Anze Kopitar

Whatever the Kings decide with Richards, they’re ‘going to have to play better’

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Darryl Sutter still thinks Mike Richards can be a good NHL player, and he’s frustrated by the media coverage of the Kings’ decision to place the 29-year-old center on waivers.

“This is hockey, and some of you guys don’t get it, period,” the coach told reporters today, per LA Kings Insider. “Lots of players go on waivers and lots of players clear waivers, and lots of players still have great years in front of them.

“It’s just that there are people in the media who continue to want to beat people up because they can’t do it themselves. It’s frustrating. I think Mike’s still got lots of hockey left.”

Whatever the team decides to do with Richards, both in the short- and long-term, the Kings, to most everyone’s surprise, find themselves outside the playoff picture heading into Wednesday’s home game versus Chicago, after which they’ll head out on a tough, five-game road trip with stops in Boston, Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Columbus.

All-Star forward Anze Kopitar was asked this weekend to pinpoint why the defending champions had such a modest record (20-15-12) after 47 games.

“I don’t think you can pinpoint,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey the last few years. Maybe there was a little bit of a fatigue factor. But we’re all professionals. We’ve got to get ready for each and every game.”

The statistic that really stands out about this season’s Kings is their goals-against average. At 2.53, it’s only the 13th-lowest in the NHL. Last season, it finished at 2.05, better than everyone.

Blame the goaltenders. Blame the players in front of the goalies for not being in a “checking mood” often enough. Blame the absence of Slava Voynov, or the departure of Willie Mitchell. Blame the shootout. Blame fatigue. The fact is, no defending champion since the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes has missed the playoffs, and the Kings would like to keep it that way.

“I think we’re one point out of a playoff spot,” said Kopitar. “That’s encouraging. And we realize we’re going to have to play better the second half of the year. We have a pretty long road trip coming up, and this is a good time to get going and turn things around.”

Related: Mike Richards clears waivers

Cannonball Run…and gun: Team Toews wins highest-scoring game in ASG history

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COLUMBUS — There were goals.

Oh, how there were goals.

Twenty-nine of them, to be exact — the highest-scoring affair in NHL All-Star Game history, which ended with Team Toews beating Team Foligno 17-12 on Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.

The home of the Blue Jackets, perhaps best known for its thunderous goal cannon that goes off every time a puck finds the back of the net, was firing constantly throughout the evening — though only on goals from Team Foligno, much to the relief of eardrums across the arena.

The game was, as the score suggests, light on defense and intensity, but featured an absolute boatload of goals. The 29 eclipsed the mark set at the 2001 All-Star Game in Denver when North America beat the World 14-12 on the strength of Bill Guerin’s hat trick.

Fourteen years later, it was a four-goal effort that led the way. Islanders captain John Tavares potted a quartet of markers for Team Toews, becoming just one of six players to accomplish the feat in an All-Star Game: Dany Heatley (2003), Mike Gartner (’93), Mario Lemieux (’90), Vincent Damphousse (’91) and Wayne Gretzky (’83) were the others.

On any other day, Tavares’ effort would’ve netted him Most Valuable Player honors, but not on Sunday — that went to hometown favorite Ryan Johansen, who finished with two goals and four points (and clearly benefited from the fan voting process for MVP).

While flat at times, the 60th edition of the league’s All-Star gala proved a nice ending for what was a great weekend for Columbus. The city embraced this event with enthusiasm, which included a jam-packed house — 18,901 in attendance — for Sunday’s finale.

“The fans, the fifth line in Columbus here has been unbelievable,” Johansen said following the game. “Thank you so much. You guys are unbelievable.”

NOTES

Jakub Voracek tied Lemieux’s record for points in an ASG, with six… Panthers rookie d-man Aaron Ekblad acquitted himself nicely after being named to the game as an injury replacement, finishing with four assists… Johansen led Team Foligno in scoring while Patrick Kane, Claude Giroux, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos each had three points … The only skaters that failed to register a point were Anze Kopitar, Phil Kessel and Zemgus Girgensons, all from Team Foligno… Every Team Toews skater had at least one point.

Get your game notes: Team Toews vs. Team Foligno

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Today on NBC, it’s the Team Toews vs. Team Foligno in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game (NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET). Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL’s public relations department:

source:
NHL CLUB AND ALL-STAR GAME TEAMMATES

Team Foligno: D Duncan Keith and RW Patrick Kane (Chicago), LW Nick Foligno and C Ryan Johansen (Columbus), D Drew Doughty, C Anze Kopitar and head coach Darryl Sutter (Los Angeles) G Brian Elliott and D Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis)

Team Toews: D Mark Giordano and LW Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), G Corey Crawford, D Brent Seabrook and C Jonathan Toews (Chicago), G Roberto Luongo and D Aaron Ekblad (Florida), D Shea Weber, C Filip Forsberg and head coach Peter Laviolette (Nashville), G Jaroslav Halak and C John Tavares (New York Islanders)

NHL CLUB TEAMMATES WHO ARE ALL-STAR GAME OPPONENTS

Chicago Blackhawks: D Duncan Keith and RW Patrick Kane (Team Foligno) vs. G Corey Crawford, D Brent Seabrook and C Jonathan Toews (Team Toews)

St. Louis Blues: G Brian Elliott and D Kevin Shattenkirk (Team Foligno) vs. RW Vladimir Tarasenko (Team Toews)

Philadelphia Flyers: C Claude Giroux (Team Foligno) vs. RW Jakub Voracek (Team Toews)

ALL-STAR GAME OFFICIALS

The referees for today’s game are Chris Lee (#28) and Chris Rooney (#5). Lee, who hails from Saint John, N.B., made his NHL debut in 1999-2000 while Rooney, a Boston native, has worked NHL games since 2000-01. They are joined by linesmen Steve Miller (#89) and Tony Sericolo (#84). Miller, from Stratford, Ont., also started officiating NHL games in 2000-01. Sericolo a native of Troy, N.Y., is the senior member of the crew, having made his League debut on Oct. 21, 1998 (Edmonton at NY Islanders). All four officials are making their All-Star Game debut.

ALL-STAR ENTERTAINMENT

The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game will feature performances from Grammy Award-nominated and multi platinum selling recording artist Fall Out Boy, rock band O.A.R. and power-pop band Locksley.

Fall Out Boy will perform during the first intermission followed by a performance from Ohio State alumni O.A.R. during the second intermission.

Locksley will perform “The Whip,” its hit single and the song performed after every Columbus Blue Jackets goal, during the NHL All-Star player introductions. Twelve local boys and girls, between the ages of eight and 13 years old, will take part in the player introductions as part of McDonald’s “In the Lineup” program.

NHL SCORING LEADERS AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK

Goals: 1. (tie) Rick Nash, NYR (Team Toews) and Tyler Seguin, DAL (Team Toews), 28; 3. Alex Ovechkin, WSH (Team Foligno), 27.

Assists: 1. Jakub Voracek, PHI (Team Toews), 39; 2. Sidney Crosby, PIT, 36; 3. (tie) Ryan Getzlaf, ANA (Team Toews) and Claude Giroux, PHI (Team Foligno), 35.

Points: 1. Jakub Voracek, PHI (Team Toews), 17-39–56; 2. Tyler Seguin, DAL (Team Toews), 28-24–52; 3. Patrick Kane, CHI (Team Foligno), 22-29–51.

ALL-STAR GAME QUICK HITS

* Twelve players in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game are under age 25. Thirty-two of the 41 players on both rosters have yet to celebrate their 30th birthday. The youngest 2015 NHL All- Stars are 18-year-old Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers/Team Toews, born 2/7/96) and 20-year-old Filip Forsberg (Nashville Predators/Team Toews, born 8/13/94). Ekblad will be the second 18- year-old to skate in the past three NHL All-Star Games, following Jeff Skinner in 2011 in Raleigh, N.C.

* The oldest player among the 2015 NHL All-Stars is 38-year-old Patrik Elias (New Jersey Devils/Team Toews, 4/13/76). Elias leads players from both rosters in career games (1,192), assists (604) and points (1,003).

* The 2015 NHL All-Star with the most career appearances in the midseason classic is Rangers forward Rick Nash (Team Toews) who will be skating in his sixth career game. Following Nash is Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (Team Foligno), who will play in his fifth NHL All-Star Game.

* Nash holds the NHL All-Star Game record for the fastest goal from the start of a game, tallying just 12 seconds into the 2008 contest in Atlanta.

* The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game MVP will be determined by fans in-arena via a Twitter vote. Three finalists will be announced during the third period. The winner will receive a 2015 Honda Accord EX-L, made in Ohio.

* The last player to win NHL All-Star Game MVP honors in front of his home fans was Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev, in 2009 in Montreal.

* It has been 19 years since a defenseman captured NHL All-Star Game MVP honors (Ray Bourque, 1996) and 21 years since a goaltender won the award (Mike Richter, 1994).

* Penguins forward Mario Lemieux became the first rookie to earn NHL All-Star MVP honors in 1985. Lemieux, 19, notched 2-1—3 in leading the Prince of Wales Conference to a 6-4 win over the Campbell Conference.

* Blue Jackets forward and hometown star Ryan Johansen was the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft presented by DraftKings, held on Friday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Team Foligno won a ‘puck toss’ to pick first overall, with Nick Foligno selecting linemate and first-time All-Star Johansen. Team Toews chose Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel as its first choice and the second overall selection. Kessel later was traded to Team Foligno in exchange for Stars forward Tyler Seguin, marking the first trade in NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft history.

* The NHL became the first professional sports league to implement an All-Star player fantasy draft to determine team rosters, in 2011 in Raleigh. Eric Staal of the Hurricanes, one of the NHL All-Star captains, selected Hurricanes teammate Cam Ward with the first overall selection. Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings, the other captain, nabbed Steven Stamkos of the Lightning with the second overall pick.

* In 2012 in Ottawa, NHL All-Star captain Zdeno Chara of the Bruins made Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings the first overall selection, followed by captain Daniel Alfredsson of the hometown Senators selecting teammate Erik Karlsson with his first pick.

Here’s an early look at Team Europe

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COLUMBUS — First, they really need to figure out the name.

Officially it’s the straightforward-but-staid “Team Europe,” though we heard plenty of other monikers during Saturday’s announcement of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey: Pan-European, Team Other Europe and The Island of Misfit Boys (courtesy Bleacher Report’s Dave Lozo, which I feel might not stick)

For clarity’s sake, the squad is called Team Europe (for now) and comprised of players outside the traditional Big Four — Sweden, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic — of international hockey. As such, the NHL and NHLPA have hatched a Ryder Cup-style squad of players from Slovakia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, France, Belarus, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria and another other European country I’ve failed to mention.

Let’s take a look at potential roster choices shall we?

Forwards: Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Richard Panik, Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia), Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl, Michael Grabner (Austria), Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus), Mikkel Boedker, Frans Nielsen, Jannik Hansen, Lars Eller (Denmark), Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France), Tobias Rieder, Leon Draisaitl, Marcel Goc (Germany), Zemgus Girgensons (Latvia), Mats Zuccarello (Norway), Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland), Dainius Zubrus (Lithuania).

Defense: Zdeno Chara, Andrej Sekera, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia), Roman Josi, Mark Streit, Yannick Weber, Luca Sbisa, Mirco Mueller, Raphael Diaz (Switzerland), Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg (Germany).

Goalie: Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia), Frederik Andersen (Denmark), Thomas Greiss (Germany), Jonas Hiller, Reto Berra (Switzerland).

Halak, who’s represented Slovakia internationally on a number of occasions, figures to be in the mix for one of the goaltending spots — and, one would think, the starting job — but has mixed feelings about the Team Europe concept.

“I would say if it was 10 years ago it would be upsetting because 10 years ago we had a lot of guys in the NHL,” he explained during . “Right now, we got maybe 12. So that would be tough to make a team out of 12 guys.

“Obviously you need 20. It will be different to see [the rest of Team Europe] but at the same time I’m open to it. It would be nice to play with some other players from different countries.”

As most assumed when reports of a Team Europe concept first broke, the team will be well-stocked at forward but thin on defense and in goal. On their own, Switzerland and Slovakia probably have the strongest contingents but lack depth certain positions. Other countries simply don’t have enough players period so, from a competition standpoint, the Ryder Cup-style amalgam makes sense.

It just remains to be seen if all the projected players fully embrace the idea.

“I’m sure it’s going to be strange at first, but playing against each other you know pretty much all of the guys anyway, Kopitar said. “I don’t think it’s going to be too hard to come together.”

All-Star captains Foligno and Toews announce player assignments for skills competition

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Team Foligno and Team Toews announced the All-Star and rookie assignments for tonight’s All-Star Skills competition, which you can watch live at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN or online at NBCSports.com.

Maple Leafs’ forward Phil Kessel, who was traded from Team Toews to Team Foligno Friday night highlights the list of players participating in the fastest skater competition. Jonathan Drouin of the Lightning, Habs’ Jiri Sekac and Buffalo’s Zemgus Girigensons will also skate for Team Foligno. They’ll compete against Tyler Seguin, who was involved in the Kessel trade, Mike Hoffman of the Ottawa Senators, Panthers’ rookie Aaron Ekblad and Blues’ sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

Team Foligno will set Alex Ovechkin, Claude Giroux, Ryan Johansen free in the breakaway challenge, they’ll face Team Toews’ Corey Crawford. For Team Toews’ Tarasenko, Jakub Voracek and Johnny Gaudreau will be tasked with beating Brian Elliott.

Bobby Ryan, Nick Foligno, Radim Vrbata and Patrick Kane will receive passes from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Anze Kopitar for Team Foligno in the accuracy shooting competition. Rick Nash and Patrik Elias will feed shooters Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares and Jonathan Toews for Team Toews.

Ryan Johansen and Kane highlight Team Foligno participants for the challenge relay while Team Toews replied with Gaudreau and Bergeron.

Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will be part of a group of four shooters for Team Foligno in the hardest shot competition. They’ll be challenged by the likes of Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber from Team Toews.

The shootout competition will feature the likes of Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos from Team Foligno go up against Tarasenko and Tavares from Team Toews.

Individual winners will be crowned from each of the six events and points in the overall team vs. team competition will also be awarded from each challenge.