After making a 23-point improvement in the National Hockey League standings last season, the No. 1 turnaround in the league, the Kings' 1985-86 season has been one to forget.
They've sunk to 20th place in the 21-team league and have been ranked near the bottom all season in power plays, in killing penalties and in goals allowed. They have the worst home record in the NHL and have been shut out four times.
But the Kings have a chance to gain some respect tonight when they play the Soviet Red Army team at the Forum. Realistically, however, the Kings' chances of winning are slim.
If they can't beat the last-place Detroit Red Wings at home, how are they going to beat the Red Army?
"Maybe we'll learn something," King center Marcel Dionne said.
It's doubtful that the Soviets have time to teach remedial hockey. But stranger things have happened than the Kings upsetting the Red Army. Remember the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid?
Viktor Tikhonov certainly does. Tikhonov, the Red Army coach, was also the head coach when the Soviet ice hockey team lost the gold medal to the United States at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
He didn't get sent to Siberia.
In fact, 10 of the 21 players on this Red Army team were also on the 1980 Winter Olympic team.
However, Tikhonov came back to coach the gold medal team in the 1984 Games. Tikhonov, 56, also has eight world championships to his credit in the nine years since he became head coach of the Soviet national team.
But Tikhonov's teams haven't done well in recent tournaments, failing to win the 1984 Canada Cup, the World Cup last spring and the World Junior Cup. Last week the Soviets lost to Czechoslovakia in the Soviet Union's prestigious Izvestia tournament.
Is the real Big Red Machine falling apart?
"It's impossible to win all the time," the coach said through an interpreter. "During the past seven years, (Tikhonov's) teams have won all their competitions. They didn't lose any of them. Now, the national team is changing. They have a new generation of players.
"I had the same situation in 1980 when we lost the Olympic Games at Lake Placid. After that loss we changed the Red Army team."
There were reports that the Soviets lost the Izvestia tournament because they failed to complete offensive plays and were plagued by penalties.
"We had an experimental national team," Tikhonov said. "First of all, it's important for the national team to have good conditions for the Olympic Games and experiences against professional teams."
This is the 11th time that Soviet ice hockey teams have played NHL teams in America and Canada. The competition began in 1972 when the Soviets met a team of Canadian NHL stars. Team Canada won the series, with four wins, three losses and one tie.
The Soviets have two teams currently touring North America--the Red Army and the Moscow Dynamo. Of the two teams, the Red Army is the best. The Red Army has won 28 championships since the Soviet National League was formed in 1946-47. Moscow Dynamo has won two.
There was a report out of the Soviet Union that Tikhonov sent a letter to the Soviet Sports Administration asking that the Red Army team be disbanded because it had dominated competition for too long.
Asked about it, Tikhonov said: "I didn't talk like that. The Red Army team is a base team for the national team. The Red Army team is the best team from the Soviet Union. Always, we win all the tournaments."
This is the first of six games against NHL teams for the Red Army. They'll play the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers on Friday.
Asked if he would like to see an annual series matching the Stanley Cup champion against the Soviet champion, the Soviet coach said: "I believe it could be a very interesting competition. It doesn't matter who will win. It would be a very big celebration for hockey fans."
The Red Army will also play the Quebec Nordiques on Sunday, followed by a New Year's Eve game against the Montreal Canadiens. They will close out the tour with games against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2 and the Minnesota North Stars on Jan. 4.
Moscow Dynamo, meanwhile, plays the Calgary Flames on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 4, the Boston Bruins on Jan. 6 and the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 8.
All of the games will be played under NHL rules. However, Soviet referees will officiate some of the games.
The Red Army's game in Montreal marks the 10-year anniversary of a 3-3 tie between the teams. A reporter from the Montreal Gazette is traveling with the Red Army and will write a story about what life is like on the road with the Soviets.
The reporter flew with the Soviets from Montreal, where they had arrived on Monday after a nine-hour flight from Moscow, to Los Angeles and is staying in the same hotel with the team, but he hasn't talked with the players.
The Red Army players arrived in Los Angeles at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and went straight to their hotel to rest before practice.