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Kings of the Road? This Could Be a Long Trip

October 21, 1987|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

EDMONTON, Canada — Actor Matt Frewer, who plays Max Headroom of Coca-Cola commercial fame, skated with the Kings after Monday's practice in Culver City as part of a segment for a syndicated television show.

"He's better on the power play than we are," the Kings' Jim Fox said.

Actually, there aren't many who are worse than the Kings.

Only the Toronto Maple Leafs among National Hockey League teams have been less efficient on the power play through the first two weeks of the season, which is part of the reason the Kings are 1-4 as they embark on their first and longest trip of the season.

The Kings, who will open their seven-game excursion tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, have scored on only 3 of 35 power-play opportunities, and on just 1 of their last 25.

It's a puzzling development for the Kings, who last season ranked third in the league in power-play efficiency and scored a league-leading and club-record 97 power-play goals.

"I think we're all trying so hard to end this thing that everybody's saying, 'Let's do it my way,' " said Jimmy Carson, who tied for the club lead last season with 18 power-play goals. "We're not following the game plan and everybody is getting confused."

Before the Kings lost their third straight game Sunday night to the Vancouver Canucks, 4-2, Carson said the Kings needed to put forth a strong effort against the Canucks "to send a message to our fans and to ourselves."

It turned out to be a message in a bottle.

The Kings are struggling.

And it's not just the power-play unit that is foundering. The Kings aren't scoring much, period.

Only Edmonton scored more goals than the Kings last season, but in five games the Kings have scored only 11 goals, 4 against St. Louis in their only win.

All through training camp, Coach Mike Murphy stressed defense, noting that the Kings allowed more goals last season than all but the New Jersey Devils, and telling the Kings that in order to move up in the standings, they would have to improve upon that figure.

But, while limiting four of their first five opponents to fewer than 25 shots on goal, the Kings have lost three of those games.

Carson suggested that the Kings, in an effort to appease Murphy, have abandoned their free-wheeling offensive approach.

"Maybe we're not looking to score," he said. "Maybe we're not looking to take the shot. Maybe we're too worried about playing defense."

Murphy and Carson both said the Kings are too individualistic.

"We haven't been a unified group," Murphy said. "We've been a lot of individuals playing together under the Kings' emblem."

Murphy said the trip may help in that regard, adding that the Kings, who returned from training camp Sept. 26, might have become too comfortable by being home for so long and might have lost some of their sharpness and focus.

"That could be a good point, but there's no excuse for losing four out of five at home," Carson said. "We can try to say it's good that we're going out on the road, it's good that we're getting out of the house--anything that we can concoct in our heads. But the end result is, when you're at home, you have to win."

In any event, they're on the road now, and facing the prospect of another dismal start. In the last three seasons, the Kings started 0-6-3, 1-8 and 3-10-1. Last season, on a similar trip near the start of the season, they compiled only an 0-6-1 mark.

"We've got to pull our socks up and go to work," Carson said.

King Notes

Jimmy Carson: "I know the fans are probably saying, 'Here we go again. Same old thing, every year. The Kings: A lot of rah-rah baloney, but 1-4.' ". . . . Tom Laidlaw, who has missed two games after straining a ligament in his right knee, made the trip. Grant Ledyard, who sprained an ankle in training camp and has not played, is expected to join the Kings this weekend in Winnipeg. . . . Also on the trip, the Kings will play Winnipeg twice, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, Buffalo and Philadelphia.

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