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The Buzzer: Stone puts up a five-spot; O’Reilly cashes in first-career hat trick

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Three Stars

1. Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators

Stone had to face the music on Tuesday morning for an incident he wasn’t even a part of. By the end of the night, Stone had displayed his leadership qualities both on and off the ice after recording a five-point night as the Senators took it to the New Jersey Devils in a 7-3 thumping. The Senators forward has six goals and 12 assists in 15 games now this season.

2. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Normally, a first-career hat trick would be sufficient enough for the top star, but given what Ottawa has gone through over the past 24 hours, and the way Stone played, O’Reilly’s three-goal game comes in a close second. The hatty helped the Blues get back to winning ways. O’Reilly now has seven goals and 19 points in 16 games in his first season in St. Louis.

3. Marcus Sorensen, San Jose Sharks

Sorensen had one goal and two assists to help the Sharks to a 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild. The Sharks have won two straight and have points in eight of their past 10 games.

Other notable performances: 

  • Thomas Chabot was in that now infamous Uber ride taken by the Ottawa Senators. He didn’t speak before the game but continued his torrid pace with another goal (his fourth) and two more assists (his 15th and 16th). Chabot is the top scoring defenseman in the NHL right now.
  • Robby Fabbri scored his first goal of the season and first in 23 months. Injuries have played Fabbri during that time.
  • Chad Johnson got the nod for the Blues against the shot-happy Hurricanes. He made 38-of-39 saves.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk has a goal and two assists to help the Kings to a 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks in Willie Desjardins first game in as the bench boss in L.A.
  • Freddie Andersen made 36 saves (seven on the power play) in a 3-1 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov each produced three-point nights as the Lightning trounced the Edmonton Oilers 5-2.
  • Jimmy Howard stopped 40 pucks for the Red Wings in regulation and overtime and stopped all three shooters in he faced in the shootout in a 3-2 Detroit win over Vancouver.

Highlights of the Night

Robby Fabbri’s first goal in 23 months. Welcome back.

Elias Pettersson has it all:

He Pionk’d on ’em:

Nice outlet pass:

Factoids

Scores

Maple Leafs 3, Golden Knights 1

Rangers 5, Canadiens 3

Blue Jackets 4, Stars 1

Senators 7, Devils 3

Red Wings 3, Canucks 2 (SO)

Lightning 5, Oilers 2

Blues 4, Hurricanes 1

Sharks 4, Wild 3

Kings 4, Ducks 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Adam Oates joins Kings as skills and development consultant

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The Los Angeles Kings are taking a multi-faceted approach to turn their season around.

Just two days after firing head coach John Stevens and assistant coach Don Nachbaur, replacing them with Willie Desjardins and Marco Sturm, the Kings are now bringing on Hockey Hall of Famer and former head coach Adam Oates, the CEO of Oates Sports Group, as a consultant to try and right the ship.

According to the Kings, the 20-year NHL veteran will provide “advice regarding player skills evaluation and development” while also helping the team with their ailing power play.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Oates will still be able to continue working with the players he helps train, including Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos and Winnipeg Jets forwards Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

[Related: Kings fire John Stevens]

Oates Sports Group runs a hockey boutique hockey agency specializing in a wide gamut of player services, including training and skill development, player representations and marketing and public relations.

Los Angeles’ problems on the ice run deep after a 4-8-1 start to the season. A summer move that saw Ilya Kovalchuk return to the NHL hasn’t paid off and the Kings are now in the midst of a long-term absence of starting goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Oates isn’t going to come in and turn things around overnight, but with what he’s been able to do with some of the superstars he trains around the league, there’s no harm in the Kings trying to leverage that for their own roster.

The Kings are back in action on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, Desjardins’ first game as Los Angeles’ new bench boss.

