Another Jewel for Star-studded LA Dodgers

Newest Dodger Gavin Lux and his proud parents, after Lux’ spectacular MLB debut. Photo credit: John SooHoo

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman –

On Sep. 2, 2019, a cool, calm and confident 21-year-old left-handed-hitting Gavin Lux, made his major league debut with the LA Dodgers on Labor Day at Dodger Stadium in front of 45,910 enthusiastic fans. He came up to the plate in the bottom of the second inning and hit the first pitch, delivered by Rockies pitcher Peter Lambert, up the middle for a single, and his very first major league hit. In the bottom of the third inning, for his second at-bat, Lux then doubled.

Welcome to the party, Gavin.

Lux got his break after Max Muncy became sidelined with a minor wrist fracture that will keep him on the shelf for about two weeks. Because of this, the Dodgers decided they needed more depth at second base.

Circumstances aside, Lux definitely earned the call-up from Triple-A Oklahoma City. His performance had been sensational – hitting .392/.478/.719 with 13 homers over 232 plate appearances.

He was selected as the 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft, after having appeared on top-100 prospect lists, with Baseball America listing him as the ninth-best prospect.

Lux played many games as a shortstop, but also was assigned to second base in preparation to be utilized in the infield and lineup for the Dodgers. Corey Seager is the usual starting shortstop, so Lux will probably get most of his playing time at second, with Muncy on the IL and the Dodgers coasting into the playoffs as long-time leaders in the NL West. If Lux performs well, he just might make it onto a postseason roster which already has an enviable amount of depth.

The Dodgers were wise to resist all trade offers since Lux was drafted.

During his debut game, the youngster made history by becoming the first Dodger since 1920, to score three or more times in his MLB debut.

The Kenosha, WI native, who was drafted out of Indian Trail High School, had this to say about his debut; “It was my debut and obviously I was nervous. First ground ball, first at-bat, Okay, weight off my shoulders. I enjoyed it a lot. My first at-bat was a little emotional.”

His mom and dad were sitting in the stands to watch their son perform in his first game. “I saw a video of my first hit and my dad started crying,” Lux said. “Oh, man, I thought he was the tough guy out of all of them.”

Lux gave the memorable first-hit baseball to his parents.

After the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts mentioned how impressed he is with Lux’s performance.

“Up and down the lineup, obviously, initially, everyone’s excited about Gavin making his debut,” Roberts said after the four hour and six-minute game in which the Dodgers handily won 16-9. “He showed well tonight, really taking good at-bats and defensively gets off the ball really well, moves really well. We knew in spring training that Gavin has great potential. The way he fits into his uniform, his body type, and the way he plays the game.”

In his debut game, Lux went 2-for-5 (.400) at the plate and made three really good plays at second base.

With Lux, the future is now.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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LA Dodgers Ace Hyun-Jin Ryu continues to impress

– Story contributed by Steven Lieberman

The Los Angeles Dodgers investment in their South Korean pitching ace, Hyun-Jin Ryu, has finally begun to pay dividends, as Ryu is healthy and performing to his potential.

Ryu remains on pace for historic season

Three weeks into the month of June, Ryu has a 9-1 record with an ERA of 1.27 in 15 starts. His ERA is presently the best in the majors and fourth-best by a pitcher in their first 15 starts of a season since 1920 – if Ryu maintains that ERA this entire season, it would be the lowest since the immortal Bob Gibson‘s 1.12 in 1968 while pitching for the St Louis Cardinals.

The Soon-to-be All-Star southpaw is also the reigning NL Pitcher of the Month for the month of May. The beefy 6’3″ 32-year old hurler is now 6-0 with a 0.94 ERA in eight starts at Dodger Stadium this season.

When he was a free agent after the 2018 season, Dodger ownership was wise to offer him a one-year contract for $17.9 million. Their bet is now paying off, big time.

Born in Incheon, the “Korean Monster” pitched seven seasons for the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO before signing a six-year, $36 million deal with the Dodgers in December 2012 at age 25. What makes this journey even more remarkable, are the humble (if not ominous) beginnings.

