NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Preds aim to prove they’re more than talk

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

If there’s one thing these two teams have in common, it’s that their mediocre play this season is frustrating their coaches.

The stuck in neutral Rangers held a players’ only meeting after suffering a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday. What was said? Here’s a better question: Does that even matter?

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

“That’s just talk,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the Bergen Record. “You can talk all you want. You need to have those words become actions on the ice.”

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz coach seems to be of a similar mindset when it comes to his team’s anemic offensive efforts.

“You can demand work ethic, you can demand execution in terms of structure. But when it comes down to it, it has to be (the player),” Trotz said, according to the Tennessean. “They have to find a way to score a goal, they have to go to the hard areas to score.”

Maybe Vigneault can recycle that quote, given that the Rangers’ have matched Nashville’s average of 2.23 goals per contest.

Where these teams diverge is in the expectations put upon them at the beginning of the season. The Predators entered the 2013-14 campaign with a decent shot of making the playoffs given the presence of the talented, and currently injured, Pekka Rinne. They also have a promising defense led by Shea Weber and complimented by highly-touted rookie Seth Jones.

At the same time, the fact that they have been unable to consistently find the back of the net is not a huge shock and the unexpected rise of the Colorado Avalanche would have made their task of reaching the playoffs difficult under the best of circumstances.

By contrast, the Rangers made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 and got to the second round last season. They have an even more highly regarded netminder than Rinne in Henrik Lundqvist, a solid defense, and – at least going into the 2013-14 campaign – a strong offense.

If Nashville falls short of the playoffs, it will be seen as a disappointment. If the Rangers do the same, especially in the comparatively weaker East, it will be a disaster.

First thing’s first though, both of these teams need to end their respective losing streaks. One of these coaches might end the night at least temporarily pacified while the other will continue to wish his team could do more than just talk a good game.

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.