MORE: Kings’ problems run much deeper than their coach


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kings’ problems run far deeper than their coach

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The Los Angeles Kings put an end to the John Stevens era on Sunday afternoon, firing the coach just 13 games into his second season behind their bench. Given how horrendous they looked in their first-round playoff exit a year ago, and how much they have struggled this season, some sort of a change somewhere in the organization seemed inevitable. The coach is usually the first place teams look in a last-ditch effort to save a season that is teetering on the brink of falling apart.

Maybe Stevens wasn’t the right coach for the Kings.

Maybe the team needed a different voice and some new ideas and a new approach and a new system.

But even if all of that is true there should be no mistaking that the Kings’ decision on Sunday is nothing more than a short-term band-aid on what has become a run-of-the-mill franchise with a growing list of long-term problems.

[Related: Kings fire John Stevens]

Last February I argued that the Kings were one of the aging, veteran teams in the NHL that were in dire need of a top-to-bottom overhaul. They were short on high-end talent, short on youth, short on speed, and still trying to play a brand of hockey from an era that no longer exists.

Their solution over the summer: To bring a 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk back from Russia following a five year absence from the NHL.

And that was it.

And while Kovalchuk has been as good as the Kings could have possibly expected him to be (he actually leads the team in scoring with 11 points in 13 games), he alone was never going to be enough to fix a stagnant offense that looked like it was playing a completely different, and not to mention vastly inferior, game than the Vegas team that skated circles around them in the playoffs. An offense that has finished higher than 14th in goals scored once over the past decade. An offense that, more often than not, is in the bottom-five of the league.

Unless he brought a time machine back from Russia that could transport him back to 2009 he was not going to be able to make the Kings younger or faster, two of the biggest issues currently plaguing the current organization. He was just going to be another mid-30s player that is a fraction of his former dominant self on a team built around mid-30s players that are fractions of their once dominant selves.

Here is the current situation the Kings are facing on the day they fired their coach.

  • They are at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, already eight points out of a playoff spot, and facing a daunting mountain when it comes to making the postseason. This after missing the playoffs in two of the previous four seasons and not making it out of the first round since 2014.
  • They are the second oldest team in the NHL and still play at a glacial pace.
  • They have one of the biggest salary cap numbers in the league and do not have any big contracts coming off the books after this season.
  • They only have three players on the roster right now under the age of 25 that have appeared in more than eight games this season. Those three players — Austin Wagner, Michael Amadio, and Adrian Kempe — are all averaging less than 12 minutes of ice-time per game and have combined for three points this season.
  • They have seven players over the age of 31 signed for at least three more seasons.
  • The key players that are still in the prime of their careers, specifically Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, are simply … okay. They are decent middle-six players, but if either one of them ever gives you 50 points in a season it would be considered a huge success. They are not core players to build around.

Anything there that excites you?

Just about the best thing you could say about this Kings team right now to offer any sort of short-term hope is that Anze Kopitar has yet to play his best hockey this season, and that they are finally getting Dustin Brown back in the lineup after he missed the first month of the season.

But is Brown going to be able to repeat his 2017-18 performance, which is looking like a pretty significant outlier given where his career has gone over the past four years? Is Kopitar going to be able to provide enough offense to drag the rest of the team behind him again?

And that’s not even getting into the fact they are going to be playing backup goalies for the next few weeks as Jonathan Quick remains sidelined.

Whether it is John Stevens, or Willie Desjardins, or some yet-to-be-named coach that is sitting at home waiting for a phone call, it is going to be a huge ask to expect them to make something out of this current setup.

Even after firing the coach, the Kings are still a team in need of a rebuild.

It is a team that has been in need of a rebuild for maybe two years now.

Unfortunately for them no one in the organization seems to realize it yet.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Kings fire head coach John Stevens in effort to right ship

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Needing to turn their season around in a hurry, the Los Angeles Kings fired head coach John Stevens on Sunday.

Not even a convincing 4-1 victory on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets could help Stevens and assistant head coach Don Nachbaur keep their jobs.

