Steve Kelly knew his days in New Jersey were numbered when the Devils told him to sit while they looked at younger players.
"That didn't sound too good when those 'younger players' were only a couple of years younger than me," the 24-year-old center said.
The Devils traded him to the Kings Tuesday for future considerations, and he made his King debut Thursday. He was a spectator Saturday, however, when Eric Belanger returned after missing two games because of back spasms.
Kelly took the decision graciously. "The coach said he didn't want to pull out one of the guys who had been here. I can understand that," he said. "Hopefully, I can fill in when they need me and earn a spot."
Kelly, chosen sixth overall by Edmonton in the 1995 entry draft, played 27 games for the Oilers over two seasons before he was traded to Tampa Bay. He played 58 games over two seasons before being acquired by the Devils and spent most of 1999-2000 with their Albany farm team, scoring 21 goals and 57 points in 76 games--with 131 penalty minutes.
He played 24 games for the Devils before joining the Kings. "I'm excited to come in and play with a new team," he said. "It's tough moving around, but there's so many good players in this year. I've never had a good chance anywhere I've been, and it's tough to get better and become a regular. You have to pay your dues, and if that means moving around, I've got to do it."
The Kings' penalty killing is no longer the NHL's worst. Inserting Jozef Stumpel and Ziggy Palffy into the rotation has helped the Kings kill 39 of 45 disadvantages over nine games.
"It's pretty good when it's skill players killing penalties," Stumpel said. "The other team has to be aware that maybe we can get a short-handed goal. . . . I like to be there. It takes hard work and a little bit of creative thinking about what might happen."
Aki Berg and Scott Thomas were also scratched from the lineup. It was the fifth consecutive game Berg was scratched.