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Kings Search for Scoring : Game 4: None of L.A.'s top four scorers has a goal in three games against the Flames. Stauber might start in goal today.

April 25, 1993|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Luc Robitaille was without his typical smile and he almost went without any sleep after Friday night's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

He is also without a goal in this series, having spent more time in the penalty box than scoring or setting up goals.

For the King left wing, this latest defeat was almost demoralizing. He didn't want to relive the details or talk about Flame center Joel Otto. After a handful of reporters left the team's practice facility at Van Nuys, Robitaille dragged his tired body and tired psyche out of the back room behind the dressing room.

"It's always hard to sleep after a loss," said Robitaille, who has one assist in three games but took three ill-advised penalties against Otto on Friday. "I think it was about 5 or 5:30 before I fell asleep. I feel bad. I know I made a few mistakes. There's nothing I can do about last night."

To that end, King Coach Barry Melrose has promised sweeping changes for today's Game 4 at noon at the Forum. He will juggle the lines, moving Marty McSorley up and back between defense and wing. And goaltender Robb Stauber might make his playoff debut, completing a comeback from No. 3 on Wednesday to No. 2 on Friday.

Stauber, 25, was 15-8-4 with a goals-against average of 3.84 during the regular season and has gone long stretches in Melrose's doghouse.

The last time Stauber emerged from a prolonged period of on the bench one month between starts--he played well in an overtime loss to Pittsburgh on March 11 and lost only once in his next seven starts.

Melrose would not discuss his goaltenders. Earlier, he had said he would announce the starters for every game after the series opener.

"I changed my mind," he said, smiling.

Melrose watched the lift that goaltender Jeff Reese gave the Flames when starter Mike Vernon sat out Game 3 because of a twisted ankle he suffered during the third period of Game 2. Reese is expected to make make his second consecutive start today.

The Kings have lost two in a row after winning Game 1. They have scored 12 goals in three games, but have given up 17. Melrose is more troubled with his team's lack of offense, however.

"There's going to be a lot of line changes," Melrose said. "Some of the guys aren't going. We've got to get them going. It's not just Luc. Tomas (Sandstrom), Wayne (Gretzky) and Tony (Granato), our top four scorers, haven't got a goal yet. We've got to get going."

This is the playoff output from the four:

Gretzky: Three assists.

Robitaille: One assist.

Sandstrom: Three assists.

Granato: Two assists.

During the regular season, Robitaille set an NHL record for left wings with 63 goals and 125 points. Granato had 37 goals and a career-high 82 points while Sandstrom scored 25 goals and 52 points in 39 games. Gretzky, who sat out the first 39 games because of a back injury, scored 16 goals and 65 points in 45 games.

Melrose is not considering benching or limiting the ice time of his top scorers.

"You don't throw away the whole tractor because you have a flat tire," he said. "The tires are pumped up and ready to go."

Since the opener last Sunday, the Flames have shown discipline and are patiently waiting for their scoring opportunities. "Los Angeles was the teacher in Game 1," Calgary Coach Dave King said. "We took a page out of their book."

Said Flame forward Theo Fleury: "If you think those guys are out of it, you have another thing coming. They have a guy named Wayne Gretzky over there and a guy in Luc Robitaille who scored 63 goals."

For now, Robitaille's confidence is low, despite the 63-goal season. Maybe the frustration over not scoring was what pushed him to lash out at Otto in the second and third periods.

"I want to have a good series," he said. "It means the world to me. We've got to win. If you win and don't score, it doesn't matter."

A teammate glanced over and looked at Robitaille's long face.

"Lucky, don't even think about hockey this afternoon," he said. "Forget about it."

He knows the variation of the adage: You're only as good as your last goal. And Robitaille is painfully aware his next goal will be his first one in this playoff series.

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