He was not reaching his potential as a starter in 2013 and 2014 and then over the next four seasons, Ryu was plagued with injuries. After suffering shoulder soreness in 2014, he missed all of 2015 with surgery to repair a torn labrum. It was also discovered that he’d been pitching through the injury during his first two years with the Dodgers and also further revealed that he left Korea already hurt.

After sitting out 2015, Ryu made just one start in 2016 while battling elbow tendinitis. In 2017, a hip contusion in May and a hit off his forearm in September prevented him from pitching a full season, but then things seemingly got even worse.

In the second inning of a May 2, 2018 start, he came up limping and had to leave the game. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts revealed that Ryu had not just injured his groin, but also sheared the muscle off of the bone, which kept him on the shelf until mid-August.

Amazingly, since then, Ryu has been the best pitcher in the majors. His variety of pitches are extremely difficult for hitters to read, because his fastballs and changeups all come out of his hand the same way, and have similar movement.

Ryu has also gotten better at preparing for each game and knowing what sequence of pitches to throw to each batter. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt encouraged Ryu to sharpen this part of his preparation.

“I challenged him to be a little more proactive in preparation,” Honeycutt said. “I said, ‘You’ve got great feel at reading swings, but you’ll be even better if you actually know where this guy’s biggest weaknesses are.”

Ryu has taken his coach’s words to heart — “I am trying to use their weaknesses and try to be aggressive and attack the zone…to execute my gameplane,” Ryu said.

Ryu attributes his success mostly to being healthy this season. “I am in a really good rhythm and my body feels great, Ryu said. “I just want to keep that going.”

Dodger fans are enjoying watching Ryu’s special season. His command, speed changes, up and down movement, as well as in and out control, and the way he mixes up his pitches, continues to keep opposing batters off balance.

Roberts is also pleased with his Korean pitching ace.

“To watch him work as a technician, he is masterful,” Roberts said. “Everything he wants to do with a hitter, he’s able to do it.”

Ryu’s next scheduled start is on Friday, June 28th vs the Colorado Rockies. This will be the second game of a four-game series in the mile high city. The Dodgers next home game is scheduled for Tuesday, July 2nd, when they will face the Arizona Diamondbacks on “Star Wars night” at Dodgers Stadium.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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Russell Martin doing well in return to LA Dodgers

Will Russell Martin prove to be the missing ingredient?

– Story contributed by Steven Lieberman

Veteran catcher Russell Martin is back in the saddle with the Los Dodgers Dodgers.

He was once part of the most memorable Canadian dynamic duo, with former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne. The pair had their hey-day back in the early to mid-2000’s – when Gagne would take the field to close out a game, the words “Game Over” would flash across the scoreboard and the PA system would play the song “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses.

After a victory, another tradition found myself and another reporter on the field after post-game interviews singing “O Canada,” the national anthem of Canada, to honor the one-two punch of Martin and Gagne.

Martin, a four-time All-Star, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 2002, was traded from the Blue Jays shortly before the start of Spring Training 2019, and just a day after the team lost free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In order to obtain Martin, the Dodgers had to give up minor league prospects shortstop Ronny Brito and pitcher Andrew Sopko. The Dodgers also received $16.4 million in cash from the Blue Jays and Martin will earn $20 million this season in the final year of a five-year, $82 million contract.

Martin, 36, struggled last year, batting a career-low .194 in 90 games. His best years were with the Dodgers from 2006-10 when he hit .272 and helped lead them to three postseason appearances.

Currently, after six games played, he’s boasting a .333 batting average with five hits, one home run, seven runs, and two RBI in 15 plate appearances.

So far, the investment in Martin is already paying dividends. He is rising from the ashes like a Phoenix and the Dodgers are appreciating his veteran presence and leadership skills.

Not only is Martin providing his services as a catcher, he also got the nod to enter one game as a pitcher. The score was 18-5, the Dodgers blowing out the Diamondbacks in the third game of the Home Opener Series. With three outs to go heading into the ninth inning, manager Dave Roberts handed the ball to Martin and he managed to retire the side throwing only eight pitches. Not bad for his first time pitching in the majors. Martin’s 1-2-3 ninth inning performance was the first by a full-time position player since 1925, and also a first to close out a win since Willie Smith did so for the Tigers in 1963.

