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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 3:54 PM

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

Projected lineups for Avalanche, Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here are how the lines could look for tonight's game between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center:

AVALANCHE
TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - Daniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Chuck Kobasew - Jay McClement - David Jones
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

KINGS
Mike Richards - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
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 Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 4:29 PM

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

Doughty feeling strong, confident

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – At first glance, it would appear that coach Darryl Sutter has sparked something in Drew Doughty.

The Los Angeles Kings defenseman has 5 points with a plus-3 rating in five games under Sutter. He also looks more active with 18 shots on goal and only 10 giveaways in that span going into Saturday's game against Vancouver.

But Doughty said he's felt a lot better for a few weeks.

"I feel like my last 15 games I've played really well," said Doughty, who has tied a career-high with points in five straight games. "Even when (former coach) Terry (Murray) was still here, I was playing some real good hockey. The points were going in for me. Since Darryl got here, the points started to happen so I feel that people are thinking that I'm playing better, but at the same time they don't realize the other things I was doing to get points.

"I felt like maybe I was struggling for a little bit there, but the last 15 games I don't think I've had a bad game."

Doughty missed training camp because of a lengthy contract negotiation and then he hurt his shoulder. It wasn't until the Nov.26 game against Chicago that he began to get back to really being physical.

"Coming back from a shoulder injury, that was tough to do. I came back slow but I definitely got my legs back under me."

Doughty also said he's ready to re-assume his role as a team leader.

"I just realized this team wants to be where we think we should be, every one of us needs to step up our game," he said. "That starts from our top players and I expect myself to be a top player every night. So I know I need to lead this team on and off the ice. If I do that, everyone will kind of pull up their socks and we'll turn this team around."

Kings power play struggling: Sutter is charged with improving the Kings' power play, which has converted only twice in its past 12 games (2-for-42).

Sutter interrupted a question about it to opine that he's seeing good things.

"Our power play's awesome," Sutter said. "Other than the 5-on-3 in the two games we just played ... in Chicago we had six minutes on the power play in the first period and had 12 shots. The next part is you and me tipping one in."

Sutter and the Kings will have their hands full against a seventh-ranked Vancouver penalty killing unit. He used a basketball analogy to describe what they need to do.

"The one thing we're trying to do more is get guys in the middle of the ice," he said. "We're a real perimeter power play – fadeaway jumpers."

Intriguing matchup: Saturday's game features a hot Canucks team, with the No.1-ranked power play, against a Kings team that is 3-0-2 under Sutter with the fourth-ranked penalty killing unit.

"At the beginning of the season, everybody predicted this was going to be one of the better teams in our conference," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think a lot of people still feel that way. There’s a lot of talent, a lot of upside on that team, and it's going to be a good game for us."

Higgins update: Vigneault said forward Chris Higgins is taking antibiotics for what is believed to be a staph infection in his hand.

"I think they're going to see how that reacts this morning, and if it's good, I think him and David (Booth) might skate today," Vigneault said. "Then we'll see how they'll react today and tomorrow."

Luongo vs. Quick: Roberto Luongo will start against Jonathan Quick. Including the playoffs, Luongo is 6-1-1 in his last eight starts against L.A. Quick is 3-7-1 lifetime in the regular season against the Canucks, but carries a 2.17 goals-against average in those 11 games.

Here are the lines and pairings:

Canucks
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond-Ryan Kesler-Jannik Hansen
Dale Weise-Cody Hodgson-Andrew Ebbett
Mark Mancari-Manny Malhotra-Maxim Lapierre

Kevin Bieksa-Dan Hamhuis
Alex Edler-Sami Salo
Keith Ballard-Andrew Alberts

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

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

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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:14 PM

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

Koivu 'doubtful' to return for Ducks tonight

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It appears that the Anaheim Ducks will have to wait longer to get one of their top two-way players and faceoff men back.

Saku Koivu was thought to be closer to returning from a groin injury but he might need a few more days. Anaheim hosts Vancouver on Thursday night.

"Did you see him staying out there and doing extra skating?" Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau asked reporters after the morning skate.

"He's doubtful for tonight."

If Koivu can't go, Nick Bonino will likely resume Koivu's place as the second line center between Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne.

Bonino is among the younger players that Boudreau wanted to evaluate. He has only 4 points in 41 career NHL games, but those 41 games have been spread out in stints.

"We're putting him in a position to get success as far as playing with Bobby and Teemu," Boudreau said.

"And I thought he played really well (Monday) in San Jose. He set up some really good opportunities. I think a lot of that stuff comes with a little bit of confidence and the opportunity that he's getting a chance to play."

Big test: Anaheim is trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 16-17, and the challenge doesn’t get much bigger than Vancouver. The Ducks beat the Canucks, 4-3, on Nov. 11, but a lot has changed.

"When they got (Ryan) Kesler going really well, it adds a new dimension to their game," Boudreau said. "And (Roberto) Luongo going really well -- he definitely didn't look like the goalie that Washington faced in October."

Luongo is 9-2-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average in December after he backstopped a 3-2 overtime win against San Jose on Wednesday night.

