Friday, February 26, 2021

With Ivica Zubac, Clippers’ Ty Lue pushes right buttons

Tyronn Lue knew just which button to push with Ivica Zubac.

Play.

During a film session after the Minnesota Timberwolves treated four of Zubac’s five shots like a piรฑata, swatting them this way and that in the Clippers’ 119-122 victory on Feb. 10, the Clippers’ coach snuck in a clip of his own favorite dunk from when he was a star at Nebraska.

“We were watching film and uh, all of a sudden, this video – low-quality video – from someone dunking showed up,” the 7-foot Zubac said of Lue, whose playing height was listed as 6 feet. “It was Ty Lue playing his college game, and he was like, ‘That’s how you finish!’”

“I was just giving Zu a hard time,” Lue said. “I think he came from a game where he had like four shots blocks on that game, so I had a slide that said, ‘This is how you finish.’ And they didn’t know what to expect, with me dunking in college, so they all went crazy, talkin’ about … how fuzzy it was. It was just something fun for the team.”

And it got the big guy going.

Just ask poor Davis Bertans.

The Wizards’ 6-10 power forward was on the business end of a bloodthirsty Zubac slam Tuesday night, when the Clippers’ center skirted past Robin Lopez at the top of the key and punched the throttle, hellbent on hammering home two points. Bertans shifted over to try to impede Zubac’s path to the basket and wound up wincing as Zubac overpowered him at the rim.

Helluva finish, @ivicazubac. pic.twitter.com/dRKmKU8tb2

— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 24, 2021

 

Zubac followed the facial by giving his coach an earful.

“He said, ‘Is that a good enough finish for you?’” Lue said, laughing, after their victory over Washington, to which Zubac contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds, his sixth double-double this season.

“He made me hear about it because I have been talking stuff to him about his finishing.”

Big Zu doing Big Zu things pregame here at Staples. (Yes, I enjoy the finale of @ivicazubac’s pregame warmups.) pic.twitter.com/Dof7oMKis9

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) February 20, 2021

It seems Zubac – who concludes his pregame shooting routine with a high-energy series of slams that often evokes hooting and hollering from assistant coaches and personnel nearby – has responded to Lue’s prodding, and said he relishes the opportunity to give it back a bit to his coach.

“He’s been on me about finishing, being aggressive, dunking the ball every time I can,” Zubac said Tuesday about that night’s rim-reverberating score. “Every time I get a dunk over someone, next to someone, I come up to him and ask him if that was good enough? And I think it was pretty good tonight.”

Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers slam dunks over Davis Bertans #42 of the Washington Wizards in the fourth quarter of a NBA basketball game. @nba #nba @clippers #clippers @wizards #wizards #basketball @nikonusa #nikon #losangeles #california pic.twitter.com/bgNgtqy8jh

— Keith Birmingham (@photowkb) February 24, 2021

COLLEGE BUDDY BELIEVES

In the Clippers’ recent stretch of games, guard Luke Kennard has found himself on the outside of the rotation looking in. After missing a game with a sore knee and then lodging two consecutive DNPs, the former Duke start played 11 minutes Tuesday, when Lou Williams was unavailable, and went just 1 for 5 from the field.

But at Memphis Grizzlies shootaround Thursday, Kennard’s former Blue Devils teammate Grayson Allen suggested that Kennard’s diligently cultivated, sneaky-diverse skill set will help him find traction in L.A.

“Luke’s a worker, he works hard,” said Allen, who played two seasons with Kennard in Durham, North Carolina. “We bounced a bunch of stuff off each other when we were both at Duke, and I think we learned from each other’s game.

“And now that he’s in the league, he’s become a really good scorer and a really good off-ball, secondary play-maker. Some of the film that I’ve watched for the Clippers games and then just watching games in general throughout the year, he does a really good job of playing off the ball in catch-and-shoot and he’s got really good footwork when he gets into the paint … (and) he has really good footwork to be able to get to a fadeaway, he shoots floaters right- and left-handed, he’s got a lot of ball fakes, a lot of different moves in there that are really crafty and really good.

