Bob Carpenter, who has been burdened with the label, 'Can't Miss Kid,' is not going to be a savior for the Kings, that much is clear.
But the 23-year-old center, playing in his first game with the team, showed he may provide the impetus that could propel the team, haltingly, into the playoffs.
That is the bright side of the Kings' 6-3 loss to the Quebec Nordiques Saturday night before a crowd of 12,651 at the Forum. The downside is that, with the loss, the Kings (26-35-8) are only six points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in the Smythe Division.
The box score shows that Carpenter had only one assist, but his animated play portends more scoring than that.
When Coach Mike Murphy decided that Carpenter should center a line with Luc Robitaille and Sean McKenna, he might have been wondering about the chemistry such a move would create.
McKenna has been playing with Bob Bourne on the Kings' checking line. He is a hard-working defensive wing.
Robitaille has been playing on a line with his mentor, Marcel Dionne, who was traded last week to the Rangers for Carpenter and defenseman Tom Laidlaw.
"I'm playing with two really good players; they work really hard," Carpenter said of his linemates. "We had a few lapses defensively that led to a few goals. That happens with miscommunication."
In fact, the McKenna-Carpenter-Robitaille line was on the ice for four of Quebec's six goals. Lest that stand as an indictment of the line, the three were also on the ice for two of the Kings' three goals.
"That line worked very hard," Murphy said. "They had some bad breaks in their zone. (We) made some errors, and unfortunately, the puck went into the net. It seemed tonight, after every mistake, the puck was in the net."
Yes, and the Carpenter line stayed on the ice. Once Murphy saw what his new line was capable of creating, he seemed unwilling to allow the three players to return to the bench.
The new line was responsible for the first two goals of the third period, the last one tying the game. The Nordiques had a 3-1 lead after the first two periods.
Robitaille put in the rebound of Carpenter's shot to bring the Kings within one at 1:51 of the third. Then McKenna scored off Steve Duchesne's shot at 5:10 to make it 3-3.
There was no rest for the talented. The Kings went on a power play 45 seconds after the tying goal, and guess who had the first shift?
Carpenter and Robitaille were on the ice for 1 minute 10 seconds of the two-minute power play.
Fame may be fleeting, as the rookie Robitaille soon discovered. As he tried an ill-advised pass across the King slot, Anton Stastny took the puck and fired point-blank at goaltender Rollie Melanson.
Melanson made the save but couldn't stop the ensuing shot by John Ogrodnick, who scored his second goal of the game.
It was the sort of easy goal that makes King coaches cringe. They cringed again when Dale Hunter scored at 17:15 to give the Nordiques a 5-3 lead. Stastny scored the final goal on a breakaway slightly more than a minute later.
"We definitely created an urgent situation for ourselves," Murphy said. "Individual mistakes resulted in goals. They were a very urgent team, too. They are fighting for a playoff spot."
The Nordiques are 26-35-9.
The Kings unveiled an offensive wrinkle in the first two periods, when their forwards aggressively forechecked the Nordiques.
That, coupled with sharp goaltending by Melanson and the Nordiques' Clint Malarchuk, resulted in a scoreless first period.
The Kings were 0-3 on the power play in the game, and the Nordiques were 0-1, which prompted Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron to wonder: "I don't remember the last time we scored six goals at even strength."
Neither team was able to make use of the power play each had in the first period.
The Kings did generate some excitement on their first one. Bernie Nicholls made an excellent pass to Dave (Tiger) Williams on the left side. Williams' shot was stopped by Malarchuk, and the rebound bounced high. Williams then batted the puck in the general direction of Dave Taylor. Taylor, whose nickname is "Garbage Goal," tucked the puck in from the right side.
The King celebration was cut short when referee Ron Fournier called Williams for a hand pass.
That power play, halfway through the first period, was notable in that it produced the Kings' first two shots on goal.
It was the second period that brought the scoring. After the Kings took a 1-0 lead on Phil Sykes' goal at 5:43, the Nordiques answered with three goals to lead, 3-1, at the end of the period.
The King defense began to get a little wild, skating out of position and allowing Quebec's speedy Michel Goulet to linger alone in the King zone.
Ogrodnick scored first for the Nordiques, skating around Steve Duchesne at 9:33. Goulet scored 42 seconds later to give Quebec a 2-1 lead.
Goulet set up the next Quebec goal by outracing the Kings to the puck behind the King net, and Hunter scored to give the Nordiques a 3-1 lead at the end of the second period.
Friday, King defenseman Dave Langevin underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee, which he injured Feb. 28. He may return for the playoffs. . . . Wing Jim Fox missed his second game of the season. He is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury. . . . Bernie Nicholls was named an alternate captain, taking Marcel Dionne's place.