The Kings do not have a lot to show from the NHL draft in recent memory. Years of poor trades, signings and salary-cap maneuvering around their two Stanley Cup victories have not given them good position.

But that will change at Friday’s NHL entry draft in Chicago because the Kings own the 11th pick, the highest they’ve chosen since they took Brayden Schenn fifth in 2009. That’s a welcome change for an offense-challenged team under a new regime with coach John Stevens and general manager Rob Blake.

“I don’t think it’s any secret we’re looking for offense, especially with the 11th pick,” Blake said. “You’re getting a high pick, you’re getting a quality player, so I think that that factors in.

“We’re excited about the opportunity being in position to have a higher pick that we haven’t had here in the past.”

Blake also cited their need for goaltending depth behind Jonathan Quick after the trade of Peter Budaj and subsequent failed experiment with rental Ben Bishop.

Blake also can address his primary needs through free agency and trades, but it’s imperative the Kings build up their system. Since 2012, only two players drafted by the Kings have played for them in the NHL — Jonny Brodzinski and Adrian Kempe.

This will be the first draft for the Kings since former general manager Dean Lombardi and former coach Darryl Sutter were fired, and Blake said most of the draft homework and strategy is still done by Mark Yannetti, director of amateur scouting, and his staff.

“But I do think when you’re in high of a position you take the best player available,” Blake said. “There will be some options that we’ll look at, but again, they’ve done this routine for many years here as a group and they’ve been very successful at it, and we’re going to rely on them again.”

In a role reversal, this could be an unusual draft position for the Ducks. For the first time since 1999, they do not have a first-round pick because that went to the Dallas Stars in the trade for Patrick Eaves when the Ducks advanced to the conference finals. Unless they trade up, the Ducks’ first pick would be 50th, in the second round.

“It is a wrinkle we haven’t gone through as a staff [in a long time],” said Martin Madden, director of scouting. “The one thing we’ve done well in the past is we’ve been able to predict group of players available to us. This time around, you have to spray a little wider to see who’s available at 50.”

Madden said the Ducks typically don’t draft specifically toward needs because the players are five or six years away from contributing, and that especially would be applicable in picking this far down. But Madden said “it can change quickly depending on what Bob does with the team.”

That would be Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who has a history of activity at the draft. He traded goalie Frederik Andersen last year and acquired Ryan Kesler in 2014.

The Ducks are believed to be trying to extend defenseman Cam Fowler’s contract, which has one more season, and possibly re-sign Eaves. They shed $3.2 million by having the Vegas Golden Knights take Clayton Stoner in the expansion draft.

That allows them to keep intact, for now, a young defensemen unit of Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson and Brandon Montour. The Ducks also have solid prospects in defenseman Jacob Larsson and forwards Max Jones and Sam Steel.

There is believed to be heavy interest in Vatanen on the trade market, and also speculation about the Ducks trying to move veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa even though he has a no-move clause.

Should the Ducks move up, they would find a forward-heavy draft. Thirty-six of the top 50 North American skaters are forwards, according to NHL Central Scouting.

Centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are projected as neck-and-neck as the top two picks. Patrick was injured last season but still scored 20 goals in 33 games. The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers own the top two selections, respectively.

But it is not as deep a draft class in the past, and there is no hype of a potential generational player such as Connor McDavid.

Said Madden, “It’s not quite as exciting at the very top.”

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It’s technically the first day of summer (in the city), but HBO and “Game of Thrones” have the perfect antidote to the back of your neck getting dirty and gritty.

Actually, strike that. People in Westeros are filthy.

The premium cable provider released its second trailer for Season 7 of the blockbuster fantasy series “Game of Thrones” on Wednesday morning, and it’s chock-full of snow, fire and stirring orchestral themes.

The trailer begins with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) striding through the snow as renowned meddler Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) provides voice-over advising, “Don’t fight in the North. Or the South. Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind.”

From there, the trailer is off to the races, checking in with the three would-be sovereigns of Westeros — Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) — before moving like wildfire through the rest of the enormous cast. 

Though Season 7 will contain only seven episodes, unlike the 10-episode seasons that preceded it, there appears to be no shortage of action.

The rest of the trailer contains dragons and White Walkers and crows aplenty, plus a special appearance by the undead leader of the Brotherhood, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer).

Season 7 of “Game of Thrones” premieres July 16.

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Controversial umpire “Cowboy” Joe West will become just the third umpire in baseball history to call 5,000 games when he works Tuesday night’s game between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, a pair of franchises that didn’t even exist when he began his major league career in 1976.

West, 64 and in his 39th big league season, will join Bill Klem, the first umpire to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Bruce Froemming as the only members of this exclusive club. Klem called 5,369 games, and Froemming called 5,163 games.

