Kovalchuk meeting in California, Lamoriello zings reporters

kovalchuk10.jpgIt wouldn’t be a complete day in the NHL off-season without some update on what’s going on with Ilya Kovalchuk. While we saw the rumors explode yesterday that Kovalchuk was headed to Los Angeles today to sign with the Kings, only to have them immediately shot down by mostly everyone, he is indeed in LA nonetheless. The LA Kings Insider Rich Hammond gives us the update with what could be looked into with Kovalchuk’s meeting with Kings GM Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles.

I noticed that Dean Lombardi didn’t repeat his very first comment, which was that Kovalchuk was visiting “just like any free agent would.” Well, I’ve been covering Lombardi’s transactions for four years, and this is the first I’ve heard of it. I know, for a fact, that Rob Scuderi didn’t come to L.A. when he signed last summer. So Kovalchuk’s mere presence here would suggest that there’s reason for mutual optimism between the Kings and Kovalchuk, given that they presumably seek to get a deal done, but it’s no slam dunk.

Optimism is a wonderful thing to have. I’m sure that Ilya doesn’t need to be sold on how wonderful southern California can be and the kind of city Los Angeles can be for a superstar that has great success there. Heck, just have him talk to Wayne Gretzky or Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant. That’s not to say that Rob Scuderi and Ilya Kovalchuk are even on the same planet as far as being a hotly pursued free agent go, however. The one thing about Scuderi and Kovalchuk that you could argue is similar is that they both look like obvious fits for the Kings that need to be addressed.

As for the New Jersey Devils, you know the other team in pursuit of Kovalchuk, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was asked for an update on how things are going in negotiations and came back with a classic zinger.

Nothing new on the Ilya Kovalchuk front.

“Everything is the same as it was the last three or four days,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “I don’t have anything to add to that.”

Lamoriello was asked if he is philosophically against signing a player to a contract 10 years or longer.

“I don’t think philosophically,” he responded.

I don’t think we can blame Lou for being a bit cranky with being asked about Kovalchuk so much, but if it’s going to lead to him landing a position as host of NHL celebrity roasts, I am all for it. That said, if Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman and Kovalchuk himself are looking for a great day to make a news splash signing a contract, especially if it were to be with the Kings (Hollywood and all that), doing it on Wednesday would be ideal. There’s little to nothing sports-wise going on as Major League Baseball is on its All-Star break and the only thing attempting to hog the attention of sports fans will be the supremely lame ESPY Awards.  Do it Ilya, grab that spotlight by the ears and yank.

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    Ducks cement Pacific lead as Getzlaf continues his mammoth March

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    By the end of Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks removed all doubt: they’re on top of the Pacific Division.

    Now, it’s not the sort of substantial lead that the sliding San Jose Sharks squandered; Anaheim merely leads the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers by two standings points after beating the New York Rangers 6-3.

    With everyone at 75 games played, it’s kind of nice to enjoy the clarity that comes with a clear lead (though the Sharks and Oilers will disagree):

    Pacific top four (all teams with 75 games played)

    1. Ducks – 93 points (38 ROW, 41 W)
    2. Sharks – 91 poitns (40 ROW, 42 W)
    3. Oilers – 91 points (37 ROW, 41 W)

    Flames – 88 points (38 ROW, 42 W)

    The Ducks are now on a four-game winning streak and managed an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 contests.

    With all due respect to Patrick Eaves‘ two goals, it’s Ryan Getzlaf who’s really playing outstanding hockey. He generated four assists in this one, giving him eight helpers in his past four games. He now has a whopping 20 points in March.

    A lot going on – fight included – between Corey Perry, Brendan Smith (Video)

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    If there’s one thing that’s undeniable from the clip going on, it’s that Corey Perry and Brendan Smith squeezed a lot of activity (carnage?) into a single shift.

    Early on in Sunday’s New York Rangers – Anaheim Ducks game, both player delivered hits that were at least borderline dangerous. After that, they traded punches in a pretty solid fight (especially since they seemed a little tired because, again, this was a fairly elaborate sequence).

    It’s way too messy a sequence to call neat, but there is something efficient about trading hits and then getting into a fight. That’s a mini-hockey feud in short order.

    If you want a pretty moment to counteract all that, check out the great puck movement on this 3-on-1 goal for the Rangers:

    Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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    PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

    While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

    The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

    Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

    With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

    They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

    On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

    The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

    “That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

    Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

    At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

    One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

    A year ago the Penguins did.

    Right now they are not even close to having that.

    Video: Dumoulin shakes off elbow, Sheary out day-to-day for Penguins

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    Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

    On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

    Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

    The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

    Update after the Penguins’ loss: Seemingly good news, if very early and vague: