Rolston: Next year’s Sabres a ‘playoff-caliber team’

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Shortly after dropping his interim tag and officially being named Buffalo Sabres head coach, Ron Rolston discussed what the future had in store.

The postseason, specifically.

“You’re looking at a team next year that’s a playoff-caliber team,” Rolston told the Buffalo News. “At the end of the day we want to be a playoff team that can make long runs and do what we want to do here [win a Stanley Cup].”

The Sabres have missed the last two playoffs and haven’t won a postseason round since 2007.

So the new coach has his work cut out for him.

That said, there were signs his coaching style worked with most of the current group. Buffalo rebounded from a 6-10-1 start under Lindy Ruff to go 15-11-5 under Rolston, including an 8-4-0 mark in April.

Young players seemed to thrive under Rolston as well.

Tyler Ennis finished the year with 31 points in 47 games — a 54-point pace over a full campaign — while Cody Hodgson finished with 15G-19A, nearly matching his career high in points (41 in 2011-12) despite playing in roughly half the amount of games.

Rolston acknowledged that, despite his optimistic outlook, there are still areas needing major improvement.

Buffalo finished 26th on the penalty kill last season and 29th on the power play. In today’s presser, he said he’s going to take his time in figuring out which direction the Sabres want to go with coaches for special teams.

One name worth keeping an eye on?

Rolston’s brother, Brian, who recently announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NHL.

“I don’t know if [Brian’s] ready to move into that phase of things yet from player to coach, but he has certainly through this process provided a lot of great, great feedback in terms of players, coaches, systems,” Ron Rolston explained.

“He had the ability to play for some of the best coaches in this game whether it was Pat Burns or Jacques Lemaire, he played for some great coaches, so he was able to provide both a player’s perspective and what those great coaches, you know what made them great.

“Moving forward, he’s somebody that I’ll always have as a sounding board to communicate with.”

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.