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NHL PREVIEW: KINGS | KING REPORT

Heinze, Flinn, Armstrong Are Demoted

October 08, 2002|Lonnie White

Making decisions like the ones he made Monday is never easy for Coach Andy Murray, who assigned veteran Steve Heinze and youngsters Derek Armstrong and Ryan Flinn to Manchester in the American Hockey League.

"The very, very hard decisions are the ones that bother you as a coach," said Murray, who called Monday's 90-minute practice one of the best since the Kings' opened training camp last month. "But if I stopped caring and it stopped bothering when I cut players like this, then I'm going to have to do something else."

Heinze's days seemed numbered when the Kings left him unprotected for last Friday's waiver draft. Signed to a three-year, $6-million contract as an unrestricted free agent in July 2001, Heinze, 32, scored 15 goals last season, ranking fourth on the team; but he had none after Jan. 15. He ended the season with a 27-game goal-scoring drought and was used sparingly late in the season and during the playoffs.

"He's done everything we've asked of him in training camp," Murray said of Heinze, an 11-season veteran who has two years remaining on his guaranteed contract which will pay him $2 million this season and $2.25 million in 2003-04. "He's worked harder than he's ever worked for us.... We simply feel at this time that we have some players who have stepped ahead of him."

The better youngsters Alexander Frolov and Jaroslav Bednar played, the more expendable Heinze became. Murray talked to both Heinze and Armstrong before the Kings took the ice for their morning workout.

"They were both very professional about it and said they will work hard to get back into the NHL," he said. "This is a difficult time.... Ask me in April whether I'm happy or not [with the Kings' final roster decisions]."

Armstrong, who was picked up in an off-season trade from the New York Rangers, played well during the exhibition season but the Kings are deep at center. Flinn, who impressed the Kings as an enforcer for 10 games last season, suffered a disk injury in his lower back early in camp and will be sidelined indefinitely.

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With defenseman Aaron Miller expected to be put on injured reserve, the Kings still have one roster move to make before their regular-season opener against Phoenix Wednesday night at Staples Center. With 14 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders, Murray hasn't decided whether the final cut will be up front or on the blue line.

"We like the dynamics of our team," Murray said. "The multi-faceted ability that we have.... We're a little quicker, stronger and bigger than we were last season and we're coming off the best preseason that we've had in four years. I like our team but we still have a lot of work ahead of us."

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