“He’s prepared for whatever role that I have for him,” Roberts said of Martin. “He has really been a mentor and good teammate for (catcher) Austin (Barnes). He has already earned the respect of his teammates; some that he knew before, some that he didn’t know.”

“I played against him when he was a young rookie. Played every day; when he didn’t start at catcher, he played third base. He was kind of this gritty guy you didn’t really like from the other side but loved his athleticism,” Roberts said.

“He’s still sort of the same guy, and he takes that as a compliment. He hears that a lot, that guys that played against him, hated him. But I’m happy he’s a Dodger again.”

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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NHL Trade Deadline: Big Winners and Big Losers

Forward Mark Stone landed with a contender and got a big contract extension

Story contributed by Andrew Knoll @AndrewKnollNHL

The NHL trade deadline featured the typical flurry of activity. There was a deep market for wingers, which allowed some contenders to infuse offense into their lineup at modest costs. Meanwhile, some sellers loaded up on draft picks and prospects to strengthen their rebuilding efforts.

Winners:

Nashville Predators

David Poile continued to excel, as the veteran GM landed a trio of multi-faceted veterans in exchange for two middling forwards and without having to surrender any first-round picks. Mikael Granlund arrived to the Preds, who turned the potential of Kevin Fiala into an immediate upgrade, and one that provides speed, positional versatility and the ability to play in all three situations. Ryan Hartman was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for heart-and-soul winger Wayne Simmonds, while a second-round pick landed Nashville a sound checking center in Brian Boyle. Simmonds should provide a much-needed boost to a struggling power play that has only recently had its full complement of players. Both he and Boyle add size and grit to what now appears to be a complete team between an outstanding top four on defense, two capable goaltenders and a reinforced group of forwards.

 

Ottawa Senators

It may be hard to see the Sens holding any trophies in this or any season soon, but they have accumulated picks and salary flexibility that could carry them to a great spot in the not-too-distant future. After scrambling to acquire forward Matt Duchene last season, they got a solid haul for him, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone, all of whom were unlikely to re-sign with the Sens. As of tjis moment, they will have more picks in the first three rounds combined in the next three seasons than any other team. They also landed Erik Brannstrom, a Swedish defense prospect who has shined in both World Junior competition and the American Hockey League this season. Making the major assumption that Ottawa will be guided by competent management and, murkier still, supportive ownership, the Sens may have at least contained the dumpster fire that has ravaged their organization since their conference finals appearance just two seasons ago.

Losers:

Anaheim Ducks

Amid a free fall from grace, one of the league’s best organizations finds itself handcuffed by long-term contracts to aging players, inundated with injuries, and in complete flux at the top levels of the organization. Having made a series of trades already involving peripheral players, the Ducks have done little to impact their fortunes positively with a series of wheel-spinning deals by General Manager and interim coach Bob Murray, who recently stepped behind the bench after relieving Randy Carlyle of his duties. At the deadline, the Ducks re-signed winger Jakob Silfverberg to a five-year extension, and also added a first-round pick. On the surface, that sounds fine, but Silfverberg will soon be another relatively big-ticket player in his 30s on a team already struggling to accommodate the contracts of Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry, among others. Additionally, the first-round pick came at the cost of fluid-skating defenseman Brandon Montour, who remains under contract through 2020 and under team control once the deal is up. He now bolsters a Buffalo blue line that seems to be the final component in the Sabres’ rebuild.

 

Edmonton Oilers

Like the Ducks and Minnesota Wild, the Oilers have been active this year but the results have been negligible. They have made changes at the top – they replaced both their coach and general manager–and at the bottom, shuffling around pieces from the lower regions of their roster, but to little avail. Their deadline came and went without any significant improvement to their roster or cap situation. Even modest potential goals like better protecting star center Connor McDavid or bringing in experienced players to stabilize the roster went unaddressed.

