Marcel Dionne, was surveying the scene in the Kings' locker room after their victory over the Hartford Whalers Saturday night, their first in the last eight games.
"You have to be so tough and so patient in this league," Dionne said. "Yes, we won tonight. But what I'm looking at is the long term. What I've learned in the past is this team has a tendency to feel really good about themselves and come back and have a poor performance. We still have a long season to go."
Sobering words from a veteran who has been there for many a King collapse.
Coach Pat Quinn knows exactly what Dionne was saying. "We got a win, one we deserved to have," he said after practice Monday. "It's hard to know how your team will react to a win like that. Quite realistically, we won one game in eight. We may have deserved better, but we didn't get it.
"I think there is a tendency with this hockey team to be happy with one win, to be satisfied with a good performance instead of expecting those things. I think that's why the team has had these good-year, bad-year swings. I think it's an acceptance of phony expectations. We had Saturday night to enjoy the win. It's time to refocus."
The lesson seems to be that an occasional victory does not a good season make. What Quinn and Dionne are waiting to see is if the Kings will use this one as a confidence booster and play up to their abilities. Certainly, with a 4-10-1 record, there should be no reason for them to expect more as something automatic. "If they think they are on a level where it will happen every night, forget it," Quinn said. "We've got a lot of talent on this team, but we've got a lot of work to do, too."
The Kings will have another week at home to work. They will play the Winnipeg Jets tonight and Thursday night, then the Calgary Flames Saturday night.
"It looks like we're going to have a pretty good team coming in," Quinn said of the Jets. "They have made great improvements on the defensive side of the game. They have good size and they use that size to their advantage."
King teams have traditionally had trouble with physical games, but this team has parted with that tradition. Aggressive checking helped the Kings beat Hartford, and King defensemen stood their ground against a rough Whaler team.
That style left the Kings with some injuries, none, apparently, of lasting duration. Defenseman Jay Wells suffered a concussion but is available for tonight's game. Defenseman Grant Ledyard was checked hard and left the game but returned after a cut on the bridge of his nose had been treated. Right wing Jim Fox suffered back spasms and eventually had X-rays but he, too, is expected to play tonight.
The return of Phil Sykes and Bryan Erickson Saturday gladdened Quinn's heart. Sykes, a left wing, played in his first game since preseason surgery on his wrist. His presence, especially on the penalty-killing unit, greatly helps the Kings. Erickson, a right wing, was out only a short while with a bruised knee but in his absence the Dionne-Luc Robitaille line lost some spark.
Erickson and the rest of the King forwards will be called upon to use their speed against the bigger Jets. Quinn sees that as the only way the Kings can get an advantage.
"We've got to use our skills, which includes our speed, to offset their size," he said.