Vancouver, which did not practice Thursday, is expected to start Cory Schneider in goal. But Boudreau acknowledged that the Canucks look much different overall than when he saw them on Oct. 29 as Washington coach.

"It looks like, when they get out there, they feel they can score every time," Boudreau said. "Their penalty killing, when needed, shuts teams down … when you have that combination and kind of confidence, you can come into a building and dictate the way you want to play. They look like they've got all that confidence."

Beleskey thriving:
Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey seems to be thriving under Boudreau.

The winger has all five of his points this season under the new coach. Beleskey briefly played with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry earlier in his career, but he’s been used on the third line with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon.

"For the last few games, he's been playing harder and competing harder," Boudreau said. "And when you compete harder, you get opportunity. And he's getting opportunities to score, he's getting chances and he's checking. And he's getting involved. He's gotten in two fights, I think, in the last five or six games. When you get involved and you get engaged in the game then opportunities will come."

Blake closer:
Anaheim winger Jason Blake has been skating with the club and could be ahead of schedule on his projected mid-January return from a severe laceration of his left wrist, suffered Oct.14 when San Jose's Brent Burns accidentally stepped on him.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:10 PM

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

Projected lineups for Canucks, Ducks

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

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen
Dale Weise - Cody Hodgson - Andrew Ebbett
Mark Mancari - Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre

Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis
Sami Salo - Alexander Edler
Keith Ballard - Andrew Alberts

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo

DUCKS
Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Andrew Cogliano - Andrew Gordon
Jean-Francois Jacques - Rod Pelley - George Parros

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

Jonas Hiller
Dan Ellis
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 3:10 PM

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

Projected lineups for Coyotes, Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here are how the lineups could look tonight when the Los Angeles Kings host the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center:

COYOTES
Lauri Korpikoski - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres - Cal O'Reilly - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko - Rostislav Klesla
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival

Jason LaBarbera
Mike Smith

KINGS

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

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

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 3:46 PM

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

Sutter gets game-day experience with Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It was a different game-day experience on multiple levels for Darryl Sutter on Thursday morning.

Besides being with a new team, Sutter wasn't quite used to having the morning skate at one venue and then playing a home game at another.

"I'm almost feeling today like we're on the road again," Sutter said.

Sutter otherwise was ready for his debut as coach of the Los Angeles Kings, who play the rival Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center.

Among Sutter's points of emphasis is improving the Kings' 8-9-1 record at home, and he expects energy at the puck drop in front of an expected sellout crowd.

"I think we're ready to go," Sutter said. "If you look at our season, we've struggled at home, right? We need to get out of the gate and get all our lines and all our defensemen playing well at the start. That's what I want to see."

Players almost view this first game as an audition for Sutter, and they obviously want to make a good impression.

"Everyone wants to kind of show him the kind of things they can do and maybe where they want to be in the lineup," defenseman Drew Doughty said.

"I think we'll have a lot of energy tonight. It's going to be a lot of fun playing behind a new coach and to finally be at home against the Ducks, it will be a lot more intense game than usual."

Sutter wasn't worried about them possibly being too amped up.

"I think we've been through that," he said. "You've got to harness it a little bit. I think, at the same time, if we can go with that group of lines that we've been using, I think we have enough veteran presence on each line that we can handle it."

Richards returns: Mike Richards was activated off injured reserve and will return to the lineup for the first time since he suffered a head injury on Dec. 1.

"I'm excited to play again," Richards said. "It's frustrating, I think, sitting in the dressing room and not being able to do anything to help. I'm looking forward to playing tonight."

Sutter has pointed to the absence of Richards for a large portion of the Kings' offensive struggles.

Despite missing eight games, Richards is their leading goal-scorer with 11. Two of those have come shorthanded.
The Kings are 2-6-0 without Richards and 13-8-4 with him.

Said Doughty, "We miss him at both ends of the ice."

Los Angeles does not have to send someone down to make room for Richards because the holiday roster freeze allows 24 players on the roster.

New lineup:
Sutter changed the lines significantly by putting Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis in top-six forward roles.

Richardson is with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown on the top line while Lewis is with Richards and Simon Gagne on the second line.

With many of their top players failing to produce, Sutter is looking for consistency with the veterans and contributions from younger ones.

"I know the veterans," Sutter said. "I know they're going to come around … the younger players have struggled to score, too. You give them the opportunity. Why not? That's what your background is. Put them together, maybe it rubs off one way or the other. I think if you look at our schedule, it's pretty busy. You're not going to rely on just one or two lines. We're going to have to count on everybody."

Sutter-Boudreau connection:
Sutter played with Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau on the AHL's New Brunswick Hawks (which also had Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson) in 1978-79 and in Chicago during Boudreau's brief stint with the Blackhawks. Sutter also played with Ducks general manager Bob Murray in Chicago.