West is considered the most polarizing umpire in baseball because of his knack for injecting himself into games, his outspoken opinions on issues such as the designated hitter and pace of play, and his penchant for being in the middle of heated arguments that end with a manager or player being ejected.

The native of Greenville, N.C., is also known as “Country” Joe West because of his love of country music — he produced two country-music albums and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry.

And as former big league pitcher Mark Mulder noted in a conference call to promote an upcoming golf tournament on Tuesday, West has been known to carry the demeanor of his nicknames off the field.

Mulder, who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics from 2000-2008 and is also an outstanding golfer, recalled playing in a celebrity golf tournament with West on a rainy day at Pebble Beach a few winters ago.

“Every hole we get to, we can’t figure out why there are these big, huge dents in the green,” Mulder said. “The greens are soft, we’re putting and hitting these divots everywhere, and we can’t figure what’s going on; there are even guys from the grounds crew trying to figure out what was going on.

“We come to find out after about six or seven holes that Joe West was wearing these cowboy boots that have spikes on the bottom, golf spikes, and that’s what he was wearing for this tournament. The square soles of the shoes were putting huge dents in the green. So, you can’t take the cowboy out of him, I guess.”


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Depth was a worry for the Galaxy even before the first whistle blew this season. Then came a rash of injuries that sidelined nine starters for multiple games, doing little to ease that concern.

Now comes arguably the biggest test for the team’s battered roster: a run of seven games in 20 days, beginning with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Orange County SC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

Jack McBean’s penalty-kick score in the 36th minute at the StubHub Center proved the difference, coming after an exchange of goals from the Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal and Orange County’s Roy Meeus in the first 26 minutes.

Ari Lassiter added an insurance goal in the 73rd minute for the Galaxy, who are unbeaten in seven games dating to April 23.

And the Galaxy’s reward for the win?

Another game squeezed into the schedule, for the fifth round of the Open Cup on June 28.

“These games are important,” Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo said. “You have to utilize your roster for the next 21/2 weeks … and guys have to step up.”

In a nod to the upcoming schedule and in an effort to give playing time to bench players he’ll need over the next three weeks, Onalfo started only three regulars Wednesday, then subbed on one more late in the second half.

That proved to be more than enough.

Villarreal gave the Gal-axy the lead in the 17th minute, surprising Orange County keeper Charlie Lyon by pulling up about 25 yards from the goal and unleashing a wicked shot that bent over Lyon’s outstretched arm.

“That was a world-class goal,” Onalfo said.

Orange County needed only nine minutes to get that back, with Meeus, a Belgian defender, scoring from the top of the 18-yard box on a designed play. But that was as close as the United Soccer League club, the second-tier affiliate of fledgling Los Angeles FC, would get despite the fact it outshot its MLS opponent, 16-13.

The U.S. Open Cup, the oldest domestic tournament in the country and one open to teams from the top five tiers of the U.S. soccer pyramid, hasn’t been kind to the Galaxy. They’ve advanced past the quarterfinals once in the last 10 years and haven’t won the tournament since 2005.

Their difficulty with the tournament hardly sets them apart, however, because six MLS teams lost their fourth-round games this week.

Twitter: kbaxter11

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Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig received a one-game suspension for making an obscene gesture toward fans during Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

Puig chose to appeal the suspension, and was in the lineup on Wednesday. The punishment also included an undisclosed fine.

Puig flashed two middle fingers toward fans behind the plate after hitting a home run. He said afterward that four people were heckling him before and after the at-bat.

Puig expressed contrition for having “stooped to their level,” he said on Tuesday night.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spoke with Puig before Wednesday’s game.

“It was something that he wishes didn’t happen,” Roberts said. “It was a reaction of emotion on his part. Bad judgment. I just made it clear that I want to talk about all our players in the context of what they do on the field, not off the field.

“He understood how I felt. It won’t happen again.”

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes

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One of the more interested observers at Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup game between the Galaxy and Orange County Soccer Club will be a guy with no stake in the outcome.

Because for John Thorrington, it’s not so much about who wins or loses, but rather how they play the game.

As executive vice president of soccer operations for the Los Angeles Football Club, which begins MLS play in March, Thorrington’s attention will be focused on Orange County midfielders Carlos Alvarez and Monday Etim, the only players his team currently has under contract. So if either takes a shot on Wednesday, it will be the first one fired in anger against the Galaxy in LAFC history.

“I would offer a minor correction,” Thorrington noted Tuesday. “Our academies have played against each other.”

In that case, let the record show LAFC went 3-2-3 in those games. But the oldest player on either side was 12. And you don’t build an MLS rivalry with sixth graders.

Alvarez and Etim, on the other hand, have a chance to play for the first team next season. Both were signed by Thorrington, then loaned to LAFC’s USL affiliate in Orange County.

