Terry Murray, Jack Johnson

Kings coach Terry Murray apologizes for calling out fans

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After having a day to digest the Kings’ lackluster shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, Los Angeles Kings head coach Terry Murray was much more even-keeled in his assessment of his team’s play from the night before. More importantly, he was much more apologetic for his comments directed at the dissatisfied fans at Staples Center who booed the Kings off the ice after the 2nd period (To be fair to the fans, the Kings had just been outshot 30-6 through 40 minutes of play). After the game, Murray held one of the shortest press conferences of the year and ended the discussion with this bomb:

“You know what the most disappointing, frustrating thing was? At the end of the second period, we were booed off the ice by our fans. That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That’s the worst I’ve ever been through, in all the years I’ve been coaching. I’ve been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL, and booed off the ice by your own fans at the end of the second period, here after this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places, very disappointing.”

It doesn’t matter which industry we’re talking about, criticizing the paying customer isn’t part of the “Best Practices” guidebook. Whether it’s okay for a fan to boo their own team or not is a completely different subject, but it’s beside the point. From the moment Murray uttered those words directed at the fans, the countdown started towards an apology.

As Murray cooled down and had some time to think about his comments, he told reporters today that he shouldn’t have thrown the fans under the bus. Here’s the predictable backtracking from the Kings’ head man:

“I overreacted probably, in saying … you don’t want to drag them into the reason why, but I did. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget.
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“These fans, I’ve said that many times, we’ve got great fans. I know that. They mean a lot to this hockey club. They’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of emotion to our games and have helped us through a lot of difficult times. The atmosphere in our building right from the middle of the year last year right through the playoffs has been incredible because of the fans.”

This entire incident has followed the normal trajectory of emotion. After having an incredibly successful 4-0 road trip against Western Conference playoff contenders, they came home and laid a gigantic egg against the 13th place team in the West. By the time the game was over, there wasn’t a single happy person associated with the Kings within the confines of Staples Center—coaches, fans, and players alike. Emotions were running high for fans after the 2nd period and they were running equally as high for the coach after the game.

For their part, different players reacted differently to the booing. Enforcer Kevin Westgarth said that he hears it after failed power plays and “(the fans) have to know we’re probably more ticked off than they are.” First-year (in L.A.) defenseman Willie Mitchell didn’t think it was that bad when he compared it to his time in Vancouver as he joked, “You want to see a good boo, you look there.” Then star defenseman Drew Doughty was brutally honest with his feelings after the game:

“Booing us kind of pisses me off as a player, because every night we’re out there playing our hardest, obviously for the team but, at the same time, for them. For them to boo us off the ice, or whatever the case is, like I said we’re not just playing for us, we’re playing for them. We’re going to battle for them, and for them to boo us shows a lack of respect from them, but it’s a part of the game. Fans boo their teams all the time, so it’s nothing we can be really upset at.”

At the end of the day, no player or coach wants to get booed because it probably means things aren’t going well. By the same token, fans don’t want to boo their team because, well, it probably means things aren’t going well. Fans in L.A. will be happy to see Murray tone down his disappointment with the fans—if the Kings come with a better effort against the Ducks on Saturday night, they’ll tone down their disappointment as well.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’