“That’s part of what makes his offensive game so good, is his skill other than being just a shooter – which a lot of people try to throw him into – but he’s got a really good game.”

2:30 mark thank me later @MirjamSwanson https://t.co/HHbcxPHwXJ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

— K (@_kristinf_34) February 24, 2021

https://t.co/nzUO3lRBBh Breakaway dunk :12 in

— Kyle (@ClipsandVols) February 24, 2021

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Cal Petersen helps Kings extend win streak to 6 games

  • The Kings’ Olli Maatta controls the puck while under pressure from the Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly, right, and David Perron during the first period of Wednesday’s gamer in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • FILE – St. Louis Blues’ Ivan Barbashev (49) handles the puck against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, in this Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, file photo. The banged-up St. Louis Blues got more bad injury news Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, with word that defenseman Carl Gunnarsson won’t play again this season and forward Ivan Barbashev is out at least six weeks.(AP Photo/Joe Puetz, File)

  • The Kings’ Gabe Vilardi works with the puck next to the Blues’ Mike Hoffman during the first period of Wednesday’s game in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Torey Krug (47) controls the puck in front of Los Angeles Kings’ Jeff Carter (77) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Austin Poganski (53) and the Kings’ Gabe Vilardi (13) reach for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) stops a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn (29) passes the puck in front of teammate Robert Bortuzzo and Los Angeles Kings’ Andreas Athanasiou (22) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Kings’ Jeff Carter (77) handles the puck next to St. Louis Blues’ Brayden Schenn (10) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Kings goaltender Cal Petersen protects the goal as St. Louis Blues’ Mackenzie MacEachern (28) looks to pass the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Kyrou (25) handles the puck while the Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (33) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Brayden Schenn (10) handles the puck while under pressure from the Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (33) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Kyrou (25) handles the puck while the Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (33) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Kings goaltender Cal Petersen blocks a shot from St. Louis Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist (70) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Brayden Schenn (10) handles the puck while under pressure from the Kings’ Matt Roy (3) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist (70) looks for a shot on Kings goaltender Cal Petersen during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Kings’ Blake Lizotte (46) and St. Louis Blues’ Zach Sanford (12) vie for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Kings’ Blake Lizotte (46) controls the puck while under pressure from St. Louis Blues’ Marco Scandella (6) while goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) watches during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Blues’ Marco Scandella (6) is assisted by Sammy Blais (9) and linesman Ryan Gibbons (58) after being injured during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Blues’ Justin Faulk (72) pressures the Kings’ Michael Amadio (10) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington blocks a shot during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) blocks the puck on a shot by Los Angeles Kings’ Andreas Athanasiou (22) as Blues’ Vince Dunn (29) defends during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

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The Kings are the hottest team in the NHL.

Yes, the Los Angeles Kings.

Their six-game winning streak is the league’s longest, after they beat the St. Louis Blues, 2-1, in front of about 2,500 fans on Wednesday night at Enterprise Center.

Coach Todd McLellan has the Kings on the verge of matching their longest unbeaten stretch of the past two seasons and two victories shy of their eight-game surge of 2017-18.

He said the team still had room to grow, and goalie Cal Petersen said he and his teammates are taking the same measured approach to games.

“Guys are playing how we expect them to play and doing their jobs,” Petersen said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”

Wingers Alex Iafallo and Andreas Athanasiou scored second-period goals for the Kings, and Petersen made 35 saves to improve to 3-0-1 in his last four starts. He and Jonathan Quick have split the six victories during the surge evenly.

“When one goalie is playing well, it helps the other goalie play even better,” Petersen said. “I think that’s holding true.”

Forward Oskar Sundqvist scored for the Blues and goalie Jordan Binnington made 19 saves for the Blues, who fell to 1-5-1 in their last seven home games.