“Those guys we are monitoring this year to determine what their future is,” Thorrington said of Alvarez, 26, a former Chivas USA player from Los Angeles, and Etim, an 18-year-old from Nigeria. “We haven’t made any decision yet.”

If Wednesday’s match is little more than an audition for the two LAFC players, though, it’s a bit bigger for the Galaxy and Orange County. The game at the track stadium at StubHub Center is an elimination match in the Open Cup, the country’s oldest soccer competition and one open to teams in all five tiers of the American soccer pyramid.

MLS teams enter in the fourth round, making this the Galaxy’s tournament opener, while Orange County had to win its way here by beating teams from Glendora and Azusa. Another victory Wednesday would go a long way toward accomplishing owner James Keston’s goal of putting the team — and the county — on the national soccer map.

“The size of our market is larger than most MLS teams,” said Keston, a businessman who spent more than $5 million to buy the Irvine-based team last September. “We don’t need to do anything else other than spend a couple of years developing our market and our fans and really going out and finding the best youth players in Orange County.”

Only three players on the roster are Orange County natives although a handful of others, including former Galaxy defender Oscar Sorto, were born in Southern California.

For the Galaxy, the goal Wednesday isn’t to make a statement as much as it is to get through the night without anyone getting hurt. The Open Cup match begins a stretch of six games in 20 days, a challenging schedule for a team missing five starters to injury and another to international duty.

As a result, Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo is expected to use a mix of first-team regulars and reserves.

Thorrington, meanwhile, continues to work on building a roster and coaching staff of his own as he counts down to the day next spring when LAFC and the Galaxy play a game that matters for both sides.

“Every day we’re one day closer,” he said. “We are tailoring the searches and furthering conversations with players, with coaches in the hopes of having some exciting news — hopefully in the next month or two.”

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11

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Angels center fielder Mike Trout said Tuesday he could return from a torn left thumb ligament before the July 11 All-Star game, ahead of the standard timeline for his injury.

“It’d be pretty cool to hopefully be back by then, if everything goes on schedule,” he said. “I obviously don’t determine that, but I want to be out there as quick as I can. Hopefully, we’ll see.”

Asked to clarify whether he believed returning before the annual game was on the table, Trout said yes.

“Before the All-Star break, right at the All-Star break, depending on how it goes,” he said. “I don’t want to push it. I want to make sure it’s right. I don’t want it to be lingering the rest of the season.”

Trout suffered the ligament tear sliding headfirst into second base May 28 at Marlins Park, where this year’s All-Star game will be played. He had surgery May 31 and the Angels said he was expected to be out from six to eight weeks.

July 11 is one day short of six weeks since the surgery, but such a return would have precedent. Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Clippers guard Chris Paul each returned from the same surgery in less than six weeks.

Trout remains one of the American League’s top All-Star vote-getters. He is more than 800,000 votes ahead of the fourth-place outfielder, Michael Brantley.

Ten days ago, Trout was less optimistic about the possibility of playing.

“I’d love to,” he said then. “But it’d be pretty quick to get back in that time. It’ll be a goal, for sure.”

On Tuesday, Trout received the OK to begin grip exercises to strengthen the thumb. It remains sore, but not terribly so. He said he has been doing “a lot of crazy, little, finger activities.”

“It’s boring, I guess,” he said and laughed. “It’s just getting that range of motion back.”

He has been lifting weights with his lower body and core as normal.

“You want to make sure that when you come back and start to swing,” Trout said, “you don’t pull an oblique or anything.”

Trout said he had been hearing “good things” from team doctors.

“I’m happy with where it’s going,” he said. “My mind’s in the right place.”

Before Tuesday night’s game against the New York Yankees, the Angels had won seven times in 14 tries since Trout’s injury. He said he was pleased to see the club’s performance in his absence.

“People get the opportunity, and they go out here and live it up,” Trout said. “That’s cool.”

Short hops

On the second day of the MLB draft, the Angels selected four college right-handers, two high school right-handers and two high school outfielders. … Right-hander Cam Bedrosian was scheduled to throw an inning for Class-A Inland Empire on Tuesday night, in a resumption of his delayed rehab assignment for a groin strain. … In a reliever swap, the Angels recalled right-hander Mike Morin from triple-A Salt Lake and demoted right-hander Brooks Pounders.

Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura

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Bubba Watson hit half-wedges of varying trajectories. Rickie Fowler strolled past, carrying his bag. Jason Day launched bombs.

This was the scene Monday morning on the practice range at Erin Hills, site of this week’s U.S. Open.

Everything seemed normal, yet something was missing. Make that two somethings.

Tiger Woods isn’t here, his secretive existence interrupted two weeks ago by news of a DUI arrest in Florida.

Phil Mickelson isn’t here. Unless he settles for FaceTime or discovers time travel, he’ll bypass his Thursday afternoon tee time to attend daughter Amanda’s high school graduation in California.

