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Rychel Earns a Moment in Spotlight : Kings: His goal against the Flames brightens life on the checking line, where most shots are taken on the boards.

April 26, 1993|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rookie left wing Warren Rychel understood his role when he signed with the Kings as a free agent last October.

Because the Kings already had high-scoring left wings such as Luc Robitaille, Rychel's job was to perform the dirty work--playing aggressive defense and fighting.

Assigned to the Kings' checking line with right wing Dave Taylor and center Pat Conacher, Rychel ranked last among the King regulars in scoring with six goals and seven assists this season. However, he led the NHL with 30 major penalties and was second on the team with 314 penalty minutes.

Although Rychel did his job well, his biggest problem after games was usually clearing out of his stall in the Kings' locker room to avoid the crush of reporters around Wayne Gretzky, whose locker is nearby.

"Normally, our reward during the regular season is just knowing that we contributed by checking, blocking a shot, killing a penalty or getting into a fight to lift the guys up," Rychel said. "As long as the coach and the guys in the locker room know that we're helping this team, that's all we care about. Sometimes people don't realize it because we don't show up in the score sheet. But we know we're helping the team win."

However, Rychel was the center of attention after scoring the second goal during the Kings' 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of their Smythe Division playoff series Sunday at the Forum. Rychel's goal helped the Kings tie the series at 2-2.

"Warren Rychel has contributed to our team all year physically," Robitaille said. "It's certainly fun to see him get the big goal. He's going to remember that all his life."

Rychel attracted a bigger media crowd after the game than Gretzky, who hasn't scored during the playoffs.

"Warren's played hard all year and he's a good team player," Gretzky said. "He scored a nice goal at the right time, and we're happy that he did."

Rychel's goal was the result of hard work.

With the score 1-1 after King defenseman Alexei Zhitnik's power-play goal at 16:51 of the first period, Rychel gave the Kings a 2-1 lead on a rebound of a shot by right wing Tomas Sandstrom at 4:48 of the second period. Rychel came off the bench on a line change and got the puck from teammate Darryl Sydor. Rychel dropped it back to Sydor, who passed it to Sandstrom.

Calgary goalie Jeff Reese made a nice save on Sandstrom's shot, but Rychel drilled in the rebound.

"It was unbelievable," Rychel said. "The puck just happened to lay there for me."

Rychel hadn't scored in his last 24 games, but King Coach Barry Melrose wasn't surprised that the 6-foot, 202-pounder did Sunday.

"Those are the type of people that need to score in the playoffs for you to win," Melrose said. "You look at any playoff series and the guys that come up with the big goals are the Rychel type, guys that go to the net and get the ugly goals that go off skates and go in. Those are playoff type goals."

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