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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 3:58 PM

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

Sutter guiding Kings through demanding stretch

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the challenges Darryl Sutter has had to re-learn in his latest coaching stint is managing the schedule.

Since he took over the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 20, Sutter has repeatedly talked about working through the back-to-back sequences and travel demands of a West Coast team.

Sutter is quite familiar with it from his tenure as San Jose coach, and this run up to the All-Star break is getting busy. Thursday's game against the Calgary Flames comes after three games in four nights on the road, and tonight will start a stretch of three games in five nights for Kings.

"I told the guys when I came in, 'I'm going to give you every break physically. You guys got to be with me on the brain part,'" Sutter said.

"That's kind of how you got to look at it. Successful teams, that's what they have to trust their training and what they do for 12 months, not what they do the day before the game or the day after a game. You have to set your team up so that when you start training in the first of July to get prepared for back-to-backs and travel."

Sutter is aware of the team's six-game road trip in February, which includes back-to-back games at the New York Islanders and Dallas Stars.

"They aren't machines," said Sutter, who held an off-ice workout Wednesday and saw full attendance at Thursday's morning skate.

"You have to learn as a staff and as an organization how to manage it properly, because it can affect making the playoffs, not making the playoffs, home ice ... the old way of beating players up after you lost a game the next day, it serves zero purpose. It's way different."

Sutter vs. Sutter, part II: This will be the second meeting in six days between Darryl Sutter and brother Brent, who coaches Calgary.

There isn't as much media focus on the brothers this time around, and Darryl predictably said, "It wasn't very hard last time … We're used to it."

L.A. scored a 4-1 win last Saturday in Mike Cammalleri's first game back with the Flames. Darryl said Cammalleri isn't the only player to worry about.

"They've still got their goaltender and they've got an awesome defense and they really get up the middle," he said. "I'm not really worried the individuals more than positions."

Sutter on warm-up procedures:
Sutter delivered the line of the day when asked about the Taylor Hall incident and talk of players wearing helmets during warm-ups.

"If they wear wigs and sunglasses, I don't care," Sutter said. "It doesn't bother me one way or the other. It's an isolated, once-a-year (incident)."

Sutter, who had to wear a facemask on his helmet because of a facial injury as a player with Chicago, felt strongly about players' freedom not to wear a helmet in warm-ups.

"I still like the players having an identity," he said. "I think that's important in the game, and I think it's important that they grandfather the (face) shields in because the kids grow up with the shields and it's hard to imagine them taking it off. I still think that identity and the people seeing the player, I still think that's something there to it. I like that."

Sutter added that the facemask he wore was rather primitive.

"I got a football (cage) from Mike Ditka, from the (Chicago) Bears," Sutter said. "That was before the plexiglass and all that stuff, so I was either going to get Joe Girardi's catching mask or something from the Bears."

Nicholls helping power play:
Former King Bernie Nicholls has been working with the team as a consultant, particularly on the power play, and the results are tangible.

The Kings are 6-for-19 on the power play in the past five games.

"His experience helps," Jarret Stoll said. "He's seeing different things up there. It looks a lot different up there than it does down on the ice. He's letting us know what he sees, what he thinks is open, if we're not moving the puck quick enough, if we're not shooting when we should. Just little simple things, which make sense."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 3:56 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Kings

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Los Angeles Kings host the Calgary Flames at Staples Center:

FLAMES
Mike Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau - Olli Jokinen - Tim Jackman
Tom Kostopoulos - Blair Jones - Lee Stempniak
Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan

Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich - TJ Brodie
Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:44 PM

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

Boudreau warns Ducks can't get complacent

ANAHEIM -- Is it possible for the 29th-best team in the NHL to worry about complacency?

The Anaheim Ducks are far from relevant in the postseason picture, but a 5-0-1 streak has generated some buzz, and coach Bruce Boudreau is concerned about a letdown in Thursday night's home game against Phoenix.

"I told them I'm nervous about this game," Boudreau said. "We have no right to ever be complacent about the position that we're in, but complacency can always set in to a team that's had a two-week run that's been pretty good. But you know what? They've had a two-week run that's been pretty good, too. They know they can bury us. They play us twice in the next five games. They know they can do some damage if they beat us both times."

Anaheim is coming off a successful road trip in which it went 2-0-1 against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The Ducks are playing well, but Boudreau said it's not a big sample size.

"We're making a bigger deal of it -- it's just a short stretch," he said. "If it was 15 games, then we're talking about a trend."

Hiller hot:
Jonas Hiller has been the backbone of Anaheim's resurgence.

