Can Canes weather next season’s division change?

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Life wasn’t always that easy for the Carolina Hurricanes in the relatively cushy (and defunct) Southeast Division, so what will happen now that they’re in what could be a blistering Metropolitan Division?

If you judge the situation based on the past alone, it doesn’t look great for Carolina.

That being said, one shouldn’t dismiss the Hurricanes’ talent. Plenty of teams would be glad to boast a core that includes Eric and Jordan Staal, Cam Ward, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner and so on. Much went wrong for Carolina last season, yet if a few things turn, the Canes could be a far more formidable team.

Still, the situation seems foreboding on paper. Consider their division mates:

Columbus – Maybe the most mysterious team in the division, if not the NHL. Still, it’s tough to deny the optimism surrounding a team that is adding star power and employs the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky.

New Jersey – No doubt about it, losing Ilya Kovalchuk hurts. Still, this team quietly put up great puck possession numbers last season but had bad luck scoring goals and preventing them in 2013. The Devils could be dangerous if they can replace Kovalchuk by free agent committee and if more bounces go their way in 2013-14.

NY Islanders – Sure, they mainly stood in place this offseason, but the Isles seem like they’re on the upswing lately. GM Garth Snow has quietly developed into one of the league’s most underrated executives.

NY Rangers – There’s some turmoil (contract years, coaching changes) in the Big Apple, although that pressure could actually yield some fantastic results. At worst, they should be a playoff contender.

Philadelphia – There’s no denying the Flyers’ flaws, yet Philly could very well top Carolina in its strongest area (offensive creativity) while being comparable in their shared area of greatest weakness (playing defense).

Pittsburgh – It’s easy to lose sight of the Penguins’ regular season dominance amid fairly steady drama, but most will probably peg them as the favorites.

Washington – While Carolina couldn’t exploit the Southeast, the Caps must be a little forlorn to see it go. Washington seems primed to be in the mix, especially if Mikhail Grabovski is as much of a steal as “fancy stat” lovers believe.

Looking at Carolina’s neighbors, how many of those situations look worse than the Hurricanes’ predicament? Maybe one or two?

For the Hurricanes to return to playoff contention, they’ll need to prove they can stick with some tough competition. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if a few of those teams fall on their faces, too …

More Hurricanes Day at PHT fun

Carolina leans on Cam Ward

Will the defense get better?

It could all come down to three signings

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.