With 1:46 left, Sundqvist broke up the shutout, which would have given the Kings the longest scoreless streak in the NHL and two straight shutouts. The Blues drew no closer with Binnington again pulled for the extra attacker.

There was a bizarre moment, or string of moments, in the third period during which the Blues sustained possession for well over three minutes during a delayed penalty. Both teams made at least one line change before the Kings were able to finally touch the puck.

The Kings showed their mettle during the delayed penalty, Petersen said.

“It’s obviously unique,” said Petersen, who lauded his penalty killers for staying in their structure. “We kind of held on for dear life. It didn’t feel really too chaotic despite the long time for it.”

St. Louis entered the series against the Kings with six players out of their lineup. In the first game, they also lost defenseman Carl Gunnarsson for the season to a knee injury. Early in the third period, a cut to the face of defenseman Marco Scandella, caused by a puck off the boards, forced him out of action.

The Kings doubled their advantage with 3:52 left in the second period. Austin Wagner curled the puck back and left a drop pass for a driving Athanasiou, who let fly with his fourth goal of the season.

Defenseman Kurtis MacDermid had the secondary assist. He drew into the lineup for Mikey Anderson, who was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury he sustained in his previous game. McLellan said the injury was not severe.

Olli Maatta returned to the top pairing in Anderson’s stead.

“They were a real solid pairing for 30 minutes tonight and Olli was a big part of that,” McLellan said.

Once again, the Kings scored first, just past the midpoint of the middle frame. They have not faced a deficit in any of their last six games.

Dustin Brown received the puck and aimed far side. He banged the puck off Binnington’s right pad, and Iafallo crashed the net to pop in the rebound with 10:24 left. It was his fourth goal in his last six games and his eighth point in as many contests.

The first period saw the Blues out-shoot the Kings 11-5, but Petersen was up to the challenge. He stopped defenseman Vince Dunn and winger Zach Sanford on solid chances following Kings giveaways.

Petersen also denied forward Jordan Kyrou from point-blank range off a give-and-go play. In the second period, he stoned Kyrou again, swallowing up his one-timer from the left face-off circle.

“Our goaltender made some big saves for us,” McLellan said. “I don’t think we had a real good game from the get-go tonight, to tell you the truth. We just weren’t good with the puck. I didn’t think we were near as sharp with the puck as we were two nights ago. Some of that has to do with how St. Louis played.”

The Kings next head to Minnesota. The Wild are (along with Edmonton) the league’s next hottest team with four consecutive victories.

Iafallo with his 6th of the season. Kings up 1-0 halfway through the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/3qyKCOVpjI

— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 25, 2021

That little drop pass, though.

Just lovely.

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ: https://t.co/vcXw5KTFbK @NHLonNBCSports #WNH pic.twitter.com/3JroDStbGM

— NHL (@NHL) February 25, 2021

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High schools press state officials for more guidance on COVID-19 testing for football, water polo

CIF State commissioner Ron Nocetti said Thursday the California Department of Public Health is working to update its guidelines for the new COVID-19 testing requirement for football and water polo and for how athletic programs should handle positive tests for athletes on their teams.

Coaches and school administrators have been grappling with both issues since the CDPH revised its guidelines late last week, and added weekly testing for athletes and coaches on football and water polo teams that can begin playing once a county’s case rate drops below 14 per 100,000.

“We hope that guidance is coming soon,” Nocetti said. “We know a lot of schools have asked and are curious about it.”

The biggest questions are about how to follow certain protocols.

On Tuesday, Orange County (11.9) and Los Angeles County (12.3) fell below the case rate threshold, which will allow high school football teams in those areas to begin having full practices Friday and perhaps play their first games the March 11-13 weekend. Boys and girls water polo can begin playing games Friday, when the new guidelines take effect.

As high-contact sports that are in the orange tier, football and water polo must conduct weekly COVID-19 testing while case rates are between 7 to 14 per 100,000. Once the case rate falls below 7, the testing will no longer be required.