Stevens is being replaced by former Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins on an interim basis. Desjardins was let go by the Canucks two seasons ago after failing to make the playoffs two years running. He most recently coached Canada’s national men’s team at last year’s Olympics in South Korea.

The Kings also hired former NHLer Marco Sturm, who most recently coached the German National Team to a silver medal at those same Olympics, knocking out Desjardins’ team in the semifinals.

“This is a critical time in our season and our results to date have fallen well below our expectations. With that in mind, this was a difficult decision but one we feel was necessary,” said general manager Rob Blake. “We have a great deal of respect and appreciation for John’s time with our organization. He was a key part of our past success, and we have tremendous gratitude for his many contributions.”

This is hardly surprising, as Stevens seat had only grown warmer as the season has progressed.

Despite Saturday’s win, the Kings are dead last in the NHL with nine points (tied with Florida but have played two more games). A six-game losing streak was only halted this past week and Stevens just couldn’t extract enough out of an aging Kings teams.

Old and slow doesn’t win the race in hockey.

Whether Desjardins can do any better with the same roster is still up for debate.

The addition of Ilya Kovalchuk has done little to help the Kings score more goals, where they sit plumb last in that category, too, with 28 in 13 games — an average of just 2.15 goals per game. Anze Kopitar is a shell of himself compared to last season. Jonathan Quick can’t stay healthy.

A tough task then for Desjardins.

MORE: Marco Sturm on NHL coaching future, growing hockey in Germany 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The end could be nigh for Kings coach John Stevens

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We have yet to see a coaching change this season but that could change in relatively quick order.

John Stevens has already been on the hot seat with the Los Angeles Kings. With each loss that’s piled up over their six-game losing streak, the faint whispers have turned into all-out shouts by those in the Kings’ fanbase.

Stevens’ Kings have gotten off to a disastrous start to the season. Their 2-7-1 record indicates that. Their eight goals in their past six games provide further proof.

The aura surrounding the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk lasted until about the time when the first puck was dropped on the season. He was supposed to add some pep in Los Angeles’ step and boost their power play. Instead, the Kings sit plumb last in the NHL with the man-advantage, operating well-under 10 percent and there is, well, no pep.

Kovalchuk’s addition has only seemed to add another aging face to the team’s dinosaur exhibit.

The Kings have looked old and slow and Stevens’ job as head coach appears to be heading the way of our extinct prehistoric friends in quick fashion.

“Well, it’s the nature of the beast, to be honest with you,” Stevens told The Athletic on Saturday. “We’re in this business to get the most out of your team, to win hockey games. And we haven’t performed very well. So it’s not something I’m going to get up and worry about. When you get into this business, you know that you’re going to be held accountable for the success of the team. I totally get that.”

Stevens has been with the club for years, as an assistant coach and as the team’s bench boss. He has two Stanley Cup rings, both in that assistant’s role, but he just hasn’t extracted what needs to be this harvested for the Kings to be successful this year.

A loss Sunday could spell the end for Stevens. The Kings play host to the New York Rangers, who have struggled themselves — albeit by design after the team blew itself up last season and began a rebuild.

The Kings have struggled at home, where they have suffered some mighty losses this season.

After getting ransacked 5-1 a week ago by the Buffalo Sabres, the Kings held a closed-door meeting to try and right the ship.

It didn’t seem to work.

“I pour all my effort into trying to help these players play their best and the team perform their best, but that comes with the territory,” Stevens said. “If that happens, and it happens a lot … I knew that getting into this business. We’re going to continue to try to improve this hockey team and try to get this team on the right track. That’s always the threat in this business.”

Added to the list of misery is that starter Jonathan Quick is out once again with a lower-body injury.

The team has simply underperformed. Anze Kopitar was a 90-point player last season. He’s got three goals in 10 games this year. Quick held a .921 save percentage during the last campaign but is wallowing with a .845 this time around.

L.A.’s players simply aren’t getting it done and Stevens appears out of ideas for how to jump-start his club.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck