Simon Gagne, Mike Richards

Simon Gagne expects to enjoy successful reunion with Mike Richards in Los Angeles

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Whether the player sees it coming or not, being traded can often create a very uncomfortable transition. On the bright side, many of the players involved in this summer’s biggest deals could enjoy a slightly smoother transition since they’ll be reunited with former teammates.

It’s possible Jeff Carter is still a bit upset about being shipped from Philadelphia from Columbus, but former Flyers teammate R.J. Umberger might be able to show him the ropes in Ohio. Devin Setoguchi was elated when Dany Heatley told him that he would join him in Minnesota after the Wild completed a second blockbuster trade with San Jose.

Yet when you consider the best reunion from a pure chemistry standpoint, the Los Angeles Kings’ might have hit the jackpot by signing Simon Gagne and trading for Mike Richards. The two made their best music together in the 2008-09 season with Philly; Gagne scored 34 goals (matching his goal-scoring output from the last two seasons) while Richards scored a career-high 80 points.

Injury issues could plague Gagne and a different offensive system could foul things up for the both of them, but it’s tough to deny the wisdom of bringing the two back together. It’s a point that hasn’t been lost on Gagne, who discussed the reunion with Helene Elliott as he visited Los Angeles earlier this week.

“I had a lot of success with Mike in Philly for many years. It’s always a plus to have the chemistry building right away,” said Gagne, who will wear No. 12, which he has worn since childhood. “We didn’t play together last year, but a year is not too bad. … I’m sure we’ll have a chance to show what we can do and we will try to take that chance. We have a lot of other players offensively that I’m sure we could find chemistry with too.”

While the Washington Capitals’ mind-numbing bargain contract with Tomas Vokoun topped it soon after, the Kings’ deal with Gagne still ranks as one of the best free agent gambles of the 2011 off-season. Health is the biggest concern for Gagne, but he’s a natural goal scorer who has good speed and can play a decent defensive game to boot.

Plenty of people wonder if the Kings will be a genuine Stanley Cup contender in 2011-12. That might just happen if Gagne finds a good groove with Richards once again.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.