The county stats for COVID-19 are updated each Tuesday.

The testing requirement generated a lot of questions at schools as they tried to move quickly to allow their teams to play. Many local school officials wanted to know who would oversee the testing plans and test results, and if the state had a one-size-fits-all plan for how schools can conduct the testing.

State health officials did say last week that the state would pay for the testing, if schools requested.

The CIF Southern Section says it is not involved in verifying the testing results or signing off on the testing procedures.

“We play no role and have nothing to do with testing,” CIF-SS assistant commissioner Thom Simmons said. “That is between the individual schools and the CDPH.”

Time is an issue, school officials say, because football and water polo teams can’t play games until testing begins, or until the county case rate drops below 7. The water polo season ends March 20 and football ends April 17 (in the CIF-SS) or May 1 (L.A. City Section).

The CDPH issued this information last week along with the revised guidelines:

  • Weekly COVID-19 testing program (antigen or PCR testing) is required for football and water polo teams and coaches as these are high contact sports that are likely to be played unmasked, with close, face to face contact exceeding 15 minutes.
  • If competing, tests must be completed and results made available and reviewed by the coaches within 24 hours of play. If a test result is not available within 24 hours of play or if the COVID-19 test result is indeterminate or positive, the person must be sent home immediately to isolate.

The CDPH did not mention what a team should do if there is a positive test. Should it quarantine other players? Should it cancel games? Schools are looking for more specific directions from the state.

Nocetti said the CDPH has been working on providing more information.

The CDPH had these recommendations for youth sports on its website Thursday:

  • No one with symptoms of COVID-19 or who is in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 is permitted to attend practices or competitions.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should consult their physician for testing and notify their coach, athletic trainer and/or school administrator of their symptoms and test results.
  • Youths recovering from COVID-19 will have different paths to return to sports based on the severity of their illness.  See the American Academy of Pediatrics Interim Guidance on Return to Sports for additional guidance for more serious infections.

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Anaheim Hills briefs: Local libraries have kits-to-go for activities at home

The Anaheim Public Library system recently initiated a new feature for its virtual STEAM Adventures with STEAM on the Go Kits for teens and adults.

The kits include all the necessary project supplies and are available to reserve from the Library’s Catalog using your library card. There are more than 100 kits and more than 35 topics available.

Ukulele kits that are currently available offer a great way for both teens and adults to support their music interest. Reserve a kit by contacting the Canyon Hills, Central or Haskett branch libraries for either in-person or curbside pick up.

Memory kits, intended to help support families, caregivers or those experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, include references to various games, music or movies from ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. These activities are designed to help stimulate conversation and positive engagement with family members.

These kits are also available to view and reserve in the Library Catalog or by calling Canyon Hills or other local library branches. Kit funding is provided by a California State Library grant and funded by the Anaheim Public Library, Friends of Canyon Hills Library and various community groups.

Two exciting STEAM Adventures are scheduled for next month. The first is “Pencils in Art” at 11:30 a.m. March 4, which explores the wonders of art and sketching. Kids can also have fun “Learning to Build a Leprechaun Trap” at 11:30 a.m. on March 11.

The programs are available to view on the library’s FaceBook, Instagram or YouTube pages. Be sure to check out the supply list needed to participate in these programs that are found at Anaheim.net/STEAM.

For information about the STEAM Kits on the Go, STEAM Adventures or other programs visit Anaheim.net/Library or call your local library branch.

Take on a challenge to help Working Wardrobes

Like many other nonprofits, Working Wardrobes has found it difficult to raise money during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the no in-person fundraising restrictions, the organization is sponsoring a 10-day virtual fundraiser “30 Strong!” from March 19 to 28.

It will also celebrate the organization’s 30-year anniversary, and the local community is invited to participate in the outdoor and Zoom challenges.

The event features hiking, walking, cycling and running challenges as well as an online trivia competition, a virtual scavenger hunt, and more.