Mickelson’s expected withdrawal would mean the first major championship without both him and Woods since the 1994 Masters.

Is it any wonder you can still order tickets without going through StubHub or SeatGeek? As of Monday afternoon, the USGA website had single-day passes available for every session but Saturday.

A decent number of spectators watched players hit balls Monday morning. But there were gaps even along the fence line.

“If Tiger was here,” said Alex Matson, 21, who came with her dad, Bob, “this whole area would be packed.”

Bob Matson called himself a big Mickelson fan and did not hold out much hope that Lefty would make his 2:20 p.m. Thursday tee time without a weather delay. The graduation ceremony is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. PDT Thursday in Carlsbad.

“Nobody graduates in California at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Matson said.

Dennis Halverson, a Minnesota native who witnessed Woods playing in the Masters and PGA Championship, said: “The whole game has changed since he’s gone. So many people that were not golf fans would watch back in the day. Now it’s more hard-core fans.”

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Just as goaltender Pekka Rinne had said during the Predators’ darkest playoff hour, they had life and they had hope Friday despite facing elimination for the first time in their improbable and intriguing run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Although most coaches preach that wins and losses are best forgotten quickly, Nashville coach Peter Laviolette wanted his players to hold on to the sting of being overrun in a 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Hate it enough, he figured, and they’d be motivated to play better because they’d never want to feel so wretched again. Returning to Nashville, where they’re 9-1 in postseason play, meant it was time to shift their focus toward what they can still accomplish instead of bemoaning what might have been.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our group to be better, to get better, and to play a good game,” Laviolette said Friday. “I don’t think that there’s any searching going on in there on how we’re going to do this or what needs to take place. We need to play a better game. We’ve proven that we can and we have in the past, and there’s a lot of confidence that we will in a couple days.”

The Predators can take heart from knowing there has been little carryover of momentum from one game to the next in the playoffs this spring.

Three teams have lost by six goals but each rebounded to win the next game, including the Ducks’ 7-1 loss to Edmonton in Game 6 of their second-round series followed by a 2-1 victory over the Oilers in Game 7. If there has been one constant in these playoffs — in addition to spotty officiating — it’s that there is no consistency within games and within series.

That remains true in the Cup Final. The Penguins won the first two games at home, were outscored 9-2 in losing Games 3 and 4 on the road, and blew the Predators out of PPG Paints Arena in Game 5 with a formidable display of speed and finesse. It can’t be good news for the Predators that Phil Kessel (one goal, three points), Evgeni Malkin (one goal, two points) and Sidney Crosby (three assists) hit stride simultaneously and emphatically.

“They seemed to have a lot of stuff going,” Rinne said after Nashville’s loss Thursday, the last two periods of which he watched from the bench. “Their best players were their best players and played with a lot of speed, created a lot of good space. I think everybody saw a lot of the goals were on nice passing plays.”

The Cup will be at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday for Game 6 in all its gleaming glory, ready to be kissed and passed from hand to hand. If the Penguins can break the pattern of home teams having won each game, they’ll take it back to Pittsburgh as the first team to win back-to-back championships since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. If Rinne can again be the wall he was in Games 3 and 4 in Nashville, where he yielded only two goals in 52 shots, there will be a Game 7 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are one victory away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions, a feat no NHL team has pulled off since 1998.

Sidney Crosby set an energetic and determined tone from the outset on Thursday and set up three goals as the Penguins routed the Nashville Predators, 6-0, at PPG Paints Arena to put themselves in position to claim the Cup on Sunday. The Predators, whose unlikely journey from No. 8 seed in the West to Stanley Cup finalist has captivated the city of Nashville and made them a sentimental favorite — except in Pittsburgh — now must rely on their home-ice success to prolong the series. The Predators are 9-1 at Bridgestone Arena, where Penguins goalie Matt Murray gave up eight goals on 58 shots in losing to Nashville in Games 3-4.

The last NHL team to repeat as champion was the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins’ stunning first-period performance led Predators coach Peter Laviolette to remove goaltender Pekka Rinne and replace him with backup Juuse Saros. Rinne gave up three goals on nine shots and in 2 1/3 games at Pittsburgh was torched for 11 goals on 45 shots. Playing at home in Games 3 and 4 he stopped 50 of 52 shots, and he must regain that form in order for the Predators to force a seventh game next Wednesday at Pittsburgh.

Crosby had a busy night beyond his three assists. He was involved in a tussle with Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban late in the first period and appeared to repeatedly push Subban’s head onto the ice as they locked limbs, a strange action by someone who has suffered from several concussions. Also, Crosby appeared to throw a water bottle onto the ice from the bench during the second period when the officials didn’t call a penalty on the Predators for a hit on teammate Chris Kunitz, but he wasn’t caught or penalized for that.

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