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Season preview: Los Angeles Kings


Season preview: Los Angeles Kings

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Los Angeles Kings

2014-15 record: 40-27-15, 4th in the Pacific

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Darryl Sutter (5th season)

Notable additions: LW Milan Lucic, G Jhonas Enroth

Notable subtractions: D Robyn Regehr, C Mike Richards, D Andrej Sekera, C Jarrett Stoll, RW Justin Williams

RELATED: Caps likely to rotate at third line center this season

Schedule against the Capitals: Tues. Feb. 15 at Washington, Wed. March 9 at Los Angeles

Outlook: Just about everyone penciled the Kings into the playoffs last season so it was a shock when they were not able to dig themselves out of the hole they had dug in the standings and actually missed the playoffs.

Suddenly a team that has won two Stanley Cups in four seasons has some questions surrounding them.

The Kings return all five of their leading scorers from last season and added Milan Lucic, but they still lost a fair amount of offensive contributors. This was an average offensive team last year and the addition of Lucic by itself feels like it is not enough to make this team dangerous again.

Jonathan Quick returns and remains one of the league's top netminders, but what about the defense in front of him? Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera are both gone and Slava Voynov's situation is still unresolved in terms of the NHL. Those are tough shoes to fill.

The Kings still have over $6 million of cap space which could suggest they may be hoping Voynov can return next season ($4.162 cap hit). Otherwise it's hard to have much faith in the defense they return this fall.

There is also some turmoil in Los Angeles. The team unceremoniously terminated Mike Richards' contract for "a material breach of the requirements of his standard player's contract," Jarrett Stoll was arrested in April for possession of cocaine and ecstasy and of course the Voynov domestic abuse incident. There are also reports that some Kings players are growing tired of head coach Darryl Sutter.

This is not a team that is going to start from scratch, they had the best Corsi-for percentage in the NHL last season, but there are enough problems on and off the ice to suggest the dominant Kings who have won two of the last four Stanley Cups are gone.

Expectations: The defense has undeniably regressed, the offense will remain average and the players are not happy with their coach. You can't count the Kings out completely given what they have accomplished over the past few years and their possession numbers suggest last season was more of an anomaly than anything else, but the cracks are starting to form.

Los Angeles is on the decline and look to be a middle of the pack team this season. They will be in the hunt for a playoff spot and if they get in, who knows what they can do?

MORE CAPS: NHL 16 adds new feature that should excite Caps fans

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
San Jose Sharks 8/6 
Vancouver Canucks 8/7

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 8/8 
Colorado Avalanche 8/9 
Dallas Stars 8/10 
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13 
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins 8/15 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20< 
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.