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Posted On Friday, 05.11.2012 / 4:38 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Smith's puck-handling ability a challenge for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the memorable plays from the Phoenix Coyotes' 1-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 16 was goaltender Mike Smith nearly scoring on the empty net with a length-of-the-ice clear in the waning seconds.

Smith is known for his deft puck-handling, and the Kings will have to limit his activity and possession time in the Western Conference Finals, which start Sunday.

"If he's going to be a third defenseman and he's going to be breaking them out of the zone all day, then we're not going to get the sustained pressure that we want," Justin Williams said.

"Certainly, the less he handles the puck the better off we are."

Smith's puck-handling can get him into trouble, too, in the form of turnovers and stray or poor clears. But it hasn't cost Smith much against L.A. He had a 1.76 goals-against average against the Kings this season, with nine goals allowed in five games.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Smith also presents a physical challenge as well.

"He's huge," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Obviously he's worked hard on his game. The one thing you can't teach is size. There are times when he makes a save, we get good traffic on him, he goes into his stance or whatever you want to call it and the puck just hits him because he's so big. That's not something you can teach. The fact that he's as big as he is, makes it even more difficult for us.

"He's pretty good at staying above, looking above guys. He goes down and probably gives more room up top. He's able to track the puck really well again, because of his size. He plays as little deeper in his net, which has its advantages and disadvantages. For a guy that big, it gives him that extra second to react to the puck. Like I said, he's on top of his game right now. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 5:46 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings practice while continuing to play waiting game

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings are finding out the downside to their efficient march through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It’s kind of like a Tom Petty song: The waiting is the hardest part.

It will have been one week from their elimination of the St. Louis Blues until the puck drops on Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The necessity of a seventh game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals on Saturday extended the time. L.A. has been back at practice for three days.

"From a player's standpoint, if we could play tomorrow, we would," captain Dustin Brown said. "Practice is one thing, a game's another, especially at this time of year. We're getting all the rest we need. But it's been a while. Not only that, these are exciting games to be a part of and we just want to keep going."

Coach Darryl Sutter is obsessed with schedule and his practice routine leading up to a series. The 5 p.m. Pacific start time for Game 1 means the Kings will likely practice in Phoenix on Saturday because Sutter won't have a morning skate on Sunday.

Sutter also thinks like a player, so he understands the challenge this week brings for him and his players.

"They're anxious," Sutter said. "It's normal, right? They're used to playing every second or third day."

L.A. is coming off an emotional Game 4 victory against St. Louis that propelled it to the conference finals for the first time since 1993. Sutter said the Kings have done well to quickly put it past them and focus on the next round.

He held an optional skate Tuesday, put them through conditioning drills Wednesday and did one-on-one drills Thursday.

"A little bit of recovery for some guys that are banged-up," Sutter said of this week. "Some of the older guys have two-and-a-half days without skating. You always wonder what that means. But quite honestly, you have communication with them and see how they feel about it. That's the most important part. So then you get back to practice and you reinforce some stuff. You reinforce Phoenix and what they've been doing differently."

Brown isn't worried about having to ramp up the energy and emotion after sitting around for a week. The Kings don’t need any more motivation at this point.

"It's one thing if we're sitting here after All-Star break, it's a little harder to get going for game whatever it is," Brown said. "We're talking Game 1 of the Western finals, so the emotion, the hard work will be there. It's a matter of knocking the rust off right -- the only way to do that is to get involved in the game."

Sutter, meanwhile, went to Dodger Stadium for the first time Wednesday night and was awed by the venerable venue.

"I'd love to go back when we're not playing because of all the history," Sutter said. "It's pretty awesome."

Sutter said he was a "huge" Chicago Cubs fan when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I like baseball and I like the history part, too," he said. "It was good to see that."
Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 5:42 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Richards conflicted to see Flyers get knocked out

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards was somewhat conflicted when he watched the Philadelphia Flyers get eliminated from the postseason.

A former Flyers captain, Richards remains friends with his former teammates and still thinks positively of the city even though the Flyers traded him amid rumors of his alleged partying. The good memories are of those teammates.

"You always wish them the best and you never want to go against a team, especially when you have a lot of friends down there," Richards said. "It's a city that's given me a lot, so you always hope the best for them. Obviously we have a long ways to go before we even get there, but I know for [L.A. teammate and former Flyer Jeff Carter] and me, it would be a little bit awkward if we had to back there and play in the first year back. It would have been a little bit weird."

