Los Angeles Kings v Anaheim Ducks

Columnist: Kings, Ducks blowing golden opportunity

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Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News has written an interesting piece prior to back-to-back nights of The Freeway Face-Off. The Ducks and Kings will do battle tonight at the Staples Center, then tomorrow night at the Honda Center.

Teaford thinks Los Angeles and Anaheim are “blowing it” with their lackluster starts to the season.

Blowing what, exactly?

The Kings and the Ducks could have the fall/winter/spring stage all to themselves if the NBA lockout continues and the Lakers and Clippers remain on the sidelines.

USC and UCLA aren’t going to the Rose Bowl and their seasons are winding down.

Soon all we’ll have is hockey under the palms in Southern California.

You might think the Kings and Ducks would use this opportunity to make a determined leap onto the front pages, gain a few more seconds on the local television news, lure new fans and get more people talking about them.

Sadly, however, neither team is seizing the day.

The struggles in both LA and Anaheim are well documented. The Kings were supposed to be highly competitive this season, but have been mediocre at best. The Ducks, meanwhile, have just been bad.

If you’re looking for a reason why, consider the roster makeups. Both clubs are extremely top heavy.

The Kings rely almost exclusively on five forwards for scoring: Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Dustin Brown. (To read about LA’s lack of secondary scoring, click here.) Blueline production is almost totally reliant on Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty.

Anaheim’s even more imbalanced. Up front, scoring is done almost exclusively by Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan (Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano chip in, just not often enough.) And after Cam Fowler, Francois Beauchemin and the struggling Lubomir Visnovsky, the Ducks blueline gets really thin. Toni Lydman is struggling, Luca Sbisa has been a nightmare and the rotating door of sixth/seventh defensemen (Sheldon Brookbank, Kurtis Foster, Nate Guenin) has done nothing.

“So far, there’s no reason for anyone with the faintest interest in hockey to jump aboard either team’s bandwagon,” Teaford writes. “Neither team has played well enough to warrant extra column inches in the newspapers or sound bites on the evening television news.”

With the NBA locked out, the SoCal sports scene is primed to focus on the Kings and Ducks this season.

But with the way they’re going, it might not happen.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

Pacific Division forward John Scott looks into the stands during the NHL hockey All-Star championship game against the Atlantic Division Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0 and Scott was named most valuable player. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’