Beware the hip check: Keith Ballard looks to make Stanley Cup finals debut tonight


It’s not every day that an NHL team can call upon a guy who makes $4.25 million as a seventh defenseman. That’s the life of Keith Ballard as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, though. In an injury and turnover-plagued 2010-11 season, he just cannot seem to earn head coach Alain Vigneault’s trust.

That being said, the Canucks keep suffering from losses on their blueline. Dan Hamhuis went down with what an unknown injury early in the series while Aaron Rome won’t play another game in the Stanley Cup finals thanks to his late hit on Nathan Horton.

Those two conundrums finally open the door for Ballard to make his way back into the lineup again, an opportunity he hopes to capitalize upon in Game 4 tonight. Ballard seems like he’s getting used to the roller coaster ride of getting minutes in big playoff games one night and sitting in the press box on other ones. He discussed the experience while fellow defenseman Kevin Bieksa spoke about what Ballard brings to the table.

“I think it’s a situation quite a few of us have been in, especially during this playoff run,” Ballard said of playing nearly as much as he’s been watching. “One of the things you can control is the attitude around the guys, how hard you work. You have to be able to be there to support your teammates.”

While Ballard never said he was definitely playing, Kevin Bieksa discussed what to expect with Ballard as his defensive partner Wednesday night.

“He’s a very good player. He’s helped us all year,” Bieksa said. “He’s a great skater and moves the puck well. He’s one of the best shot blockers in the League. He’s been known to throw a hip into a few guys. We just need him to play his game and not do anything special.”

Bieksa’s second-to-last sentence is one many of us will focus on: “He’s been known to throw a hip into a few guys.” His most recent epic hip check happened during the San Jose Sharks series when Ballard nailed Tyler McGinn with a brutal one that might just be the best hit of this year’s playoffs.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Will we see another big hip check from Ballard tonight or will he be the kind of error-prone player who regularly finds himself in Vigneault’s doghouse? Perhaps he’ll be both? We’ll find out tonight (on Versus at 8 p.m. ET).

Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?

Coyotes exploit another lousy outing from Quick

Jonathan Quick

Despite owning two Stanley Cup rings, there are a healthy number of people who aren’t wild about Jonathan Quick.

Those people might feel validated through the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games, as he followed a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks with a true stinker against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

Sometimes a goalie has a bad night stats-wise, yet his team is as much to blame as anything else. You can probably pin this one on Quick, who allowed four goals on just 14 shots through the first two periods.

Things died down in the final frame, but let’s face it; slowing things down is absolutely the Coyotes’ design with a 4-1 lead (which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 win).


A soft 1-0 goal turned out to be a sign of things to come:

Many expected the Kings to roar into this second game after laying an egg in their opener. Instead, the Coyotes exploited Quick’s struggles for a confidence-booster, which included key prospect Max Domi scoring a goal and an assist.

It’s worth mentioning that Mike Smith looked downright fantastic at times, only drawing more attention to Quick’s struggles.


After a troubled summer and a failed 2014-15 season, Los Angeles was likely eager to start things off the right way.

Instead, they instead will likely focus on the fact that they merely dropped two (ugly) games.