He has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his past five starts, including a stretch where he did not allow a goal for more than six periods.

It's quite a change from earlier this season, when Hiller was giving up a lot of rebounds behind a suspect defense. Hiller said the latter has been part of the difference.

"We're more solid on our own end," Hiller said. "We get pucks out more often. We don't give up that many high-quality scoring chances. It feels like if you make two or three big saves a game, you're not getting scored on at all, where before you might make two or three big saves and you still get scored on four goals because you gave up seven or eight great scoring chances."

Hiller, like the rest of the team, has finally found new attitude that Boudreau has sought.

"I definitely also feel that confidence that if I get scored on the team is still going to be there and still able to score," Hiller said. "We're not worried like before. … Right now there's definitely less pressure on me because we score a lot more it seems like and we play more in their zone."

Lydman turns a corner:
Good things happened for the Ducks when Toni Lydman was on the ice last season. His plus-32 rating was among the League leaders.

This season he has trended the other way, bottoming out with a season-low minus-13 rating on Dec. 12.

That's also a reflection of the team, but Lydman has owned up to his struggles and said it has nothing to do with not being with last year's partner Lubomir Visnovsky.

"No, I struggled with Lubo, too," Lydman said. "I struggled with everybody. It wasn't about the partners. It was more me dragging them down."

Lydman said Boudreau has met with him "a couple of times" this season and has emphasized getting Lydman to move his feet and be more physical.

Partnered with Sheldon Brookbank on Anaheim's third defensive pairing, Lydman is in a diminished role but has turned a corner with a plus-4 rating over the past five games.

"I think it's more things just started to go wrong and then it was hard to stop," Lydman said. "I think it was more mental than anything. Personal game reflected the team game pretty much.  On some nights it even costs us game. A big part of it is confidence. As long as it's turning the right way, that's all that matters."
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:38 PM

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

Projected lineups for Coyotes, Ducks

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Phoenix Coyotes at the Honda Center:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Taylor Pyatt
Raffi Torres - Gilbert Brule - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Rostislav Klesla - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Michal Rozsival - Chris Summers

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Torres will return to the lineup for Phoenix, coach Dave Tippett said, while Adrian Aucoin (upper body) and Martin Hanzal (upper body) remain out.

Hanzal had played with Radim Vrbata and Hanzal’s absence for the past two weeks makes Vrbata’s 22 goals all the more impressive.

Tippett reiterated that Vrbata should get recognized.

"When you have 22 goals at this point in the season in his ranking, that certainly should bring a lot of attention to him," Tippett said.

"You have to recognize with him is that the goals he's scored with us are huge goals. He's been a factor to where we are. To me, those are the kind of players that should get saluted in the All-Star game."

DUCKS
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey - Rod Pelley - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Lubomir Visnovsky - Luca Sbisa
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed that backup goalie Dan Ellis will be out longer than the four-week period that the team initially announced.

Ellis has a groin injury that he told The Orange County Register was a tear.
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POSTED ON Friday, 01.13.2012 / 3:00 PM

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

Day after big hit, Kopitar says he's feeling OK

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar said he is OK after he was knocked out of Thursday night's game by Dallas captain Brenden Morrow.

Kopitar spoke briefly to a few reporters after the team's off-ice workout on Friday morning and said he felt good.

Would he have skated if the Kings practiced?

"I feel good so I don't see a reason why not," Kopitar said. "The bottom line is I feel good. I don't have any issues."

Kopitar was sent crashing into the end boards in a spectacular shoulder hit by Morrow with about eight minutes remaining in the third period. He was prone on the ice before he left on his own power although he appeared to favor a shoulder.

The Kings later announced it as an upper-body injury. Kopitar indicated that he was put in a quiet room but that it was all precautionary.

Asked if he thought Kopitar would play on Saturday in Calgary, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, "Assuming we had practice today, he would practice. That's the way I look at it."

Kopitar, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last March, was thankful to come out of it unharmed.

"It could have been worse, for sure," Kopitar said. "It's something I have to put behind me."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 3:29 PM

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

Quick earns first All-Star nod

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – What has been known for quite some time became reality Thursday: Jonathan Quick is an All-Star goalie.

Probably the only thing surprising about the announcement is that this is Quick’s first All-Star selection. Quick was informed on the ice during the morning skate.

The only other Kings goalies to earn the honor are Terry Sawchuk, Rogie Vachon and Mario Lessard.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Quick said. “I’m looking forward to do it at the end of the month. … It’s something I’m looking forward to. It’ll be a great time, a good couple of days. But that’s a couple of weeks away here. We’ve got a lot to do here in the next couple of weeks.”

