In what may be only the first of several moves made in an effort to improve their record, worst in the National Hockey League, the Kings recalled goaltender Bob Janecyk Wednesday from their American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn.
Janecyk, 11-2 at New Haven with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage, is expected to start tonight when the Kings play the Winnipeg Jets at the Forum.
Janecyk has a 40-40-12 career record with the Kings.
But is he the answer?
The Kings, who allowed more goals last season than all but the New Jersey Devils, have given up a league-leading 122 goals in 25 games. In their last 10 games, they have allowed 60 goals, a majority of them on high-percentage shots. They have played fast and loose with the puck in their zone, and have seemed especially averse to clearing the slot in front of their goaltenders.
Rollie Melanson, heretofore the Kings' No. 1 goaltender, said there have been nights when he felt that all he could do was stand in front of the net and hope the shots hit him.
"I agree with Rollie, but we just feel this is an obvious move we have to make," Coach Mike Murphy said. "The guy (Janecyk) is playing very well, and that position has struggled for us."
On the other hand . . .
"I'm not sure if we're addressing the problem," Murphy said. "I think our defensive play in general is weak. We have to shore up our defense; we have to make our forwards think more defensively. We're giving up so many scoring opportunities from the prime areas that our goalies are under the gun every night.
"I think often the goaltenders are the scapegoats. Defense is a whole-team game, and our goaltenders have been asked to shore up the brunt of the key shots. You can't play a game like that."
Murphy, in his first full season as head coach, has blamed himself for the Kings' defensive collapses and 7-14-4 start, saying that it's his responsibility to remind his young players of their defensive responsibilities and of the importance of grinding out the final minutes of close games.
So, is the coach's job in jeopardy?
Given an opportunity Wednesday, General Manager Rogie Vachon declined to say.
"At this time, I don't really want to discuss that matter," Vachon said. "We've got to readjust our team right now and see if we can turn it around."
Vachon has spoken to several teams about potential player trades, he said. "But it's very difficult to deal when you're at the bottom of the league. Other teams don't put the same value on your players that you do because your team is in last place."
Vachon, too, said that recalling Janecyk, who gave up only 22 goals in 14 games at New Haven, was a move that begged to be made.
"We're not solving the team problem," he said. "We don't blame the goalies for our lack of success, but our goalies haven't been too sharp, and we've got a hot goaltender in the organization. It's not a question of panicking, but it's getting to the point where we've got to do something."
Actually, there may be some panic involved. Vachon suggested Tuesday that he probably would bring Janecyk to Montreal Saturday for the start of a five-game trip. But he moved up his timetable--and had Janecyk make a transcontinental flight Wednesday from Hartford, Conn.--after Tuesday night's 7-6 loss to the Jets.
In that game, Melanson was pulled in favor of rookie Glenn Healy in the second period with the Kings trailing, 5-2.
The Kings rallied to take a 6-5 lead in the third period but lost when Winnipeg scored on a deflection with 50 seconds left in regulation and again on a breakaway with 1:34 left in overtime.
"I understand the position we're in, and (the goaltenders) have to take some of the fault for the way things have gone," Melanson said. "But you can't say that goaltending has been a major hole for us."
Melanson, though, said his confidence has been shaken.
"It's been very disappointing and frustrating," he said. "I seem to be finding holes for the puck to get through. It seems like nothing I do has gone right."
His teammates know the feeling.
Maybe Janecyk can help.
"He might make the big save that wins the game for us," Murphy said. "I guess that's what we're looking for."
They may have to look deeper.