PHT Morning Skate: Rangers hope home ice helps in Game 3

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It may not seem like it’s time to call Game 3 a “must-win” game for the New York Rangers, but that’s the situation they’re in tonight at home.

After the Los Angeles Kings fought back in Games 1 and 2 to win in overtime in each game, the Rangers are back at home in Madison Square Garden for the first Stanley Cup Final game there in 20 years. They’ll have the crowd whipped into a fury just because that’s how it goes, and they’ll need that support to make sure they can strike back in a series where they’ve let things slip away.

Game 3: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings [Los Angeles leads series 2-0] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Cup Final has to be frustrating for the Rangers. They’re the only team that’s held a lead in either game, they’ve held multiple two-goal leads (one in Game 1, two in Game 2) and yet they sit down 2-0 in the series.

They may be down, but they’re not far from making this series a lot more interesting. Henrik Lundqvist has played strong, their third line of Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello looked dangerous in Game 2, and the “A” game coach Alain Vigneault said was missing in Game 1 was there on Saturday night.

One thing the Rangers will need to get figured out is stronger play from the blue line. Dan Girardi has struggled and Marc Staal has to a degree as well. Despite the points from Ryan McDonagh and steady play of Anton Stralman, the Kings are still getting a lot of chances.

If the Kings are going to be up 3-0 after tonight it’s going to be because they’ve cut down on the turnovers. So many of the Rangers chances are occurring because L.A. is forking the puck over and no one has been absolved of that. Everyone from Drew Doughty through Anze Kopitar have had blunders. If those get corrected tonight, it could be a tough game for the Rangers.

What to look for: Whether or not Matt Greene stays in the Kings lineup. Greene had a rough Game 2 as he coughed the puck up at inopportune moments and was getting routinely skated by Rangers forwards. His play there might be enough to inspire Darryl Sutter to get Robyn Regehr back in the lineup.

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.