Kings will face one of biggest free agent targets in Stanley Cup finals

The Los Angeles Kings are just four wins away from their first-ever Stanley Cup victory, but perhaps it makes sense that they’ll need to face a player who was believed to be the “missing piece” to their puzzle to accomplish that task.

The Kings finished second (or worst) in the big free agent sweepstakes the last two summers. Depending upon whom you ask, Los Angeles went equally hard after New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010 and New York Rangers center Brad Richards in 2011 but came up “empty” each time.

Instead, they were forced to bolster their impressive core with trades, adding Dustin Penner, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter along with smaller free agent moves.

In the process, the Kings developed a deeper, less top-heavy team that perhaps wasn’t built for regular season domination (yet?), but rather postseason glory. Some might even argue that – despite Richards’ and Kovalchuk’s talents – the Kings were “protected from themselves” by missing out on the best of their respective free agent crops.

Either way, there’s some poetic justice to the fact that whether the Rangers or Devils advance, the Kings will face a player who supposedly would have been the “missing piece” to their championship puzzle.

Which mercenary talent should they fear more going forward, then?

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci


Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)

Video: Dion Phaneuf’s assist is his first point with Senators

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Dion Phaneuf‘s first home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators is going more smoothly than his debut did on Wednesday.

Ottawa fell 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last night, and they need another goal to tie up the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Phaneuf’s making a bigger impact on Thursday, collecting two assists … his first two points in a Sens’ sweater.

You can see his crowd-pleasing first helper above.

Here’s his second assist for good measure:

Update: The Avalanche held on, taking a 4-3 edge. Even so, Phaneuf’s getting a warm welcome in his new hockey city.