Kings camp to open on Friday, without Doughty

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Holdout: One that withholds agreement or consent upon which progress is contingent.

The Kings have had a fantastically productive offseason. They added the second line center that they’ve always needed. They added the left wing sniper they’ve needed since Luc Robitaille left. They added more veteran leadership to provide depth, and hopefully help the Kings navigate their way through a deep playoff run. They have one of the elite, young defens… wait, nevermind.

Say hello to Los Angeles’ worst nightmare.

One of the very few players the Kings have no replacement for isn’t going to be LA when the team opens training camp early Friday morning. In fact, earlier this week, members of the Kings were already participating in informal practices as training camp approached. Mike Richards was making cross-crease passes to Simon Gagne. Ethan Moreau was on the ice forming new bonds with new teammates. Anze Kopitar was starting pick-up games and showing no negative effects of his season-ending ankle injury. There’s only one who’s missing.

This isn’t exactly how the team hoped to start one of the most captivating seasons in franchise history.

As LA Times columnist Helene Elliott explains, the toughest part of the negotiations is the lack of a comparable contract. For that matter, there’s a lack of comparable player:

“Doughty’s value is difficult to pin down. He has shown he’s a singular talent, with a second-year performance in which he earned an Olympic gold medal, and was a finalist for the Norris trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman. But he reported to camp in less than optimal shape a year ago, suffered a concussion early in the season and needed a while to regain his timing. Defensemen with his skills and skating ability are rare, but the Kings have to factor in how he fits in their salary scale.

They also have to project what might happen if he remains unsigned and how it would affect the team in the locker room and on the ice. Doughty is a vital presence in the room besides being a dynamic player, and it wouldn’t be easy for the Kings to replace him.”

Here’s a refresher for anyone who hasn’t been following the contract negotiations: the only concrete offer that has been reported was a 9-year contract worth $6.8 million per season extended by the Los Angeles Kings. It was a deal that was not accepted by the Doughty’s camp.

The importance of the $6.8 million cap hit can’t be overstated—it’s the same average salary attached to Anze Kopitar’s 7-year deal that he signed in 2009. The Kings have built their salary structure with Kopitar as the highest paid player on the team; something the Doughty camp is challenging. Then again, people around the organization will debate whether Kopitar or Doughty is more important to the team. Hence the desire for an identical average salary.

Factoring in potential, the increased salary cap, and the climate for defenseman contracts, it’s understandable that Doughty is looking for a higher salary. Like Elliott illustrates, there is no comparable player around the league today. Shea Weber is working on his third contract, Duncan Keith signed a 13-year contract, and Zach Bogosian isn’t in Doughty’s league. There is no map to follow here.

Another important factor within the context of the negotiations is that Doughty is seemingly unwilling to part with his unrestricted contract years. He’s a restricted free agent for the next four seasons—anything beyond that would prolong the time before he’s eligible to hit the open market. It’s understandable that the Kings want to sign him for a longer-term deal (in the 7-9 year range) to eat up as many of the unrestricted years as possible. Yet from Doughty’s point of view, it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to go past five seasons.

For now, we’ll sit and wait for someone to blink.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson