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Kings cap off successful road trip with victory over rival Ducks

Things were not going well for the Los Angeles Kings a month ago. Coming off a 2-6 season-long homestand, they were staring a franchise-long 10 game road trip in the face. The road trip couldn’t have come at a worse time as they struggled at the beginning of the calendar year and were engaged in the tight Western Conference playoff race. Expectations were huge at the beginning of the season, yet this was a team trapped in 12th place in the race for the playoffs.

But just before the road trip, the team started showing signs that they were going to bounce back. A three-game winning streak, including wins against Boston and San Jose, gave fans a sense that the team would be able to compete. But it didn’t change the fact that the Kings were heading out on the road for almost a full month and had a poor road record.

Fast forward to tonight and things are looking much better for the Kings. With their win against the Ducks in Anaheim, LA wrapped up their North American trek with a 6-1-3 record. Taking it a bit further, the Kings have earned points in 12 of their last 13 games. In a tight race where every point counts, this stretch couldn’t have come at a better time for the Kings.

Just about every single game was a closely contested battle on the road trip. Three of the losses came in extra time (one loss in OT, two in shootouts), and two of their wins were in the shootout. Take away the five games that went to extra time, and the Kings had two additional 1-goal wins. Razor thin margins any way you cut it. The only game where the Kings were dominated was in Long Island last weekend as they were shutout 3-0. Who would have thought the only loss in regulation would have been to the Islanders?

Some of the pessimists will tell you the Kings are a flawed team that needs to score more. Over the road trip, they only averaged 2.1 goals per game. There’s no question that rate won’t translate to a successful record over time. But for a team built on defense, the more important number would be the 1.8 goals they’re allowing per game. Yes, they need to get a sniper for their top 6; but any time a team can hold their opponents to under 2 goals per game for an extended period of time, they’re going to continue to win.

Earning 15 out of a possible 20 points is easily the most important stat for the Kings after the road trip. Teams always want to dominate, but they’ve been winning the tight checking, low scoring games that we can expect in the playoffs. From that point of view, the road trip showed they could be a team to be reckoned with in April and May.

Unfortunately, there’s no rest for the weary in Southern California as the Kings face the Minnesota Wild on Thursday in another huge game with playoff implications. The teams are tied with 70 points and are currently holding the 5th and 6th places in the West. You’d think they’d deserve a little rest after such a long trip—but the rest will have to wait.

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    Canucks president doesn’t rule out acquiring a player with Evander Kane’s type of history

    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 01: Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up to play the Edmonton Oilers at First Niagara Center on March 1, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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    Trevor Linden didn’t mention Evander Kane by name, because, well, you know…

    But yesterday on the radio, the Vancouver Canucks’ president of hockey operations sure didn’t close the door on acquiring a player with Kane’s type of history.

    You can listen to the audio of Linden’s interview with TSN 1040 here. (The Kane discussion starts at around the 3:10 mark.)

    The main takeaway is that Linden refused to say that a player with a history of getting into trouble with the police would absolutely not be welcome on the Canucks.

    “I think with any situation, they’re all unique to themselves,” Linden said, before warning against the temptation to jump to conclusions prior to knowing all the facts.

    “Ultimately we’d prefer not to have that situation arise, certainly with our own players,” he added. “It’s a big world out there. Obviously, the challenges are significant for young guys who make a lot of money and get themselves into spots that they make mistakes.”

    The Kane speculation has been kicked into overdrive in Vancouver (where Kane was born and raised and played his junior hockey), despite the absence of any hard evidence that the Canucks are talking seriously with Buffalo about a deal.

    It’s been reported that the Sabres’ ability to sign Jimmy Vesey could impact their willingness to trade Kane. Vesey can’t make his decision until Aug. 15, so perhaps we’ll have to wait until then.

    But according to Canucks beat writer Jason Botchford (The Province), Kane is definitely on Vancouver’s radar.

    “There’s no doubt about it, the Vancouver Canucks are going to be in on Evander Kane,” Botchford told TSN 1040 radio. “Ownership loves Kane. Jim Benning really likes Kane. Trevor? He’s maybe a little bit ambivalent, but he could be won over. They’re going to be in on Evander Kane.”

    Related: Canucks made Jets ‘fair offer’ for Kane

    Preds sign Jarnkrok for six years, with a cap hit of just $2 million

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 09:  Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    Nashville’s momentous offseason continued today with the signing of forward Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12 million contract.

    That’s a cap hit of just $2 million, all the way through 2021-22.

    Suffice to say, it’s not often that a player signs such a long deal, for such a modest cap hit. Jarnkrok notched career highs in goals (16) and assists (14) in 81 games last season for the Preds. He kills penalties, too.

    At the very least, the 24-year-old has some financial security now. But for Nashville, as long as his production doesn’t fall off a cliff, he could end up being a great bargain.

    Jarnkrok had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.

    Related: Preds avoid arbitration with Petter Granberg — two years, $1.225 million

    Red Wings re-sign Mrazek to two-year, $8 million deal

    Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the first period of Game 3 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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    The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.

    The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.

    Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.

    “It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.

    Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.

    If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.

    Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.

    Tavares ‘would love’ to spend his entire career with Isles

    John Tavares
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    With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.

    Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

    Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.

    But what about Tavares? What does he think?

    “I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”

    As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?

    “I would not count on that,” he said.

    So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.

    Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?