On the other hand, Richards gets to see his former coach Peter DeBoer of the New Jersey Devils move on.

"I had him for four years in Kitchener [of the OHL] and how good a coach he is and how he got the team ready for them, and how demanding he is as a coach and how smart he is," Richards said. "I'm not surprised by that. They're obviously well-coached and they've stuck to their game plan to a tee. It's kind of fun to watch, how fast they were, and whoever plays them in the next round is going to have their hands full."
Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings getting contributions up and down lineup

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals saw Los Angeles Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov and veteran blueliner Matt Greene each score his first career playoff goal.

Game 3 saw rookie Dwight King pot his first playoff goal. Game 4? King's rookie roommate, Jordan Nolan, snapped home a loose puck for his first playoff goal.

Fifteen of 18 skaters have scored a goal for L.A. in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and 17 have recorded a point. The team's third and fourth lines have scored six goals. In other words, it's precisely the dynamic of championship teams.

"I think you look at lines three and four -- everybody's outscoring their opposition," Justin Williams said.

"Our third line has scored more than their line. Our fourth line has scored more than their fourth line. We're going to need solid contributions from everybody. That's what playoffs is. Sometimes if there's a couple of lines, they offset each other and it's the so-called unsung heroes who get the stuff done."

Williams and a handful of other Kings players that have won the Stanley Cup would know, having been on teams that got scoring depth throughout the lineup.

It's not just the forwards. Greene, who had four goals and 15 points in 82 regular season games, has one goal and four points in nine playoff games. He had more points (four) in the semifinal series victory against St. Louis than Blues winger Andy McDonald (three).

Willie Mitchell has a goal and an assist, and of course Drew Doughty leads the defensemen with one goal and six assists, including a three-point game in Game 4 against St. Louis. The only player that hasn't recorded a point is Colin Fraser.

"The other team can't just say, 'Well, if we shut down the top two lines we have a good chance of winning' because we have two other lines that score," Penner said. "But for us, if all four lines that can score, we've got D that can score … that's what you need to go deep in the playoffs, is contributions from every position."

If there's any surprise to the offensive output, it's that of Nolan and King, who were recalled from the American Hockey League on Feb.10. Both were brought up for their size -- Nolan is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds and King is 6-3, 234 -- and they weren't necessarily depended on for scoring.

But both have chipped in, in a fourth-line role for Nolan and a second- and third-line role for King. Nolan is the son of former NHL head coach Ted Nolan, while King is brothers with NHL forward D.J. King.

Sutter said he wasn't surprised at how they've adjusted to playoff-level hockey.

"They have handled it really well," Sutter said. "The best part about those two kids is probably their background. As we've gone along we've had to manage their minutes, obviously, because there is a more intense environment, but they've done a good job of giving us those minutes."

King and Nolan are still living in a hotel near the team's practice facility. Nolan is doing the cooking, although King said "we've been going out more" recently.

Penner said he's been impressed by their maturity and that it hasn't gone unnoticed in the dressing room.

"I think there's a sense of pride for the older guys watching the young guy come along that quickly, and buy in and appreciate where they are now," Penner said. "They've earned their keep."
Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:08 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Former teammates on Cup champ are now rivals

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the connections between the Kings and the Coyotes is that Los Angeles forward Justin Williams played with Phoenix forward Ray Whitney on the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes team that beat the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup.

Asked what he remembered about Whitney, Williams said, "He wasn't 40 -- putting up a lot of points as he is right now. But he was a big part of our team in '06, and certainly a huge part of their team right now. He's going to demand a lot of our attention. We're going to have to be hard on him, because he's a guy that can certainly have an impact on the series."

Whitney has two goals, including one game-winner, and six points in the playoffs.
Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:02 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes present familiar challenge for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Western Conference Semifinals were supposed to be a clash of similar styles with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues both based on defense, goaltending and physical play.

The Phoenix Coyotes present more of the same, although there might be more even-strength play between the teams considering that the Coyotes average the fourth-fewest penalty minutes per game (9.5). They also entered Wednesday with the second-most five-on-five goals (22).

