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Inside the NHL | KING REPORT

Ronning a Better Fit for Wild

November 19, 2002|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Although he was traded to the Kings with about four weeks left in the regular season, Cliff Ronning was the leading scorer for the Nashville Predators last season. This season, he is the No. 2 scorer for the Minnesota Wild.

In between, the diminutive forward was a bust with the Kings.

In 14 regular-season games, he scored one goal and five points. In four playoff games against the Colorado Avalanche, he contributed one assist.

"When I look back, I think I was trying too hard, if that makes sense," Ronning said Monday after practice in the Xcel Energy Center, where the division-leading Wild will play the Kings tonight. "I didn't just relax and play....

"I wish I did play better there, but I really think I was still a little bit in shock that I got traded from Nashville [within a week] after playing in my 1,000th game. That's no excuse, but you're a human being. It took me three weeks before I realized I'd already played nine or 10 games and was waking up in a different place."

Ronning indicated that he never felt comfortable with the Kings.

"You're going into a team that was No. 1 when I got there over the previous four months," he said. "No. 1 on the power play, No. 1 in penalty killing, No. 1 overall, and sometimes you feel like you're stepping on toes. I felt there were some guys sitting out that were bitter in a way even before I got there."

Traded to the Wild on draft day in June for a fourth-round pick -- the Kings were unwilling to pick up the $1.85-million club option on his contract -- Ronning has thrived in his new surroundings.

His 19 points include a goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory over the Kings on Nov. 4 at Staples Center.

"If he'd opened our eyes and played as well as he's playing right now, we probably would have kept him," King Coach Andy Murray said. "His salary is reasonable for the numbers he's putting up now; he's probably underpaid on today's market value. But what he did for us, we couldn't justify paying him that salary."

*

TONIGHT

at Minnesota, 5 PST

Fox Sports Net

Site -- Xcel Energy Center.

Radio -- KSPN (1110).

Records -- Kings 8-6-2-2, Wild 11-5-3-0.

Record vs. Wild -- 0-1.

Update -- Mikko Eloranta is expected to return to action for the Kings after sitting out five games because of a sprained left knee. Adam Deadmarsh will sit out for the third consecutive game after suffering a concussion last Tuesday at Toronto. The Kings considered sending Deadmarsh home, but the combative winger remains hopeful that he can play in the trip finale Thursday night against the Blues at St. Louis.

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