Adrian Kempe

Kings outlast Canucks in first edition of NHL China Games

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The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.

Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).

Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).

The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).

with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.

Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.

Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.

These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

With Sutter out, here’s a list of coaching candidates for L.A.

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After yesterday’s stunning overhaul in Los Angeles — the firing of GM Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter, who combined to win a pair of Stanley Cups — attention has now turned toward the future.

Lombardi’s role has been filled by the tandem of Luc Robitaille (president) and Rob Blake (VP and general manager).

Their first job will be to find Sutter’s replacement.

Based on multiple reports, the primary goal is to get the team playing faster. There’s been a huge emphasis on speed — specifically, the Kings’ lack of it — and while that’ll be partly addressed with personnel addition/subtractions from Blake and Robitaille, part of it will also be addressed with systems, philosophy and a new style of play.

Sutter was a proponent of hard, heavy hockey that relied on big, physical forwards and a strong forecheck. He had tremendous success with it but, as the rest of the league trended towards skill and speed, the Kings failed to adapt.

The result was an anemic offense this past season, one that finished 25th in the NHL with 2.43 goals per game.

So with that in mind, who might be on the coaching shortlist? Some ideas:

John Stevens

On paper, Stevens ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got extensive experience, having served as a head coach in Philly and an assistant in L.A. for the last seven seasons. That’s a tremendous amount of familiarity with the Kings organization, an organization that might not want to lose him. Stevens has been in demand over the last few summers, and has reportedly been in the running for a few head coaching jobs, including the Carolina gig that eventually went to Bill Peters.

Of course, the 50-year-old’s familiarity with the Kings might be why he won’t get the job. The club had a massive shakeup yesterday, and it’s safe to assume Blake and Robitaille will want to go in a different direction from Sutter. Hiring his longtime assistant doesn’t exactly accomplish that.

Mike Stothers

Stothers is another nod to familiarity, albeit in a different fashion than Stevens. Stothers has been the head coach of L.A.’s AHL affiliate for the last three years and enjoyed tremendous success, winning the Calder Cup in 2015 while sending a number of minor-leaguers to the bigs. This year alone, Adrian Kempe, Paul LaDue and Johnny Brodzinski all made their NHL debuts.

Stothers is an interesting candidate because, as Sutter stressed last summer, some of the Kings’ young prospects need to make an impact at the NHL level. Who better to integrate the kids than the guy that’s coached them for the last few years?

Tony Granato

Yes, Granato only recently left the NHL for his dream job at the University of Wisconsin and yes, he was named a finalist for national coach of the year. So it would seemingly take an awful lot to leave the Badgers (of note, he inked a five-year, $2.75 million contract with UW.)

With that said…

Granato, at least in terms of the aforementioned checkbox, makes sense for the Kings. He’s got a wealth of NHL experience, serving as the head man in Colorado with lengthy assistant stints in Detroit and Pittsburgh. He’s also got deep ties to both Blake and Robitaille, having played together in L.A. (the three all went to the ’93 Stanley Cup Final together).

Granato was on hand at Blake’s jersey retirement ceremony, and both he and Robitaille — along with Barry Melrose — were honored on the same Legends Night back in ’14.

Others…

ESPN’s Scott Burnside floated the idea of Caps assistant Todd Reirden, which makes sense. He’s been described as a head coach in the making… Gerard Gallant’s name has come up though, to be fair, his name has been attached to almost every coaching vacancy since his dismissal from Florida last year… Dallas is believed to already have a shortlist to replace Lindy Ruff, consisting of Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and recently dismissed Canucks bench boss Willie Desjardins. Per TSN, Stars GM Jim Nill wants to make a decision quickly, meaning the two leftover candidates could be courted by the Kings.

A challenging offseason awaits Dean Lombardi

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For the 23rd time this season — the most in the NHL — the Los Angeles Kings lost a game in regulation after they outshot an opponent.

It happened last night in Edmonton, where the Kings outshot the Oilers, 35-29, but lost on the scoreboard, 2-1.

Afterwards, captain Anze Kopitar could only express his frustration.

“It seems like we’re beating the dead horse every night,” Kopitar said, per LA Kings Insider. “We outshoot teams, we out-chance teams yet we’re on the other side of the winning part, so bottom line it’s just not good enough. Whether that’s offensively or defensively, we’ve got to be better in both areas.”

It’s mostly offensively. For whatever reason, the Kings have the second-worst shooting percentage (7.6) in the NHL, with only Colorado’s (7.2) being lower.

Perhaps the Kings aren’t getting enough quality shots. Perhaps they don’t have enough quality shooters.

Probably a bit of both.

But it’s something that GM Dean Lombardi will need to address this offseason — assuming he can.

Roster-wise, the big problem for Lombardi is that the Kings have a pair of veteran wingers, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, whose contracts look a lot like anchors.

Brown, 32, and Gaborik, 35, have combined for just 21 goals this season. Meanwhile, their combined cap hit is north of $10 million, and there’s plenty of term left on each deal.

Not helping? Both Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending RFAs, and they’re in line for raises.

Oh, and there’s not much in the way of top prospects, either. In the past four drafts, only once have the Kings made a first-round pick. (Adrian Kempe went 29th overall in 2014.)

Eleven points back of the second wild-card spot in the West, the Kings are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They’re in Calgary tonight to take on the Flames.

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

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.

 

 

Fight Video: Kings’ Clifford goes toe-to-toe with Sabres’ Foligno

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Who says fighting in hockey is dead?

We were treated to a pretty good tilt in last night’s game between the Sabres and Kings, when Kyle Clifford and Marcus Foligno dropped the gloves midway through the third period.

Foligno landed the majority of the punches early in the fight (even a body blow or two), but Clifford finished strong, as he connected with a couple of clean shots.

Overall, it was a pretty even fight. Even though he got out-punched at the end, it still looks like Foligno landed the majority of the shots.

The Sabres forward has been in a lot of scraps this year. According to hockeyfights.com, this was his ninth fight of 2016-17, but his first since Feb. 4.

By the way, the Kings won 2-0 thanks to goals by Jarome Iginla and Adrian Kempe. the goal was Iginla’s third in seven games since being acquired from Colorado on deadline day.

Related:

There were also a couple of other fights last night. Jamie Benn fought Nikita Tryamkin, while Tom Wilson and Austin Watson went at it too.