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Kings Prove to Be Easily Distracted

Hockey: They lose to Sharks, 6-1, with Dafoe in goal. Barring trade, Hrudey to start next game.

February 11, 1996|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

All the commotion about whether a goaltending controversy was a distraction for the Kings . . . well, it officially became one Saturday.

At least that's what Coach Larry Robinson decided after watching a miserable afternoon of hockey at the Forum as the Kings hit another new low with a 6-1 loss to San Jose before an announced 12,735.

Two days after goaltender Kelly Hrudey went public with his discontent over playing time, Byron Dafoe extended his personal winless streak to nine games, including eight consecutive losses. Dafoe gave up three goals in a span of 1:46 in the third to make it a 5-1 deficit.

"It seems like every time they respond to something, there's some other distraction that takes their mind off what's at hand," Robinson said. "I don't think it helped. It upset Byron. He comes in and he wants to know what the heck is going on. It's just another distraction that we don't need."

The players, including Dafoe, said that was not the reason for losing. Even Robinson said Friday that Hrudey's public discontent was not a team distraction, saying it was a "personal situation."

Hrudey may get the chance to regain the No. 1 position. He is scheduled to play Tuesday in Detroit. "Kelly has said he wants it and now it's up to him to prove it," Robinson said. "Talk is cheap--as we have seen."

Said Hrudey: "That's very fair. None of us are comfortable or enjoying this. I said it and I have to stand up for it. Of course I don't regret it. I have a wife and children. I've been a perfect company man for 13 years."

Whether Hrudey will be traded soon is not clear. He said his first choice is to stay here. Robinson said Saturday he did not expect anything to happen but explained his rationale for starting Dafoe: "If something happens to Kelly in the next couple of days, then Byron would be without a start for a few days too."

Said Dafoe: "I came out of that [meeting with Robinson] very positively. I don't want to get caught up in this stuff. I just want to know where they stand."

Robinson said he was in General Manager Sam McMaster's office until nearly 6 p.m. on Friday as McMaster tried to make some sort of deal, without success. "It's pretty tough to get answers out of some general managers," Robinson said.

And speaking of trades, there was a recent report in Toronto stating the Kings were taking offers for Wayne Gretzky. King President Rogie Vachon didn't exactly deny it. "I don't think anything has changed with the situation," he said. "Put it this way, we're trying to help our club in trades. Whether it's Wayne or anybody, we'd be crazy not to listen to offers."

Sources have told The Times that Toronto would not be one of those teams. Saturday, Red Wing owner Mike Ilitch said it too. "We can't afford him," Ilitch said. "We have the biggest payroll in the league right now."

*

King Notes

The Kings' goal was by Kevin Todd, his 14th. . . . Tony Granato, who has a blood clot in his brain, left his house and walked around the block and will have a checkup Monday. He will be out for a minimum of four more weeks. . . . Left wing Kevin Stevens (pulled left hip muscle) sat out for the third time since being acquired from Boston. He has one assist in four games. . . . Defenseman Denis Tsygurov has played his way out of Phoenix too. The team suspended him for continuously missing practices and he won't be returning. "We put him on waivers and no one took him," Rogie Vachon said. . . . The Kings sent forward Dan Bylsma back to Phoenix. He had no points in two games.

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