These challenges offer both individuals and corporate teams an opportunity to collect pledges for their team and earn prizes for those reaching fundraising goals. It also fosters internal team building for corporate participants.

“We hope this event helps renew team spirit, fight the pandemic blues, and gets individuals outdoors,” said Working Wardrobes Founder and CEO Jerri Rosen. “At the same time, participants will be helping to support their neighbors and friends who have found themselves unemployed during the pandemic. It’s a win-win.”

Each participating team will have a positive impact in helping the organization’s Rebuilding Careers Initiative – a scholarship program that assists the unemployed and under-served in Anaheim, Orange, Tustin and other cities throughout Orange County gain skills and technology resources to re-enter the workforce. This program also provides recipients with their own laptop.

Working Wardrobes has continued during the pandemic to offer career development to help at-risk men, women, young adults, below poverty level senior citizens and veterans achieve the dignity of work.

Individual and corporate teams should register for the fundraising event at workingwardrobes.org.

Donors answer Presbyterian Women’s call for help

The Presbyterian Women’s group of Canyon Hills Presbyterian Church recently completed its annual “Knock Your Socks Off” campaign for donations of new socks and underwear for men, women and children in need.

As a result, almost 700 pairs of socks and more than 100 pairs of underwear were collected during the curbside drop-off drive and delivered to the Shower Plus Ministry, Mercy House and Melrose Elementary.

The Presbyterian Women began the sock collection in 2009 and since that time has donated more than 6,000 pairs of socks to those in need, which is especially helpful during the cold winter months.

Visit canyonhillspc.org to learn more about this program, other mission projects or church services. The Rev. Melissa Smith is the senior pastor.

Sharon Hlapcich writes about events and happenings in the Anaheim Hills area. Reach her by phone (714-998-4604 or e-mail (smhlapcich@sbcglobal.net).

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Cal Petersen helps Kings extend win streak to 6 games

  • The Kings’ Olli Maatta controls the puck while under pressure from the Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly, right, and David Perron during the first period of Wednesday’s gamer in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • FILE – St. Louis Blues’ Ivan Barbashev (49) handles the puck against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, in this Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, file photo. The banged-up St. Louis Blues got more bad injury news Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, with word that defenseman Carl Gunnarsson won’t play again this season and forward Ivan Barbashev is out at least six weeks.(AP Photo/Joe Puetz, File)

  • The Kings’ Gabe Vilardi works with the puck next to the Blues’ Mike Hoffman during the first period of Wednesday’s game in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Torey Krug (47) controls the puck in front of Los Angeles Kings’ Jeff Carter (77) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Austin Poganski (53) and the Kings’ Gabe Vilardi (13) reach for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) stops a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn (29) passes the puck in front of teammate Robert Bortuzzo and Los Angeles Kings’ Andreas Athanasiou (22) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Kings’ Jeff Carter (77) handles the puck next to St. Louis Blues’ Brayden Schenn (10) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Kings goaltender Cal Petersen protects the goal as St. Louis Blues’ Mackenzie MacEachern (28) looks to pass the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Kyrou (25) handles the puck while the Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (33) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Brayden Schenn (10) handles the puck while under pressure from the Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (33) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Kyrou (25) handles the puck while the Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (33) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Kings goaltender Cal Petersen blocks a shot from St. Louis Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist (70) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • St. Louis Blues’ Brayden Schenn (10) handles the puck while under pressure from the Kings’ Matt Roy (3) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist (70) looks for a shot on Kings goaltender Cal Petersen during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Kings’ Blake Lizotte (46) and St. Louis Blues’ Zach Sanford (12) vie for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Kings’ Blake Lizotte (46) controls the puck while under pressure from St. Louis Blues’ Marco Scandella (6) while goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) watches during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Blues’ Marco Scandella (6) is assisted by Sammy Blais (9) and linesman Ryan Gibbons (58) after being injured during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • The Blues’ Justin Faulk (72) pressures the Kings’ Michael Amadio (10) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington blocks a shot during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

  • Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) blocks the puck on a shot by Los Angeles Kings’ Andreas Athanasiou (22) as Blues’ Vince Dunn (29) defends during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

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The Kings are the hottest team in the NHL.

