Buzz in L.A. leads to road comfort for Kings

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Buzz in L.A. leads to road comfort for Kings

NEWARK, N.J. The last thing the Los Angeles Kings probably wanted to do was get back on that plane on Thursday.

Its part of the rigors of a Stanley Cup series, one that continues because the New Jersey Devils won Game 4 in L.A. on Wednesday. But in hitting the road again, the Kings have likely never felt more at home.

Yes, weve been through the Kings remarkable road roll during these playoffs. But when you go 10-0 away from home it bears repeating, and the Kings will try to tap into that road magic again on Saturday night in Game 5 against the Devils. Its another opportunity to claim the Cup for the Kings, and if they finish it up on the road, whos really going to be surprised?

Even during regular seasons, teams often talk about how much more relaxed, more focused they are on the road. The Kings have epitomized that in these playoffs. From their opportunistic special teams to the stellar play of Jonathan Quick, the Kings have done just about everything right on the road.

We play a solid team game on the road, Anze Kopitar said. And were going to need it tomorrow.

That road focus is there for another reason, too. Back home, Los Angeles has caught Kings fever. Players said the coverage and attention has been tremendous. And while thats great and positive and such, it can also be distracting. So three time zones and a coast away, they can focus on the task at hand.

Theres so much happening, Jeff Carter said of L.A.s hockey buzz. Especially when youre one win away, its nice to get away and focus on hockey. Thats what were here to do is to win. Were comfortable playing on the road. There are no distractions, nothing to worry about, except hockey.

Colin Fraser, who dealt with that Cup craze in Chicago during their run in 2010, agreed.

Theres a lot going on, just a buzz in the city, said Fraser. Were comfortable on the road. I dont really know why, but weve just played well on the road.

So it comes down to at least one more game. For the Kings, make that at least one more road game. Theyve excelled there, even if they cant exactly figure out why. One more victory, and they wont have to think about anything except that Cup.

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Tommy Wingels, who the Blackhawks acquired earlier this month, will miss 6-8 weeks after suffering a left-foot fracture during his offseason training. Team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that the Blackhawks, “anticipate a full recovery in 6-8 weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

The Blackhawks signed Wingels, a Wilmette native, to a one-year deal on July 1. Wingels will still be at this weekend’s convention.

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case.