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Gauging Kings’ chances for a Cinderella run

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The Los Angeles Kings are one win away from sweeping the Vancouver Canucks, which would make them the third team to do so to the Presidents’ Trophy winner. It’s not as if the Canucks are rolling over, either; they just haven’t had much luck cracking the Kings’ code. Even a 3-0 series lead isn’t a guarantee for future success, but it’s irresistible not to at least ponder Los Angeles’ chances of making a deep playoff run.

So, with that in mind, here are some big reasons why they can do it and one big reason why they might not.

No juggernaut

Looking up at the higher seeds, you can’t blame the Kings for not feeling too intimidated. The St. Louis Blues got back into their series with the San Jose Sharks, yet Los Angeles brings virtually the same strengths to the table as the Blues. It’s unlikely that Los Angeles would be all that intimidated by the thought of facing the Phoenix Coyotes in the semifinals, either; in fact, the biggest worries could come if they face either the Nashville Predators or the Detroit Red Wings.

Jonathan Quick

Depending upon whom you ask, Quick may just hold the trump card over every West goalie not named Pekka Rinne. As you’ve probably heard a lot of times in your hockey-loving life, a hot netminder can make all the difference.

Strong defense

The Predators, Blues and Coyotes could manage a strong counterargument, but the Kings have a defense that can stack up with any in the NHL. That’s especially true now that Drew Doughty is back to the form that made him the most promising young defenseman in ages. Beyond Doughty, Los Angeles has solid lesser-known offensive defensemen such as Slava Voynov and strong stay-at-home types like Willie Mitchell. There aren’t many soft spots in that lineup.

Improved offense

The Kings aren’t likely to blow many teams out, but the Jeff Carter trade gives their offense a respectable added dimension. It’s not just the Anze Kopitar line doing all the work now, as Carter, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown can pitch in. On paper, that offense probably edges out the defense-first groups like Phoenix, St. Louis and Nashville – though that doesn’t mean it actually will work out that way.

A Sutter edge

The Kings hold some interesting similarities to the Flames team that Darryl Sutter pushed to within one win of a Stanley Cup. There’s more talent in Los Angeles, but both squads fought their way into lower seeds and then combined timely scoring, tight defense and great goaltending to become an imposing upset force. Sutter the coach > Sutter the GM, as we’ve seen quite clearly.

The glass half-empty approach

Still, the Kings aren’t perfect. The No. 1 area of concern is still scoring. Los Angeles only seems to have a “grind it out” gear, which could bog them down in the long run. Fighting tooth-and-nail is fine in the playoffs, but every now and then, it’s nice to score some “easy” goals. Depending upon matchups, offense may still be the Kings’ fatal flaw.

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Sure, it won’t be pretty, but it seems like the Kings might just have the makeup for a deep run. What do you think of their chances?

Video: Incredibly awkward ceremonial puck drop before KHL game in China

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KHL hockey is still relatively new in China and it showed prior to Kunlun Red Star’s game against Lada Togliatti earlier this week.

Prior to the game, the team organized a ceremonial puck drop, which ended up being a little awkward to say the least.

You can watch the entire thing by clicking the video at the top of the page.

That’s pretty funny!

The awkward look the two captains gave each other was priceless too.

After suffering ‘a bruise on his backside’ on Friday, Dmitry Kulikov misses practice

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Even though it’s just the preseason, the Sabres had a night to forget on Friday.

Not only did they get clobbered 8-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they also lost Dmitry Kulikov to injury.

Kulikov left the game in considerable pain after being hit by Colin Greening in the third period. As the Sabres defenseman went into the boards, the door to the Leafs bench opened.

Here’s how it looked:

After the game, head coach Dan Bylsma downplayed the injury.

“He’s got a bruise on his backside, but at this point in time it’s not more than a bruise,” Bylsma said, per the Buffalo News.

According to beat reporter John Vogl, Kulikov wasn’t on the ice for his team’s practice this morning.

It’s still unclear how long he’ll be out exactly. It’s good to know that the Sabres don’t appear to be overly worried about this injury though.

It’s an important year for 25-year-old. He’s entering his first year with the Sabres, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban to make preseason debuts on Saturday

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game Six of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center  on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The deeper we get into the preseason, the more we’ll see star players being integrated into their team’s lineups.

On Saturday, three big names will make their 2016-17 debuts with their respective teams.

After a stint at the World Cup with Team USA, Patrick Kane will be in Chicago’s lineup for their game against the St. Louis Blues.

Kane and the Americans had a disappointing tournament, as he failed to score a goal and the team failed to win a round-robin game.

Erik Karlsson, who was at the World Cup with Team Sweden, will also play his first exhibition of the season, as the Senators take on the Canadiens this afternoon.

Sens head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t planning on playing his captain this early, but Karlsson changed his mind.

“I was thinking of maybe giving him a break and then taking him on the trip (to Winnipeg and Saskatoon) next week,” Boucher told the Ottawa Citizen. “He had two hard practices. I was impressed by his leadership. He wanted to be playing in front of our fans.”

Finally, P.K. Subban will make his Preds debut against the Lightning.

Subban was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for Shea Weber this off-season, but he was held out of games because of general soreness.

It sounds like Subban will play on a pairing with Mattias Ekholm.

“It’s great having a partner like that,” Subban said, per the Tennessean. “I’ve had some great partners in the past, but he’s definitely right up there with the best that I’ve played with. I’m not sure exactly what the partners are going to be come the regular season. Those things can switch, but I’m happy to be playing with him.”

Blackhawks’ Rozsival doesn’t know ‘what my role is’ this season

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival has overcome a lot in his NHL career, but even he isn’t sure where he fits in Chicago’s plans this season.

After suffering a serious ankle injury in the 2015 playoffs, Rozsival returned to the ice last season where he skated in 51 games with the ‘Hawks.

The 38-year-old dressed for the first four games of his team’s opening round playoff series against St. Louis before being a healthy scratch in the final three games.

During the off-season, he signed a one-year, $600,000 contract to remain with the club.

“After last season I had no indications or expectations that I would be back or not,” Rozsival said, per the Chicago Tribune. “So I’m happy to be back.

“Right now, I still don’t know what my role is. It might be determined by the way I play. The last four years I’ve played 20 games, I’ve played 30 games and I’ve played 50 games. I’m ready for anything and for any kind of role. Obviously, I would love to be playing. I’m always trying to fight for my ice time.”

Getting into the lineup won’t be easy. The ‘Hawks already have standouts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson and they added free agent Brian Campbell during the summer. Add Trevor van Riemsdyk (he’s on a one-way deal) and European free agent Michal Kempny and it looks like finding minutes for Rozsival won’t be easy.

They also have younger options like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg looking to make an impact at the NHL level.

“I think Michal played great hockey last year,” GM Stan Bowman said. “If anything, we probably played him too much. Michal is at the top of his game when we can give him some time to re-cooperate between games. He still has a lot of hockey left in him.”