One aspect is that the teams have not played since Feb. 21, and the Kings know the Coyotes have since changed.

"They're very similar to us in the way that they play from a structure standpoint -- strong defense, strong goaltending," Brown said.

"The game plan is no secret that we need to get in on the forecheck. It's going to be the same as playing St. Louis … maybe we exposed St. Louis' goaltending a little bit, but at this time of year, it's about hard work, getting on the forecheck, making it hard on their guys that play a lot of minutes. [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson plays 30 minutes a game. It's important for us to get on him. We have to wear on guys like that throughout the series, and the other guy we got to really make it hard on is Mike Smith."
Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:50 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Big day for two Nolans

EL SEGINDO, Calif. -- Kings rookie Jordan Nolan scored his first career playoff goal Sunday. On the other side of the globe his father, Ted, coached Latvia to a 3-2 victory over Germany in the World Championship in Stockholm.

Jordan Nolan said his father was able to call him at about 10 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday night, and his father gave him the message of "Congratulations. You're working hard out there. Keep it up,'" Jordan Nolan said.

Jordan Nolan gave L.A. a 1-0 lead in Game 4 by snapping home a loose puck near the inside edge of the right circle. It was only his third goal since he was recalled from Manchester of the AHL on Feb. 10.

"A lot of excitement," Jordan Nolan said. "I didn't want to celebrate too much, though."

Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Lineups for Kings-Blues Game 4

St. Louis is expected to bring in Ryan Reaves on the fourth line, in place of B.J. Crombeen, and Ian Cole on defense in place of Carlo Colaiacovo.

Cole practiced with Kevin Shattenkirk while Alex Pietrangelo was with Barret Jackman in practice, although that could change. Cole and Shattenkirk have played together on U.S. developmental under-17 and under-18 world junior teams.

Brian Elliott will take the net again after he allowed four goals in Game 3. He is 0-3 with a 3.75 goals-against average and .845 save percentage in the series. Coach Ken Hitchcock on Saturday declined to talk about Elliott bouncing back.

"I don't want to go there," Hitchcock said.

Chris Stewart voiced his support behind Elliott.

"He had one bad game and he's battled for us all year," Stewart said. "If it wasn't for him or [Jaroslav Halak] we wouldn't be in the position we are this year. I don't think one bad game is going to sum up our year. We're going to battle for him."


Andy McDonald - David Backes - Matt D'Agostini
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Alex Pietrangelo - Barret Jackman
Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen


Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 7:02 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Hitchcock to alter Blues' lineup for Game 4

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If the St. Louis Blues can't go through the Los Angeles Kings, they will try to go around them.

Ryan Reaves
Right Wing - STL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 1 | +/-: 0
That's sort of the reason that St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock will tinker with his lineup again in the Western Conference Semifinals. Hitchcock said Saturday that he will insert Ryan Reaves on the fourth line and Ian Cole on defense for Game 4 on Sunday at Staples Center.

Reaves will likely replace B.J. Crombeen, while Cole will come in for Carlo Colaiacovo.

"More size, more speed – keep pulling speed into the lineup and it works," Hitchcock said. [Matt D'Agostini] was good. Obviously, [Chris Stewart] was good. [Reaves] brings more speed, more size and just keep trying to get better. ... We're close. The last game was our best game. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better."
Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 7:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Blues struggle against team that mirrors them

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The series has played out the way Blues coach Ken Hitchcock envisioned in that his team is running into a Kings club that has been dialed in since late February-early March.

L.A. had to come on like gangbusters just to get the eighth seed, and now the Kings' grinding style is perfectly suited for the playoffs against a team that plays the same way.

"I think we're getting done to us what we've done to teams all year," Hitchcock said. "I think we're getting it done to us. It's how do we react to this now?

"Everybody that watched the West saw this coming around 65-66 games. I think we all saw this coming. We saw it before we got here. The game 75 [on March 22] that was here was better than any of these games of these playoffs so far. We were on top of it. They were on top of it. It ended up 0-0 (the Kings won 1-0 in a shootout). … When we left the Staples Center we all said, 'Man, whoever gets that team in the playoffs got their hands full.'"

Said forward Jamie Langenbrunner," They're playing a very sound, smart, controlled game. They're forcing us to make mistakes and we've been the one to crack in every game -- and that's kind of been our calling card all year."

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— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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