 

The Wild Card:

Vegas Golden Knights (and Mark Stone):

The Golden Knights ostensibly snagged the prize of the deadline, when they acquired winger Mark Stone, a point-per-game-plus player who had perhaps even more remarkably, posted a positive plus/minus rating on an Ottawa roster where only one other regular has done so. The cost, however, was high, in dealing an outstanding defensive prospect in Brannstrom and a second-round pick for the rights to Stone and his expiring contract. Vegas doubled down by signing Stone to an eight-year, $76 million extension. This season, only nine players had a cap hit north of the $9.5 million that Stone will carry against the cap. One could say that the Knights landed the biggest talent available and locked him down through his prime. However, they did so at a premium when considering both the size of the contract extension and the assets they sent to Ottawa in order to have the opportunity to present the deal to Stone.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus was the biggest question mark heading into the deadline. They were on the playoff bubble and were facing an offseason where they were likely to lose their All-star goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, and their most lethal scorer, Artemi Panarin. Rather than become sellers or balance acquisitions by moving Bobrovsky and Panarin as rentals, the Jackets shoved every chip into the center of the table. They made a substantial investment in Duchene, which will be even more substantial if they manage to re-sign him. Also, they sent futures away for Dzingel, netminder Keith Kinkaid and defenseman Adam McQuaid. They may end up with more pending unrestricted free-agents on their roster (six) than they have draft picks in the next two drafts potentially (as few as five, with two of those being in the seventh final round and potentially no picks in the first three rounds). For a franchise whose success has been sporadic and in short supply, going “all-in” may signal a commitment to the fans, but without a deep playoff run, the Jackets will have undoubtedly short-changed their future.

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Philadelphia Flyers best Pittsburgh in epic outdoor contest

Wayne Simmonds appeared in his final game for the Flyers

Story contributed by Andrew Knoll (@AndrewKnollNHL)

In a spectacle that combined man-made pageantry with natural adversity and a tender farewell, on Saturday, Feb 23, the Philadelphia Flyers finally won an outdoor game ,on their fourth opportunity.

Their 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was capped by captain Claude Giroux’s overtime goal. With less than five minutes remaining in regulation time, Flyers wingers James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek had each scored with their goalie pulled, to force overtime.

Philadelphia Center Sean Couturier, as well as the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Justin Schultz scored earlier in regulation. Nearly 70,000 fans packed Lincoln Financial Field despite rain that plagued the ice surface.

“With the conditions and being down 3-1, I think everybody did a good job to keep on pressuring,” said Giroux, whose team outshot the Penguins by 18-10 in the third period of his 800th career game. “It was great. I’ve got goosebumps right now. I’ve been in this building a few times to watch the Eagles, and to get a chance to play here is unbelievable.”

The enthusiasm of the crowd was not diminished by the weather, with many fans showing up in the morning to pre-game for the 8 PM start. A fan festival with interactive games, appearances by NHL alumni and a mobile exhibit on the history of black hockey players entertained those on hand throughout the afternoon.

The game appeared all but decided as Pittsburgh carried a 3-1 lead late into the third period. A bad hop and a miscue by Flyers goalie Brian Elliott had seemed to give Malkin and the Penguins an insurance goal, but it was not to be.

The Penguins had played most of the game without their top defense pairing after Brian Dumoulin was injured by a Wayne Simmonds shoulder check and then his partner Kris Letang also sustained an injury in the ensuing first period melee. Their lack of depth on defense was compounded by three soft goals allowed by goalie Matt Murray.

“I feel like (expletive),” Murray bluntly stated after the game.

For Simmonds, the fanfare was especially apropos, as this was his final game in a Flyers uniform, despite team leadership having made an appeal to team management, to retain Simmonds. The winger, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was traded to the Nashville Predators on Monday, in exchange for forward Ryan Hartman and a conditional draft pick in 2020.

In the wake of the epic outdoor contest, Simmonds seemed resigned to his fate, as he showed emotion, but no regret. Said the 11-year NHL veteran, “I can truly say that I’ve given everything I’ve had to Philadelphia for the last eight years.”

 

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Super Bowl 53 Should Live Up to the Hype


Looking at the odds for Super Bowl LIII, it appears as though this one may truly be a classic. Initially, the New England Patriots opened as a one-point underdog, but just days later, became a two-point favorite, to prevail over the Los Angeles Rams. One thing is for sure, there are going to be plenty of fireworks when the two teams meet at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on February 3rd, with the Lombardi Trophy at stake.

