Sharks’ Murray on recent struggles: “We are obviously in a funk”

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With just 18 games to go in the regular season, the San Jose Sharks find themselves in an unfamiliar position — fighting for their playoff lives.

It’s a weird spot for the Sharks, who have won four consecutive Pacific Division titles and haven’t been lower than a No. 5 seed since the lockout.

Heading into Monday night’s action, they sit eighth in the Western Conference, one point up on ninth-place Los Angeles.

So yeah, unique times.

“I think our players fully understand where we’re at,” Sharks assistant Jamie Woodcroft told CSN Bay Area. “Certainly if you look at the standings board in the Western Conference its real tight. That provides all the motivation our team needs.”

The Sharks sound concerned — though not panicked — about their current state, and there seems to be a realization across the board that while talented, they don’t always work hard enough.

“We are obviously in a funk,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “We need to get out of it. We have to work hard, it is the same old cliche, but we just have to get it going.”

“The one thing you can control is your work ethic,” alternate captain Dan Boyle added. “Some nights the puck is not going to bounce in. But you can work, you can control that.

“With the talent we have in this locker room, I think if we work harder than other teams, we’re going to win most nights.”

What the Sharks really need to work on is finding the back of the net. They’ve scored just 16 goals in their last nine games and are 2-7-0 over that stretch, though some of that can be chalked up to working a trio of new forwards — Dominic Moore, T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik — into the lineup.

The Sharks are also very cognizant of their current reality. If they don’t turn things around soon, they’ll miss the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

“It seemed like it was always the race for 1, 2 or 3,” said Ryan Clowe, who has been to the playoffs in each of his six seasons in San Jose. “Now it’s the race to get in there. If we go on a run, we’ll set ourselves up nice. But the important thing is that you don’t want to wait until that last minute.

“We’ve got to put it together right now.”

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.