Yes, the Los Angeles Kings.

Their six-game winning streak is the league’s longest, after they beat the St. Louis Blues, 2-1, in front of about 2,500 fans on Wednesday night at Enterprise Center.

Coach Todd McLellan has the Kings on the verge of matching their longest unbeaten stretch of the past two seasons and two victories shy of their eight-game surge of 2017-18.

He said the team still had room to grow, and goalie Cal Petersen said he and his teammates are taking the same measured approach to games.

“Guys are playing how we expect them to play and doing their jobs,” Petersen said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”

Wingers Alex Iafallo and Andreas Athanasiou scored second-period goals for the Kings, and Petersen made 35 saves to improve to 3-0-1 in his last four starts. He and Jonathan Quick have split the six victories during the surge evenly.

“When one goalie is playing well, it helps the other goalie play even better,” Petersen said. “I think that’s holding true.”

Forward Oskar Sundqvist scored for the Blues and goalie Jordan Binnington made 19 saves for the Blues, who fell to 1-5-1 in their last seven home games.

With 1:46 left, Sundqvist broke up the shutout, which would have given the Kings the longest scoreless streak in the NHL and two straight shutouts. The Blues drew no closer with Binnington again pulled for the extra attacker.

There was a bizarre moment, or string of moments, in the third period during which the Blues sustained possession for well over three minutes during a delayed penalty. Both teams made at least one line change before the Kings were able to finally touch the puck.

The Kings showed their mettle during the delayed penalty, Petersen said.

“It’s obviously unique,” said Petersen, who lauded his penalty killers for staying in their structure. “We kind of held on for dear life. It didn’t feel really too chaotic despite the long time for it.”

St. Louis entered the series against the Kings with six players out of their lineup. In the first game, they also lost defenseman Carl Gunnarsson for the season to a knee injury. Early in the third period, a cut to the face of defenseman Marco Scandella, caused by a puck off the boards, forced him out of action.

The Kings doubled their advantage with 3:52 left in the second period. Austin Wagner curled the puck back and left a drop pass for a driving Athanasiou, who let fly with his fourth goal of the season.

Defenseman Kurtis MacDermid had the secondary assist. He drew into the lineup for Mikey Anderson, who was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury he sustained in his previous game. McLellan said the injury was not severe.

Olli Maatta returned to the top pairing in Anderson’s stead.

“They were a real solid pairing for 30 minutes tonight and Olli was a big part of that,” McLellan said.

Once again, the Kings scored first, just past the midpoint of the middle frame. They have not faced a deficit in any of their last six games.

Dustin Brown received the puck and aimed far side. He banged the puck off Binnington’s right pad, and Iafallo crashed the net to pop in the rebound with 10:24 left. It was his fourth goal in his last six games and his eighth point in as many contests.

The first period saw the Blues out-shoot the Kings 11-5, but Petersen was up to the challenge. He stopped defenseman Vince Dunn and winger Zach Sanford on solid chances following Kings giveaways.

Petersen also denied forward Jordan Kyrou from point-blank range off a give-and-go play. In the second period, he stoned Kyrou again, swallowing up his one-timer from the left face-off circle.

“Our goaltender made some big saves for us,” McLellan said. “I don’t think we had a real good game from the get-go tonight, to tell you the truth. We just weren’t good with the puck. I didn’t think we were near as sharp with the puck as we were two nights ago. Some of that has to do with how St. Louis played.”

The Kings next head to Minnesota. The Wild are (along with Edmonton) the league’s next hottest team with four consecutive victories.

Iafallo with his 6th of the season. Kings up 1-0 halfway through the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/3qyKCOVpjI

— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 25, 2021

That little drop pass, though.

Just lovely.