At the most important positions, this is a matchup of wily old vet vs. young lion. Legendary Patriots head coach Bill Belichick vs. young upstart head coach Sean McVay (turns 33-years old on January 24th). At Quarterback, five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady vs. third year QB Jared Goff. At age 41, Brady is older than both the quarterback and head coach of his opponent.

Of course, one of the main keys to victory for New England, will be the ability of the offensive line, to somehow neutralize the devastating pass rush of Rams All-World DL Aaron Donald.

It is important to note, the Belichick/Brady legend began with a 20-17 victory over the heavily favored St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI on February 3rd, 2002. Fast forward, and exactly 17 years later, to the day, comes the rematch.

Many things have changed since that first meeting – Not only was the Rams franchise still located in the Midwest, but current Rams coach Sean McVay was still in high school, and current Rams quarterback Jared Goff was still in Elementary school.

In the storied Bill Belichick era, the Pats have played in eight Super Bowls. They have represented the AFC in the last three seasons. Most recently, they lost a 41-33 thriller to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII; a team which they previously defeated 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. Tom Brady has been the QB through all of it, which easily makes this the most successful coach/quarterback combo in NFL history.

The Rams may very well have all the right stuff to topple the mighty Patriots. At least history may be on the side of the Los Angeles franchise – the Pats have a record of 0-2 in Super Bowl rematches (lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII and again in the rematch, four years later).

During the 2018 regular season, the Rams had the league’s second-highest scoring offense, while the Patriots ranked fourth. Both teams won their respective divisions. In the Conference championship games, New England knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs (highest scoring team in the NFL), while the Rams bumped off the New Orleans Saints. Both the Pats and Rams were road teams, and both championship games were decided in overtime.

Both squads appear primed and ready. Only thing left to do, is sit back and count the days until kickoff and then enjoy the drama. The storyline almost writes itself. This should be one for the ages.

 

 

 

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NFL Football Talk – 2019 Championship Weekend Preview

Now Available on Podbean

The New England Patriots have made it to an Eighth straight Conference championship game and will now face KC. In the NFC, the Rams will go to the Big Easy, in hopes of toppling the Saints and advancing to Super Bowl LIII. Game predictions, the latest NFL news and the best NFL gambling advice – we are hitting on 90% of our gambling picks – Click here to listen on Podbean !

 

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LA Kings Ilya Kovalchuk remains on the shelf

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman

Will Ilya Kovalchuk and the LA Kings get a Hollywood ending ?

On Sunday , Dec 2, Los Angeles Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk underwent an ankle bursectomy procedure that will sideline him for about four weeks.

The Russian forward spent the previous five seasons with SKA St. Petersburg in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League before the Kings signed him as a free agent on June 23 of this year. The three-year contract is worth $18.75 million.

Kovalchuk has five goals and nine assists in 25 games since returning to the NHL with the Kings, although the 35-year-old was in the midst of an 11-game goalless drought, prior to being placed on injured reserve

The veteran forward’s role on the team has seemed to lessen under interim head coach Willie Desjardins, as he had not been getting much playing time as of late. Desjardins has used Kovalchuk as a bench-warmer for long stretches in recent games and is still processing which line his veteran player would be most effective.

His best NHL season was in 2005-06. As a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, he scored 52 goals and had 46 assists. In all, “Kovy” tallied 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 regular season NHL games played, prior to joining the KHL in 2013.

Hopefully, when Kovalchuk returns to the lineup, Desjardins will be able to solve the puzzle and place him on a line where he can be most productive – The Kings are still searching for consistency as they hover near the bottom of the standings.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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Los Angeles Kings Head Coach Willie Desjardins Remains Optimistic

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman –

On the heels of a 5-1 victory at home over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, Dec 8,

Big road test coming for Interim head coach Willie Desjardins of the LA Kings

the Los Angeles Kings are about to embark on a four-game East coast road trip which will see them face the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.

