LydmanFrancois Beauchemin

Cam FowlerBryan Allen

Luca SbisaSheldon Souray

Jonas Hiller

Viktor Fasth

Injuries: None

Scratches: Jordan Hendry, Devante Smith-Pelly, Rickard Rakell

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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 3:24 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Groin injury won't keep Canucks' Lapierre out

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Vancouver Canucks forward Maxim Lapierre said he will play Friday against the Anaheim Ducks after he injured his groin against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.

Lapierre was one of just four skaters at an optional morning skate for the Canucks.

"Obviously there's some pain but I’ll be fine for tonight," Lapierre said after a 30-minute workout. "I think the day [off] yesterday helped a little bit, and I feel OK for tonight."

Manny Malhotra is not with Vancouver because his wife is expecting a baby, a team official said. Malhotra is expected to re-join the team Saturday.

Lapierre is expected to center the fourth line, with Andrew Ebbett playing on the wing.

Here is the how the rest of the lineup likely will look for the Canucks on Friday:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Zack Kassian

Chris Higgins - Alexandre Burrows - Jannik Hansen

Mason Raymond - Jordan Schroeder - Dale Weise

Andrew Ebbett - Maxim Lapierre - Aaron Volpatti

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Jason Garrison - Alexander Edler

Keith Ballard - Christopher Tanev

Cory Schneider

Roberto Luongo

Injured: Ryan Kesler, David Booth

Scratched: Andrew Alberts, Cam Barker

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Posted On Friday, 01.25.2013 / 3:19 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Holland to get chance on Ducks' fourth line

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Peter Holland will get his second turn in the NHL when the Anaheim Ducks host the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.

After a year of hard work in the American Hockey League and an abbreviated training camp with the Ducks, the 22-year-old Holland will center the fourth line in Anaheim's home opener.

Coach Bruce Boudreau had used 19-year-old Rickard Rakell in the first two games, but wants to give Holland a look, even if it's in a limited role.

"As a scorer he's not being put in a position to score being on the so-called fourth line, but we'd love to see where his compete level is," Boudreau said. "When they talk about him game in and game out, the consistency of the compete level isn't there, but I'd like to see a solid game from him. And if somebody in the top three centers go out, he's a guy that can easily replace them with offensive ability. We think it's a good fit right now."

Boudreau said Rakell, Anaheim's first round pick in 2011, "has been very good" the first two games. But Holland might be the right fit long term given he has more professional experience.

A center in the Ryan Getzlaf mold with a good shot, Holland scored a goal in a four-game stint with Anaheim last season under former coach Randy Carlyle. He is the leading scorer for Norfolk, the Ducks' American Hockey League team, and was named to the AHL All-Star team.

Holland naturally was eager to get in the lineup and knows this is a new opportunity under Boudreau.

"I definitely think there's a little bit of anxiety and a little bit of nervousness," Holland said. "Obviously the goal was to be in every game this year. To not play the first two makes you really want to come out and have a good showing here, and especially in the home opener."

Here is the lineup the Ducks likely will go with Friday:

Kyle Palmieri - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne

Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Daniel Winnik

Matt Beleskey - Peter Holland - Devante Smith-Pelly

Toni Lydman - Francois Beauchemin

Luca Sbisa - Sheldon Souray

Bryan Allen - Cam Fowler

Jonas Hiller

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Jordan Hendry, Brad Staubitz, Rickard Rakell

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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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Quote of the Day

I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning