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Kings Go Meekly Into the Night Again

Hockey: Struggling winners of only one of their last 13 games are baffled by the hot Blackhawks' speed, size and skill in 5-2 loss.

February 07, 1996|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If Wayne Gretzky is thinking about playing for a Stanley Cup contender, he certainly had plenty of time to observe the overlooked Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Finishing a torrid sweep through Southern California, the Blackhawks defeated the Kings, 5-2, before an announced 13,832 at the Forum.

While all the hype seems to have centered on Detroit and Colorado as the only true Cup contenders from the Western Conference, the Blackhawks are providing solid evidence that they should be included. Chicago, possessing a blend of speed, skill and size, is unbeaten in its last eight games (6-0-2) and has lost only once in its last 11, going 8-1-2.

The Kings mounted little opposition, as usual. They have won only once in their last 13 games (1-9-3) and are winless in their last four games.

King Coach Larry Robinson was disgusted and threatened to hold a practice without pucks, just making the players skate.

"I told them, 'I'd be awfully damn embarrassed if that was happening to me,' " he said. "We just didn't compete. I don't know if they care. You have to have some feeling. You have to have some desire. . . . They [the Blackhawks] work their butts off, plain and simple. They've got guys who come to work, who pay the price. Jeremy Roenick probably hit more guys in the last three games than our team has hit all season."

Defenseman Igor Ulanov, who had only five points in 39 games, led the Blackhawks with a goal and two assists. Defenseman Gary Suter added two assists, as did center Brent Sutter. The Blackhawks were especially deadly on the power play, scoring on their first two opportunities on goals by Joe Murphy (16th of the season) and Jeremy Roenick (26th).

Goaltender Jeff Hackett's bid for his fourth shutout of the season ended at 11:36 of the second period after he stopped 15 consecutive shots.

Eric Lacroix helped set up the play with a heavy hit at the right-wing boards near the blue line, and John Druce pounced on the loose puck and beat Hackett between the pads with a blast from the top of the right circle, cutting the Blackhawks' lead to 4-1.

It was Druce's eighth goal of the season and 100th of his career.

It was the Kings' lone offensive highlight of the night--at least until Yanic Perreault scored with 3:58 remaining--and the game was virtually over anyway. It was Perreault's 17th goal of the season, and he had some help as his centering pass went off Blackhawk defenseman Cam Russell's skate and Hackett's stick.

King goaltender Byron Dafoe, winless in his last eight starts, was under siege all night, the unwitting victim of countless defensive mixups as he faced 32 shots. But some bad luck led to Chicago's second goal, scored by enforcer Bob Probert at 15:41 of the first period.

Probert, carrying the puck into the zone, went around King defenseman Rob Cowie and got off a weak shot, hitting Dafoe's glove. Dafoe went to cover it, but Probert took a whack at the puck and knocked it in, making it 2-0.

"I'm finding it very frustrating," Dafoe said. "If we win three, four games, we're in fifth place in the conference. And we're just giving them away."

King Notes

Defenseman John Slaney, taking an elbow from Chicago rookie Eric Daze, went down with 2:56 remaining and had to be helped off the ice by King trainer Pete Demers. He suffered a charleyhorse to his left leg. . . . The healthy scratches were forwards Robert Lang and Pat Conacher. Lang has three goals and 17 points in 45 games and has a minus-10 defensive rating. Conacher has five goals and seven points in 35 games and is a minus-eight.

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