At the helm for the Kings, is interim Head coach Willie Desjardins, who took over on November 4, when former Head coach John Stevens was relieved of his duties. Although the team still sits near the bottom of the standings, the season is young and there is still hope.

When Desjardins took over, he knew it was going to be tough and did not promise any quick solutions, although he has tried to instill a sense of urgency upon the players. He may also feel that urgency, because his contract only lasts until the end of this season.

“You’ve got to find a way to make this season work,” Desjardins said. “What exactly it is, we’ve got to find out.” So far, the Kings are still searching.

He had some success coaching the Vancouver Canucks from 2014-17; his first NHL head coaching gig. Desjardins also took the Canadian national team to an Olympic bronze medal last February, so he has both experience and credibility.

The Kings are a tough assignment for him. They haven’t been able to reach the caliber of play they experienced during their Stanley Cup championship seasons in 2012 and 2014 while being led by head coach Darryl Sutter, who is now retired.

There are some top-notch players that remain on the roster which includes Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick.

“Coming in here, it’s a great situation,” Desjardins said. “I think there’s lots to work with. Sometimes you have situations where you don’t have much of a chance to be successful. They’ve got a lot of good pieces here. There’s some really quality people within this team, some high-end guys.”

When Desjardins first took over, he didn’t want to immediately alter the Kings’ playing methods, so he’s been leaning on assistant coach Dave Lowry, as he tries to get more productive results while using basically the same schemes used under Stevens. While with the Canucks, Desjardins was known to make unusual lineup decisions. This philosophy seems to have transferred over to the Kings, as most notably, he made a decision to use veteran sniper Ilya Kovalchuk on the fourth line instead of the first two lines where he usually plays.

Desjardins is hoping he can earn the players trust with some of the decisions being made. He hasn’t fixed everything that needs fixing, but he’s got time to work on it. They have yet to reach the halfway point of the season

Some weaknesses that he’s trying to turn into strengths, are the Kings inability to generate goal-scoring, meager shot creation, team defense, and an inconsistent power play.

Time will tell if it is about the new coach or the players are simply not getting the job done. This road swing, against four playoff-caliber teams, should reveal a lot about the coaching of Desjardins and the character of the team.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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What Does the Future Hold for LA Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick

Hall of Fame Netminder on the move ?

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman-

Having been activated in late November, Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is now officially back in the saddle after having been placed on injured reserve in late October, to repair torn meniscus in his knee.

His first start in more than a month was Thursday, Nov. 29 in Edmonton. The result was a loss to the Oilers, after giving up a heartbreaking power play goal late in the game.

Two games later, Quick was back in fine form as he stopped 34 shots on the way to notching his 50th career shutout, in a rare Sunday night home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was his first shutout since March 26, 2018 against the Calgary Flames and extended his NHL record for most shutouts all-time by an American-born goaltender.

This season, Quick, wearing number 32 and now 32 years of age, has a record of 1-5-0 with a .889 save percentage and 3.28 goals-against average.

During Quick’s absence, the Kings relied heavily on backup goalie Cal Petersen to keep the team afloat. The 24-year old rookie netminder responded by posting a .927 save percentage and a 4-3-0 record through eight games. So impressive was his play, that it may lead to some tough decisions for the Kings’ front office.

During his tenure with the team, Quick helped lead the Kings to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014, but his future in Los Angeles now seems to be a bit hazy.

There is speculation that the Kings might be willing to move the future Hall of Fame goaltender, if the season falls apart on them prior to the trading deadline. Quick would be highly attractive trade bait, despite him potentially helping the team turn things around, as he is known to do. He has no problem carrying the team on his back and is one of the fiercest competitors in the league, but of course, he does need some protection in front of the net. As of late, Kings defenders have been somewhat lacking in that aspect of the game.

His performance moving forward is a double-edged sword. If he plays well, that is good for the team but also makes him an attractive chip to trade. It seems highly unlikely the Kings would trade Quick but he will attract much interest and a potentially sweet return considering he lacks no-trade protection on his $5.8-million annual cap hit through 2022-23.

The Kings seem satisfied with the performance of backup goalies Petersen and Jack Campbell so far this season, so as the trade deadline approaches, we shall see where the chips may fall.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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