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Kings praise Iginla after huge OT winner against Preds

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Jarome Iginla has spent the better part of two decades scoring clutch goals against the Western Conference’s best teams, including the Los Angeles Kings.

The 39-year-old scorer is finally on the Kings’ side, and they’ve discovered his shot is still as dangerous as ever.

Iginla scored with 1:26 left in overtime, and the Kings rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

In his third game with his new club, Iginla got his first two goals for the Kings, both on Los Angeles’ frequently struggling power play.

“It feels good, especially with a new team,” Iginla said. “To be with the guys and find some way to contribute, it’s exciting to be out there at the end in a key situation.”

The Kings acquired Iginla at the trade deadline for the playoff push, and the 20-year veteran capitalized on two big opportunities to push his low-scoring new club to another win.

“He’s a goal-scorer, and he has been for a long time,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “His first goal was a pretty easy one, but the second one was a great shot. He’s just had an unbelievable shot for so long, and he just puts pucks in the net that not many other guys can put in.”

Iginla’s first goal for the Kings was the 620th of his NHL career. He scored on a tap-in of Marian Gaborik‘s chance in the waning seconds of a power play in the second period.

After the Predators were whistled for too many men on the ice with 2:24 to play, Iginla skated in low and roofed a shot over Pekka Rinne, who made 31 saves. Just like that, Iginla had his first multi-goal game since February 2016 with Colorado.

“It’s fun, these games,” Iginla said. “There’s a lot on the line. It feels great to be back in these types of games.”

Gaborik also had the tying goal along with his assist in just his third multipoint game of the season, and Jonathan Quick made 21 saves.

Calle Jarnkrok and Kevin Fiala scored for Nashville, which has lost four straight. The Predators still took a point in each of their first two stops on a three-game California road trip despite giving up three power-play goals between Anaheim and Los Angeles.

“We are giving points away right now,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “The past couple games, we’re just making bad decisions on our part and giving points away.”

The Kings went 3 for 3 on the power play, scoring three times with the man advantage for only the second time all season.

Los Angeles has won three meetings with Nashville this season, but two Western Conference teams in desperate need of points both inched up the standings in this one.

Nashville has a precarious lead over St. Louis for third place in the Central Division, while the Kings are chasing the Blues for the second wild-card postseason spot.

Nashville took a first-period lead when Josi got the puck away from Gaborik. Jarnkrok eventually scored his 14th goal, the ninth since Jan. 1 for the two-way forward.

Fiala put the Predators back ahead when he pounced on a rebound of captain Mike Fisher‘s initial chance on a loose puck in the crease. The goal was the Swiss rookie’s first since Feb. 19 and just his third since Dec. 3.

Gaborik tied it again on the power play when Alec Martinez‘s shot hit him and he flipped it home for his eighth goal of the season.

“Well, again, it’s the power play,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We just have to do a better job on the penalty kill.”

NOTES: Nashville D Ryan Ellis was a late scratch after re-aggravating a lower-body injury that kept him out for the second time in three games. … Nashville LW Vernon Fiddler was a healthy scratch for the first time since returning to the Predators in early February in a trade with New Jersey. The veteran has one point in 14 games with Nashville. Colton Sissons played for the first time since Feb. 21, and Fiala also returned after being a healthy scratch in Anaheim.

UP NEXT

Predators: At Sharks on Saturday.

Kings: Host Capitals on Saturday.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.