Quick typically downplayed his selection and repeatedly said his focus is on Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Stars.

It is that focus that has propelled Quick to an outstanding first half.

He entered Thursday ranked in the top five in the NHL with a 1.93 goals-against average and .934 save percentage with a league-leading six shutouts in 35 starts.

That’s even more impressive considering Quick has little margin for error backstopping the worst offense in the NHL. L.A. has averaged just 2.09 goals per game this season.

“He’s had to be on every night,” Matt Greene said. “He can’t have an off night. That’s hard to do with his position when you play as much as he does, and he’s done it for us. If you look around, there’s not a lot of teams that score as much as we do and still be in the playoff hunt. He’s been awesome.”

Quick has been particularly hot under coach Darryl Sutter with a 6-1-2 record, 1.18 GAA and .948 save percentage in his last nine starts (Sutter is 6-1-3 with the Kings).

Prior to coming to L.A., Sutter was mostly aware of Quick through his statistics. But Sutter knows the
background on Quick, 25, a third round draft pick who won the job over the more highly-regarded Jonathan Bernier in the 2008-09 season.

“It’s nice to see,” Sutter said. “A guy that’s come the hard way, paid his dues and he’s having a great season. He should be there.”

Voynov in: Defenseman Slava Voynov will return to the lineup from an upper-body injury, Sutter said.
Voynov gives Los Angeles a much-needed offensive presence, particularly on the power play. Voynov has four goals and six assists with a plus-two rating in 24 games as a rookie.

Alec Martinez will likely be scratched to make room for Voynov.

Sutter’s new home: In an odd anecdote to the coaching change in L.A., Sutter on Tuesday moved in to the residence of former Kings coach Terry Murray.

Asked if Murray showed him how to run the microwave, Sutter quipped, “I’m not very good at any of that stuff.”

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Tom Wandell - Loui Eriksson
Eric Nystrom - Radek Dvorak  -Vernon Fiddler
Jake Dowell - Toby Petersen - Adam Burish

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Sheldon Souray - Mark Fistric

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 4:00 PM

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

Selanne's latest milestone: 1,300th career game

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It will be the 1,300th game for Teemu Selanne and likely the third goalie in two games for the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.

Selanne will become the fourth active player to reach 1,300 games when the Ducks host the Dallas Stars, putting him in company with Nicklas Lidstrom, Roman Hamrlik and Jaromir Jagr.

Selanne will also become the ninth European-born and second Finnish-born player after Teppo Numminen to do so.

"A couple of guys reminded me today," Selanne said. "There's maybe some money on the board. They don't forget stuff like that."

On a serious note, Selanne has been Anaheim's most productive forward at 41. He leads the Ducks with 39 points and is second with 6 power-play goals.

His balky knee, which has been the major obstacle to continuing his career, has held up. And despite Anaheim's awful season, Selanne said he's still having fun.

"Obviously it has been more frustrating than before, but still that has been my goal to come here every day and enjoy it," he said. "It's easier when you win, but still in the morning when I leave from home I still have a place to come, so that's how it should be and they're happy.

"If you can't stay healthy, you can't have fun and you can't have success either. That's the main thing, just try to stay healthy."

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau inherited Selanne when he became coach Nov. 30, but he's followed him throughout his career.

"He sure has done the test of time and deserves everything he gets," Boudreau said. "You guys know as I do, he's a better person than he is a player, and he's a great player. The goals he's gotten, the highlights that I've seen from his younger days, I mean they're still in the top 10s of best goals ever.

"I told him today that Gordie Howe played until he was in his 50s, so I don't see what your problem is."

Hiller out:
Jonas Hiller was not ready to skate two days after he suffered a lower-body injury against Columbus.

Boudreau did not name a starter, but he sounded like it would be Jeff Deslauriers, who came off the ice first after he arrived from the East Coast late Monday night.

Anaheim initially recalled Iiro Tarkki, who was forced into his first NHL game Sunday when Hiller got hurt. Tarkki has had better numbers than Deslauriers in AHL-affiliate Syracuse, but Deslauriers has 58 games of NHL experience.

"I've seen him play great and I've seen him play not so great," Boudreau said. "Let's hope it's the former and more than the latter."

Dallas defenseman Sheldon Souray said a new goalie puts an emphasis on shots.

"It just stresses the important a little more of getting pucks on net and not being to selective," Souray said. "Sometimes young goalies have a tendency to either be a little over-excited or a little nervous or both. Sometimes they try to overplay things, but we've seen it before, too, that they're so amped up that they play great."

