Dallas Stars v Los Angeles Kings

Kings expect Dustin Penner to miss season-opener

The Los Angeles Kings boast some impressive features going into 2011-12. They have a great goalie duo, with a productive and growing starter in Jonathan Quick and a backup who makes scouts drool in Jonathan Bernier. After years of asking a lot from Anze Kopitar, the team will ease his burden with the addition of Mike Richards (and there could be a nice trickle down effect for Jarret Stoll, who slides into a more appropriate third line center role). From Drew Doughty to Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi, the Kings rock a hockey nerd’s dream of a defense and have the head coach to make it all work.

Yup, the Kings look like serious contenders on paper. There’s only one position that troubles many observers: the wings.

The team traded away Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds in the off-season. With the free agent addition of Simon Gagne, the Kings’ top-six wingers look like: Gagne, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams.

That’s a compelling group, but the problem is that both Gagne and Williams have a long history of injury issues in their careers. Penner lost favor with a lot of Kings fans in his struggles after a splashy trade deadline move, but if nothing else, he was supposed to join Brown as the healthy ones. After all, Penner has only missed four games in the last five seasons.

Helene Elliott indicates that it might be safe to mark him down for “five games in six seasons” now. The big forward probably won’t play in the Kings’ season-opener against the New York Rangers this Friday afternoon. If that is the case, it’s likely that Gagne will slide into his spot alongside Kopitar and Williams while Brad Richardson will occupy Gagne’s wing with Richards and Brown.

It’s listed as a lower-body injury, with no clear indication of how severe it might be. Penner scored just six points in 19 regular season games and two points in six playoff games while drawing the ire of Kings fans. I have a strange feeling that he could make a more positive impact this season – at least on offense – because he’s in a contract year. (The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup the last year he was fighting for a new deal, for one thing.)

We’ll keep you updated about Penner’s injury situation, though.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Campbell’s perfect snipe sinks Wings in OT

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Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.

It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.

Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.

The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.

Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.

They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.

With Jonathan Bernier sputtering, we’ll meet Garret Sparks

Garett Sparks
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You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.

With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.

Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).

In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:

Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.

Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)