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ: https://t.co/vcXw5KTFbK @NHLonNBCSports #WNH pic.twitter.com/3JroDStbGM

— NHL (@NHL) February 25, 2021

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

High schools press state officials for more guidance on COVID-19 testing for football, water polo

CIF State commissioner Ron Nocetti said Thursday the California Department of Public Health is working to update its guidelines for the new COVID-19 testing requirement for football and water polo and for how athletic programs should handle positive tests for athletes on their teams.

Coaches and school administrators have been grappling with both issues since the CDPH revised its guidelines late last week, and added weekly testing for athletes and coaches on football and water polo teams that can begin playing once a county’s case rate drops below 14 per 100,000.

“We hope that guidance is coming soon,” Nocetti said. “We know a lot of schools have asked and are curious about it.”

The biggest questions are about how to follow certain protocols.

On Tuesday, Orange County (11.9) and Los Angeles County (12.3) fell below the case rate threshold, which will allow high school football teams in those areas to begin having full practices Friday and perhaps play their first games the March 11-13 weekend. Boys and girls water polo can begin playing games Friday, when the new guidelines take effect.

As high-contact sports that are in the orange tier, football and water polo must conduct weekly COVID-19 testing while case rates are between 7 to 14 per 100,000. Once the case rate falls below 7, the testing will no longer be required.

The county stats for COVID-19 are updated each Tuesday.

The testing requirement generated a lot of questions at schools as they tried to move quickly to allow their teams to play. Many local school officials wanted to know who would oversee the testing plans and test results, and if the state had a one-size-fits-all plan for how schools can conduct the testing.

State health officials did say last week that the state would pay for the testing, if schools requested.

The CIF Southern Section says it is not involved in verifying the testing results or signing off on the testing procedures.

“We play no role and have nothing to do with testing,” CIF-SS assistant commissioner Thom Simmons said. “That is between the individual schools and the CDPH.”

Time is an issue, school officials say, because football and water polo teams can’t play games until testing begins, or until the county case rate drops below 7. The water polo season ends March 20 and football ends April 17 (in the CIF-SS) or May 1 (L.A. City Section).

The CDPH issued this information last week along with the revised guidelines:

  • Weekly COVID-19 testing program (antigen or PCR testing) is required for football and water polo teams and coaches as these are high contact sports that are likely to be played unmasked, with close, face to face contact exceeding 15 minutes.
  • If competing, tests must be completed and results made available and reviewed by the coaches within 24 hours of play. If a test result is not available within 24 hours of play or if the COVID-19 test result is indeterminate or positive, the person must be sent home immediately to isolate.

The CDPH did not mention what a team should do if there is a positive test. Should it quarantine other players? Should it cancel games? Schools are looking for more specific directions from the state.

Nocetti said the CDPH has been working on providing more information.

The CDPH had these recommendations for youth sports on its website Thursday:

  • No one with symptoms of COVID-19 or who is in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 is permitted to attend practices or competitions.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should consult their physician for testing and notify their coach, athletic trainer and/or school administrator of their symptoms and test results.
  • Youths recovering from COVID-19 will have different paths to return to sports based on the severity of their illness.  See the American Academy of Pediatrics Interim Guidance on Return to Sports for additional guidance for more serious infections.

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Daxon: Raising Cane’s approved to roost in Brea

The Brea City Council last week denied an appeal trying to prevent Raising Cane’s from opening in the Gaslight Square.

The council voted 3-2 against the appeal that challenged previous approval given to changing the Conditional Use Permit at the Gaslight Square, so property owner Manley Fanticola Holdings can now proceed to demolish two buildings facing Imperial Highway and allow Raising Cane’s in the center.

While many people are anxious for Raising Cane’s to open in Brea and offer its chicken fingers, several of them do not want it located across from Laurel Elementary Magnet School of Innovation & Career Exploration. City Clerk Lillian Harris-Neal received 56 emails opposed to Raising Cane’s at Gaslight Square and 16 for it prior to the council’s Feb. 16 meeting.