Souray in: Souray will return to the lineup after he missed three games with an ankle injury.

"He's going to be a go tonight," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "The decision for us now is seven D. We don't think he's up for the 22-minute mark where he normally is, but if we can get 16 good minutes out of him, a little bit of a play."

Wandell in for Ribeiro:
With Mike Ribeiro out with a knee injury, Jamie Benn will center the first line with Steve Ott and Michael Ryder while Tom Wandell will center the second line with Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson.
Wandell has points in four straight games.

"It's a great opportunity for him," Gulutzan said. "He's going to have to not change his game and keep doing the things that made him successful."

Ribeiro took a knee-on-knee hit from Edmonton's Theo Peckham on Saturday. Gulutzan said an MRI on Ribeiro's knee revealed an MCL tear, but Gulutzan added that Ribeiro has an old MCL tear so that "pollutes the waters a little bit of what's actually there."

"He's limping around, but Ribs thinks he can play. But we have to make sure that he's stable enough that he's not going to get an injury there."
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 3:58 PM

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

Projected lineups for Stars, Ducks

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Dallas Stars visit the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center:

STARS

Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Tom Wandell - Loui Eriksson
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen - Jake Dowell - Adam Burish

Stephane Robidas - Alex Goligoski
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Sheldon Souray - Adam Pardy

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

DUCKS

Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Andrew Cogliano - Nick Bonino
Matt Beleskey - Rod Pelley - Kyle Palmieri

Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Lubomir Visnovsky - Luca Sbisa
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jeff Deslauriers
Iiro Tarkki
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POSTED ON Monday, 01.09.2012 / 4:06 PM

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

Capitals' Backstrom, Green return home

LOS ANGELES -- The Capitals sent leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green back to Washington on Monday morning in a surprise move, given that at least Backstrom was considered closer to returning from a head injury.

Washington coach Dale Hunter didn't offer much explanation after the morning skate. He indicated that neither has suffered a setback.

"Right now there's no sense having them on an all-night flight and you get them home early and get a workout in tomorrow," Hunter said. "They're basically day-to-day. We're being cautious."

Backstrom was elbowed by Rene Bourque last Tuesday. He missed Thursday's game, but resumed practice and was thought to become available. In a reversal, he did not skate over the weekend.

Green left Saturday's game with tightness in his groin and did not skate Sunday. It was only his second game back from a strained groin muscle that forced him out of 23 games.

Hunter said they would decide Monday night on the flight home if Backstrom and Green will skate Tuesday. Asked if he would hold out Backstom against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Hunter said, "It's too early to tell right now. Basically with something like this, basically it's day-to-day."

Key matchup:
Washington's seventh-ranked power play will go up against a Los Angeles Kings' No. 2-ranked penalty-killing unit that has killed 34 straight penalties.

L.A. is also known for low-scoring, tight affairs. Three of its past five games have been decided by 1-0 scores.

"We don't anticipate a 6-5 game," Brooks Laich said. "You look at the scores of the games that they're in, they're pretty tight. There's not going to be a lot of room out there. If we can keep it close, and (get) a power-play goal … we also have talent that can score goals and change a game. If we're in a close game we'll feel pretty comfortable with it."

Bernier to start:
Jonathan Bernier is expected to get a rare start in goal, according to lakingsinsider.com. That's a curveball considering that Jonathan Quick is one of the hottest goalies in the NHL with a 6-1-3 record, 1.18 goals-against average and .955 save percentage over his last 10 games.

How much film of Bernier has Washington seen?

"Not a whole lot," Laich said. "I think they've got two very good goaltenders. We obviously don't see him very much. We'll pre-scout him a little bit tonight, we always do. So we'll see a little bit more of him (on tape) tonight."

Kings shuffle lines:
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter will likely mix up his lines again after the Kings were shut out for the fifth time this season, a 1-0 loss to Columbus last Saturday.

Mike Richards goes back to his second line center position while Justin Williams has been bumped up to first line right wing in an attempt to spark center Anze Kopitar.

Jarret Stoll goes from his usual center spot to right wing on the third line.
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POSTED ON Monday, 01.09.2012 / 4:00 PM

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

Projected lineups for Capitals, Kings

LOS ANGELES -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Washington Capitals visit the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center:

CAPITALS

Alexander Semin - Marcus Johnansson - Mike Knuble
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perrault - Jay Beagle

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Dennis Wideman
John Erskine - Dmitri Orlov

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene
Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick
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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery