Los Angeles Kings

Video: Sharp capitalizes on sweet feed from Kane

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Give Patrick Kane time and space, and he seems to make opposing teams pay. And on Wednesday, Patrick Sharp was the beneficiary.

Kane caught a wide open Sharp with a cross-ice pass, and Sharp ripped it top corner on Jonathan Quick for his 10th goal of the season. It also gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 lead over L.A. in the first period.

By the way, Kane opened the scoring with his 23rd goal of the season.

 

After six-game absence, Toffoli (mono) back for Kings tonight

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The reeling Los Angeles Kings will get a big boost tonight when Tyler Toffoli returns from a bout with mononucleosis to face the Blackhawks.

Toffoli, 22, has been out of the lineup since Jan. 8 and has missed the Kings’ last six games, during which they’ve gone 1-2-3. Offense has been an issue; L.A. has just five goals in its last three games and the hope is that getting Toffoli back in the mix will alleviate some of those scoring woes.

Prior to falling ill, Toffoli sat tied for third on the team in tallies (12, with Jeff Carter) and had four points in his last eight games.

Goalie nods: Slumping Bernier back in for Leafs

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Toronto goes back to Bernier

Jonathan Bernier will be in net for the Leafs’ first game after the All-Star break when they take on the Devils tonight at Prudential.

Bernier hasn’t been very good lately, and is looking for redemption after getting pulled against Carolina in his last outing. He surrendered three goals on 13 shots before giving way to James Reimer versus the ‘Canes, but his slump dates back even earlier; Bernier has lost each of his last three starts, posting a 3.05 GAA and .888 save percentage over that stretch.

For the Devils, Cory Schneider will get the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Penguins at Capitals: Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh, Braden Holtby likely for Washington.

‘Hawks at Kings: Corey Crawford for Chicago, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Carolina won’t buy out Semin after season, says Francis

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We wrote yesterday about ‘Canes head coach Bill Peters possibly reaching his breaking point with struggling forward Alex Semin, who was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay.

Peters’ boss, Carolina GM Ron Francis, doesn’t appear to be as close to breaking.

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

The Canes’ options with Semin include placing him on waivers, sending him to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League or buying him out after the season.

Francis indicated the Canes would not do the latter.

“Alex is a part of the Hurricanes and we’ll continue to work with him and try to help him be the player we think he can be,” Francis said. “Things are different now in the way we are running things and what we expect. Our job is to continue to work with him and get the message through.

“We think we can do it. We’re not giving up on him at all.”

Not surprising to learn that Carolina’s passing on the buyout route. Since amnestying contracts is no longer on the table, utilizing a standard buyout for remainder of Semin’s five-year, $35 million deal would be a really expensive proposition for the ‘Canes — though to be fair, another team with financial issues, Arizona, used a one on Mike Ribeiro last June.

What Francis didn’t rule out, though, was the waiver route and a possible demotion to the AHL. In the world of guaranteed contracts and salary caps, it’s one of the few motivational tools general managers have at their disposal; we saw this recently with the L.A. Kings and forward Mike Richards, who was waived then sent to AHL Manchester after clearing.

Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said Richards needed to “re-find his passion and his love for the game,” while GM Dean Lombardi said “it’s up to Mike.”

Semin would almost undoubtedly clear waivers if placed on the wire. Could a wake-up trip to AHL Charlotte deliver the message Peters has been trying to send?

NHL on NBCSN: Faltering Kings face rival Blackhawks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign with Wednesday’s second game as the Los Angeles Kings host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Staples Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

While they would prefer to sit atop the Central Division, things are basically business as usual for the Chicago Blackhawks, who visit the Los Angeles Kings to wrap up Wednesday’s Rivalry Night action.

(Click here to read about the Washington Capitals hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins.)

Things aren’t quite as casual for the Kings, however. It’s true that Los Angeles has made a habit of grabbing an unimpressive playoff spot and running with it, but this season may just push that limit.

The Kings are currently sitting at ninth place in the West, three points behind the Calgary Flames for the West’s wild card spot. Sports Club Stats gives them slightly worse than a coin flip’s chance at making the playoffs, for what it’s worth. They may have a game in hand on Calgary, but the Flames hold the kind of tiebreakers (six more wins, four more in regulation/overtime) that give a quick argument for how much Los Angeles needs to improve.

Not that the Blackhawks are likely to take the Kings lightly, mind you.

Most obviously, Chicago remembers all too well falling to Los Angeles in that memorable 2014 Western Conference final series.

Beyond that, the Kings have been very tough at home, sporting a 15-6-6 record at the Staples Center. Considering how well-rested this group is (as opposed to Blackhawks team that almost sent a starting lineup to the All-Star Game), we should see the best Los Angeles has to offer tonight.

The Kings play their first game since sending Mike Richards to the AHL. Martin Jones is available to play if Los Angeles wants to move away from struggling starter Jonathan Quick. Corey Crawford is expected to be in Chicago’s net.

The Blackhawks took the first meeting between these teams, handling the Kings 4-1 in Los Angeles on Nov. 29. They face a far more desperate opponent tonight, however.