Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau

Tonight in the West: Sharks dismantle Kings to clinch Pacific crown

Western Conference

p-1. Vancouver – 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. San Jose – 103 pts (3 GR)
y-3. Detroit – 102 pts (3 GR)
4. Phoenix – 96 pts (3 GR)
5. Los Angeles – 96 pts (3 GR)
6. Nashville – 95 pts (3 GR)
7. Anaheim – 93 pts (3 GR)
8. Chicago – 92 pts (4 GR)
9. Calgary – 91 pts (2 GR)
10. Dallas – 89 pts (4 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

San Jose 6, Los Angeles 1

If tonight’s one-sided game ends up being a first round preview, this battle of California would closely resemble the rivalry between a hammer and a nail.

Simply put, the Sharks were all over the Kings in this game and clinched their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title in the process. Los Angeles came into this game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but the outcome wasn’t in doubt for very long, as San Jose raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period and then answered the Kings’ 2-1 tally with four more in the second. Not much really happened in the third period, except for some extracurricular activity that included two simultaneous fights (one of those surprisingly included Dan Boyle).

Several Sharks earned two-point games, with Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ranking among the players who earned a point and assist each. Joe Thornton also accomplished that task, pushing his career regular season points total to 999.

It wasn’t a great night for Kings goalies, as Jonathan Quick was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots while Jonathan Bernier allowed two more on 19. Meanwhile, Antti Niemi made 30 out of 31 saves to earn his 34th win of the 2010-11 season. (So much for a sophomore slump for the Stanley Cup winner, eh?)

Statistically speaking, Willie Mitchell might have had the worst night with a -4 rating, but few Kings players have a reason to keep their heads high in this one. They are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, but playing this way without Anze Kopitar makes one wonder if they will be able to make much noise in the merciless West.

Then again, crazy things can happen in the playoffs, and the Kings have the kind of stingy defense and goaltending potential to be a nuisance if the bounces go their way. (I’m not saying I would bet on it, though.)

The Sharks moved into second place in the West while the Kings slid down to fifth place since the Phoenix Coyotes hold the non-shootout win tiebreaker. It seems like this game was an example of two teams moving in different directions, but we’ll see once the playoffs begin.

Kings grab goalie insurance by signing Budaj

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Jhonas Enroth #1 and Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings stretch before a game against the Arizona Coyotes at STAPLES Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
via Los Angeles Kings
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In slightly less interesting Los Angeles Kings news than the latest in the Mike Richards fiasco, the team handed Peter Budaj a one-year, two-way deal on Friday.

The veteran goalie’s contract pays $575K on the NHL level and $100K in the AHL (though it’s $150K guaranteed), according to Hockey’s Cap.

At the moment, it sounds like Budaj will be third on the Kings’ goalie depth chart. That says as much about how things have been going lately for Los Angeles than Budaj’s work on a PTO.

As noted above, one of the more significant moves in Budaj’s favor came when the New York Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off of waivers this week.

The Kings actually waived Budaj before signing him, so this has to be a relief to a goalie with a fairly robust resume as a backup.

All apologies to Budaj, but it’s probably true that the Kings would prefer not to see him at the NHL level very often in 2015-16.

Kings, NHLPA announce settlement in Richards grievance

Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers

The Los Angeles Kings announced today that they have “reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his NHL Standard Players Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties.”

The club said that it will not be commenting further “on the terms” of the settlement.

The NHLPA released a similar statement.

It was reported earlier in the week that a settlement was close to being reached; however, it wasn’t clear what salary-cap penalties the Kings would incur.

We’re starting to find out some details now:

How the final numbers differ from what the Kings would have incurred if they’d bought Richards out will be interesting to see. And if there are differences, how will they be justified?

Stay tuned.