"I got to believe they'll play their best game of the year," Boudreau told the Orange County Register. "When they get a new coach, especially one with the reputation of being a tough taskmaster and an intimidator like Darryl is, they'll put their best foot forward."
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Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 3:44 PM

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

Projected lineups for Kings, Ducks

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here are the potential lineups for when the Los Angeles Kings host the Anaheim Ducks tonight at Staples Center in Darryl Sutter's debut behind the LA bench:

KINGS

Brad Richardson - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

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

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

DUCKS
Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Bobby Ryan - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Gordon - Rod Pelley - George Parros

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

Jonas Hiller
Dan Ellis


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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:49 PM

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

No Koivu again for Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Ducks will be without center Saku Koivu (lower body) for a second straight game, according to coach Bruce Boudreau. However, captain Ryan Getzlaf, who missed Tuesday's practice with flu, skated this morning and will play tonight.

Here's what the lineups likely will look like when the Ducks and Coyotes meet tonight at Honda Center.

COYOTES
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Kyle Turris - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Michal Rozsival - David Schlemko

Mike Smith will start in goal, with Jason LaBarbera the backup.

DUCKS
Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Bobby Ryan - Teemu Selanne
Andrew Gordon - Maxime Macenauer - Kyle Palmieri
Matt Beleskey - Rod Pelley - George Parros

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

Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Dan Ellis the backup.

It's expected Lubomir Visnovsky will play for the Ducks for the first time since Nov. 11, when he broke a finger.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:43 PM

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

Visnovsky likely to return for Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Lubomir Visnovsky is expected to return to the lineup for the Anaheim Ducks tonight.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said Visnovsky will be a game-time decision, but Visnovsky has pronounced himself fit to play.

"I told (Boudreau) I'm ready," Visnovsky said after the morning skate.

Visnovsky suffered a broken finger when he blocked a shot in the final seconds to help seal a win against Vancouver on Nov. 11.

Visnovsky, who led all NHL defensemen in scoring last season, had a poor start before injury, but the Ducks miss his offensive skills, particularly on the power play.

Defense partner Cam Fowler has admitted to struggling while trying to make up for Visnovsky's role as the team's primary puck-mover and minutes-eater.

Visnovsky averages 23:36 of ice time per game, and Boudreau doesn't believe in easing him back in to the lineup.

"If he's ready to play, I anticipate him to be as a good as he can," Boudreau said. "I don't believe in guys giving an excuse already-made that 'I haven't played in a while and it's going to take time.' If you're ready to play in the National Hockey League, you better be ready to play."
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Posted On Saturday, 12.10.2011 / 4:04 PM

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

Bachman gets first NHL start for Dallas

LOS ANGELES – Richard Bachman will make his first NHL start Saturday night when the Dallas Stars play the Los Angeles Kings.

Bachman has made two appearances at the NHL level, including a relief appearance Thursday against San Jose, and stopped all 15 shots he’s faced in 30 minutes of action.

Andrew Raycroft has struggled with five goals allowed in each of his past two starts. The Stars are in the middle of a cross-country road trip, and it makes sense to give the nod to Bachman.

“We wanted to get him in on a game here on this trip,” Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We thought with a day’s rest, we’ll give him an honest look. We told him last night that he was going to go.”

Gulutzan coached Bachman with the team’s AHL affiliate Texas Stars, where Bachman was the No. 1 goaltender.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, Bachman is a basic standup goalie. Gulutzan doesn’t expect there to much adjustment with teammates.

“We’ve let him get comfortable with us, and guys know him,” Gulutzan said. “You look at some of the young guys around the league that have gotten an opportunity and done well. We know what we have in the American Hockey League, and this is kind of the natural progression for him.”

This will be the second straight game that the Kings have faced a goalie making his first NHL start. Minnesota’s Matt Hackett made 42 saves Thursday.

Bernier to start:
Jonathan Bernier is expected to make his sixth start this season for L.A. Bernier took the loss in a Dec. 3 game against Montreal despite only two goals allowed.
Jonathan Quick is 2-0-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average in two meetings against the Stars this season but the Kings might want to rest him with a four-game road trip coming up after Saturday.

Lehtonen update: Kari Lehtonen started skating Saturday for the first time, Gulutzan said, and will likely return after Christmas at the earliest.

Lehtonen has been out since Nov. 26 with a groin injury. Adam Burish (hand) won’t be joining the team on the trip but will be “very close when he gets back,” Gulutzan said.

Mitchell returns: Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell is expected to return to the lineup from a groin injury.

Brad Richardson is expected to come back into the lineup after he was scratched the previous eight games.

Ethan Moreau, a former captain with the Edmonton Oilers, was waived Friday in order to make room for the other moves. Moreau cleared waivers Saturday.

Mike Richards is eligible to come off injured reserve but he only started skating Friday and there is no timetable for his return from a possible concussion, although the team isn’t using that terminology.

L.A. is 0-3 since Richards suffered a head injury against Florida on Dec.3.

Nicholls honored: Former King Bernie Nicholls will be honored in a ceremony before the game.

The Kings will wear their throwback purple-and-gold uniforms. Nicholls scored a franchise-record 70 goals playing with Wayne Gretzky in 1988-89.

STARS

Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski - Philip Larsen

Richard Bachman
Andrew Raycroft

KINGS

Dustin Penner - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne - Andrei Loktionov - Justin Williams
Brad Richardson - Jarret Stoll - Trent Hunter
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Kevin Westgarth

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

Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick

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Quote of the Day

I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley