Tag: Anze Kopitar

Mike Richards

Richards ‘won’t cause a scene’ after demotion; could be healthy scratch Saturday


Earlier today, we wrote about Mike Richards getting just 9:07 of ice time — a season-low — in Thursday’s 4-3 loss against the Rangers, and the trade rumors swirling overhead.

Today, things got worse.

Richards skated in a position next to Jordan Nolan on the “fifth line,” which suggested he could be a healthy scratch tomorrow when the Kings take on the Jets.

More, from the O.C. Register:

Coach Darryl Sutter could always change his mind before Saturday night, but clearly a message is being sent either way. Richards is a 29-year-old former 30-goal scorer whose role is quickly diminishing.

”That’s no fun, that’s no good,’’ Richards said Friday. ”I still, obviously, think I can play a lot more minutes, but at the same time, you play what you’re put in position to play. I’m not going to cause a scene or do anything to take the focus away from anything. I’m just going to come to the rink every day and play hockey.’’

The former Philadelphia Flyer — in year seven of a 12-year, $69 million deal — was thought to be a potential buyout target during last summer’s compliance window, yet retained by Kings GM Dean Lombardi in a move that could come back to haunt the Kings. While L.A. has lauded Richards for his “intangibles” and leadership ability, the fact remains he’s on pace for the lowest offensive output of his career (just 14 points through 41 games) and the organization could find itself in a cap crunch with Justin Williams a UFA this summer and Anze Kopitar the next.

Richards, to his credit, is trying to stay positive.

”You come to the rink every day and, it is what it is, to be honest,” he told the Register. ”You come here, you work, you get ready for a hockey game, just like any other year or any other time. That’s about all you can do.’’

After season-low ice time, rumors swirl around Kings’ Richards

Mike Richards, Kevin Klein

Last night’s Stanley Cup Final rematch was a rough one for Mike Richards.

The veteran Kings center played a season-low 9:07 in the 4-3 loss, including just two shifts in the final frame for a grand total of 81 seconds.

The man in charge of ice time distribution, head coach Darryl Sutter, didn’t name names in his postgame presser, but did allude to issues his team had against the Rangers.

Per LA Kings Insider, they included:

“We had trouble keeping up with a fast team.”

“We had some top players tonight not in the checking mood.”

“We need to get some more out of good players, that’s for sure.”

“We’ve got to continue to be better checkers right through our lineup.”

In regards to which — or, how many — apply to Richards, well, that’s up for debate. Sutter also talked about taking bad penalties and the Rangers scored a PPG following Richards’ interference penalty in the first period, so there’s that to consider as well.

That Richards had this kind of performance in a Cup Final rematch is a tad ironic. He, along with his namesake — ex-Rangers center Brad Richards — were two of the most maligned individuals last spring, thanks in large part to their onerous contracts; while New York opted to use a compliance buyout on the remainder of Brad’s nine-year, $58.5M deal, Kings GM Dean Lombardi opted against doing the same to Mike’s 12-year, $69M pact.

More: Richards: I gave Lombardi ‘my word’ I’d work harder in the offseason

It hasn’t taken long for Richards’ name to surface in trade talks, however.

The first instances came in mid-November, when a pair of TSN reports suggested L.A. was inquiring about moving Richards out of town.

“I don’t think the notion they might be prepared to part with him is necessarily performance-related as much as it is reality-related,” McKenzie said on TSN 1050 radio. “And that is on a team that’s got Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jarret Stoll as your top three centers.

“Do you have room for a guy making that kind of money as arguably a fourth-line center?”

Now, the smoke appear to be surfacing again. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was on Fan 590 Radio Friday morning, and said the following (per Nicholson Hockey):

“Justin Williams scored another couple of goals last night. He had a really strong game. He was one of the best L.A. players in the loss. They are trying to sign him to an extension. He’s a free agent at the end of this year.

“They’re a year and a half from having to deal with Kopitar, who, by every stretch of the imagination, deserves the same contract that Toews and Kane got, and who knows what he actually wants. But they know it’s going to be a big number. So they are trying to do some things to kind of clear the decks a bit.

“I’m sure they’re calling and asking teams like Toronto and Winnipeg, where they think that maybe Richards would be willing to go, to test it.”

The trade deadline is on March 2. Stay tuned.

Related: Sutter calls out Mike Richards on game-losing goal

Poll: Are the Preds legit Stanley Cup contenders?

Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators are one of the big surprise teams of the 2014-15 NHL season.

Probably the biggest, actually.

Even with a healthy Pekka Rinne in goal and Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber on the blue line, we can’t recall anyone who predicted the Preds would be 25-9-4 after 38 games, good for the highest points percentage in the NHL.

In fact, prior to the season, online sportsbook Bovada set Nashville’s point total at just 76.5. To fall short of that now, the Preds would need to finish something like 12-31-1. That’s how good they’ve been, relative to expectations.

So, with a spot in the playoffs seeming all but assured, the question is begging to be asked — do the Preds have what it takes to win it all?

The argument for ‘Yes’

Nashville has the second-best goals-against average in the NHL. And if there’s one thing that recent Stanley Cup winners have shown us, it’s that defense wins championships.

Goals against of past six Stanley Cup champs
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (6th, 2.48)

And as the Preds showed this weekend, they can also put the puck in the net. Nashville’s offense is now tied for seventh in the league, averaging 2.95 goals per game. Five-on-five, no team has a higher goals for/against ratio than the Preds, at 1.47.

The argument for ‘No’

It’s more of a subjective one. No matter how good Nashville’s numbers look right now, and no matter how much talent they have in goal and on the back end, can a team really win the Stanley Cup with Mike Ribeiro as its first-line center? Because that’s who it is for the Preds — the 34-year-old who signed for peanuts after he got bought out by the Coyotes due to “behavioral issues” and has never entered the conversation when debating the truly elite centers in hockey.

That conversation has been limited to the likes of Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, and Anze Kopitar. You know, players that have won Stanley Cups. Or Hart Trophies. Or Selke Trophies. Or Conn Smythe Trophies.

Go ahead and search the list. Try to find a team that’s won the Stanley Cup without a top center with some serious credentials. You won’t find many.

Time to vote!

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Kings renew hostilities

Tomas Hertl, Jonathan Quick

NBCSN will kick off its post-holiday schedule with back-to-back rivalry games tonight. The second will feature the Kings and Sharks in Los Angeles and start at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

When the Sharks faced the Kings in their season opener, they had something to prove after San Jose was embarrassed by Los Angeles in the first round “reverse sweep.”. The fact that the Sharks went on to earn a 4-0 victory in that contest was a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t make up for the playoff collapse. Nothing they do in the regular season can.

Even still, the situation is far different for Game 2 of the season series between San Jose and Los Angeles. The Sharks entered the holiday break on a 9-1-1 run to improve to 19-11-5 this season. Even their 3-2 overtime loss against Anaheim to close their pre-Christmas schedule seemed to do little to dampen their enthusiasm.

“If we play that way, we’ll win more than we lose,” said Joe Pavelski, per CSN Bay Area.

“It answered some questions that I had going in,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the loss. “Are we going to be prepared and focused and could we compete in this type of game right before Christmas? We did that. We had some good leadership in the locker room and everybody found a way to scramble to get a point on the road.”

Los Angeles hasn’t been nearly as effective lately, winning just three of its last nine games. That 70s line of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson, which dazzled audiences earlier this season, has fizzled out and been broken up. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik are finally clicking, but lately it often hasn’t been enough.

These last few years Los Angeles has been a team that’s at its best during the playoffs, but the Kings need to make it to the postseason for that to matter. Coming out of the holiday break last season, the Kings had a nine-point cushion in the battle for a playoffs spot, but going into this game, Los Angeles only has a two-point edge in the Wild Card race.

With that in mind this isn’t just a rivalry game for the Kings. It’s also a key opportunity to put some distance on their pre-holiday slump and start providing themselves with some breathing room.

Kopitar, Voracek, Fleury named NHL’s three stars of the week

Anze Kopitar

Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, Philly’s Jakub Voracek and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 21, the league announced on Monday.

The highlights:

Kopitar led the NHL with nine points and eight assists in three games, helping the Kings (17-11-6, 40 points) win two of three starts to maintain a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

Voracek tied for second among all players with seven points (3-4—7) in four games to power the Flyers (13-14-6, 32 points) to five out of a possible eight standings points and vault into the top spot in NHL scoring.

Fleury went 3-0-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average, .971 save percentage and one shutout to help the Penguins (22-6-4, 48 points) record a trio of victories and maintain the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

For Kopitar, last week was huge as it snapped him out of a terrible scoring slump. The 27-year-old had just 13 points through his first 28 games and a 10-game goalless drought from Nov. 18 to Dec. 11.