And, about 50 adults, children and a couple dogs were out Feb. 13 waving signs on Imperial Highway protesting the prospects of Raising Cane’s opening across from Laurel School.  They got lots of honks from passing vehicles and were on the CBS local news that night.

Zoom comments during the council meeting including support from the Brea Chamber of Commerce and strong opposition from Dr. Brooks Larsen, whose dental office is in Gaslight Square. He said the restaurant would negatively affect his business and drive away patients. Dr. Larsen, his family and dog were among the sign-holding protesters.

The dental and orthodontic offices in Gaslight Square are separately owned.

Other Zoom callers included residents living near Gaslight Square concerned about traffic and noise the chicken restaurant would create, being open 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Caller Diane Stites expressed disappointment in the school district, even though its board voted 3-2 in opposition to the project.  According to Superintendent Brad Mason, the board majority was opposed while two were in favor of the project with necessary traffic and safety mitigation measured addressed.

To some people, having a list of mitigations for a project the board opposed seems counter productive, but perhaps it will be a way for Brea’s oldest school to find a solution for the daily line of parents’ cars dropping off or picking up students that often extends onto Imperial Highway.

The Brea council seemed agreeable to helping BOUSD make improvements in a drop-off and pick-up area, and the school district could add fencing and other safety measures around the 100-year-old campus.

After coordinating with the city and school district, demolition will begin, Dwight Manley, who owns the property where the project would go, said via email. “It will be fully fenced and secure.”

He noted that the two doctors’ offices would each have 11 to 12 reserved parking spaces and Manley said the doctor who runs orthodontics office that faces Orange Avenue told him “he is very happy with the efforts we are making.”

Kelly Hansen, Raising Cane’s divisional leader of marketing, said via email: “We plan to partner with the school community, local neighbor organizations and the City Council to address concerns and find solutions to improve traffic and pedestrian safety for all in the area.”

Expect the restaurant construction to start next summer, Hansen said.

Terri Daxon is a freelance writer and the owner of Daxon Marketing Communications. She gives her perspective on Brea issues twice a month. Contact her at  daxoncomm@gmail.com.

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Irvine finalizes ‘hero pay’ for grocery workers

A $4-an-hour pay bump lasting through the summer is expected for workers at larger grocery and drug stores in Irvine starting in late March.

The extra hazard, or “hero,” pay is a new mandate the Irvine City Council approved Tuesday, Feb. 23. It makes Irvine the first Orange County city to adopt a pay-boosting measure that cities including Long Beach, Los Angeles, Montebello, West Hollywood and several Bay Area communities have also put in place.

Buena Park city leaders also approved a temporary hike of $4 an hour on Tuesday, but the council must take a second procedural vote before it would it would go into effect.

Supporters of the pay boosts say grocery and pharmacy workers deserve to be compensated for continuing to show up to work and serve the public during the coronavirus pandemic, potentially putting their health or that of their families at risk.

“The Buena Park City Council and others are recognizing the need for profitable grocery and drug employers to pay workers according to the risks,” UFCW Local 324 President Andrea Zinder said in a statement Wednesday. “Our members have been working under enormous stress, exposed every single day they go into work to the virus.”

But opponents have argued that government shouldn’t dictate private sector pay, and they point to the announcements of store closures and lawsuits in cities that have approved the increases.

Long Beach, Montebello, West Hollywood and some other cities are being sued by the California Grocers Association, which argues the mandated pay increases violate state and federal law and will force companies to raise prices, cut worker hours or close stores.

In Irvine, two of the City Council’s five members have cited concerns about a lawsuit as a reason they don’t support the extra pay measure.

Irvine’s hazard pay measure is intended to cover larger, chain grocers and pharmacies while leaving out mom-and-pop businesses. It applies to shops that have at least 20 employees, are larger than 15,000 square feet or belong to a company with 500 or more workers in total. The measure doesn’t cover stores that already have pay premiums in place for their workers.

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