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2016-17 NHL Season preview: Los Angeles Kings

2016-17 NHL Season preview: Los Angeles Kings

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Los Angeles Kings

How they did last season: 48-28-6 (102 points); second in Pacific Division, fifth in the Western Conference. Ousted in the first round by the Sharks, 4-1.

Notable acquisitions: LW Teddy Purcell, D Tom Gilbert, G Jeff Zatkoff, D Zach Trotman and C Michael Latta.

Notable departures: LW Milan Lucic, C Vincent Lecavalier, RW Kris Versteeg, D Luke Schenn, D Jamie McBain, D Jeff Schultz and G Jhonas Enroth.

When they will play the Caps: Feb. 5 in Washington; March 11 in Los Angeles.


Analysis: After a second consecutive disappointing end to the season, the Kings opted to shake up the locker room this summer.

Sure, there were a handful of roster moves (Lucic out, Purcell in, etc.). But the juiciest storyline of the offseason was management’s decision to strip Dustin Brown of the ‘C’ and hand the captaincy to Anze Kopitar.

Brown was the longest serving captain in franchise history, having been in that role since 2008. He hoisted two Cups in a span of three years. But his production had deteriorated in recent seasons (11 goals in each of the past two campaigns) and Coach Darryl Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi agreed it was time for a change—for both Brown’s sake and for the good of the group.

As you might imagine, Brown, 31, wasn’t a fan of the decision…or the fact that it was announced weeks after the news leaked out. “It was a tough pill to swallow,” Brown told the Associated Press in late June. “…This is a management decision, not the players voting or anything like that. To be quite honest, it would’ve been a lot harder had it been my teammates doing this.”

My two cents: This doesn’t have to be an problem.  It happens from time to time and, as it relates to Brown, it had been rumored for a while. In fact, other than the way it was handled, I think it was the right move. I don’t suspect leadership, or a lack of it, was the reason for the Kings’ disappointment the past two years. But I do believe a boost in the leadership dept. could be a positive thing for a team that’s still got enough pieces to make some noise in the West.

And, oh yeah, Lucic—the Kings’ fourth leading scorer last season with 20 goals and 35 assists—signed with the Oilers.  

Season prediction: In terms of adding new blood, this offseason was an underwhelming one for the cap-strapped Kings. The good news, though, is that the key holdovers—Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Jake Muzzin, Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik and Co.—still form a solid core, and they’ve got a couple of prospects who are close to being ready.

They’ve also got a quality bench boss in Sutter.

The big question as camp begins is who replaces Lucic’s production? Can it be done by committee? Will Purcell help offset some of the loss? Perhaps. Purcell, who turns 31 next month, posted 43 points last season with the Oilers and Panthers and produced a 65-point season with the Bolts in 2011-12.

In the end, it’s hard to envision the Kings rising a whole lot, or sinking a significant amount, either. Smack dab in the middle of Western Conference playoff picture—once again—sounds about right to me.


Other team previews:

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers 
Montreal Canadiens (coming Aug. 19)
Ottawa Senators (coming Aug. 20)
Tampa Bay Lightning (coming Aug. 21)
Toronto Maple Leafs (coming Aug. 22)

Metropolitan Division
Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)

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John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.