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AROUND THE NHL

Kings Pursue Their Own

September 16, 2002|Associated Press

Saturday's signing of captain Mattias Norstrom to a four-year, $14.5-million contract still left the Kings with four players who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer--goaltender Felix Potvin, defenseman Aaron Miller and forwards Bryan Smolinski and Craig Johnson.

General Manager Dave Taylor would like to reduce that number.

The Kings have held preliminary talks with Potvin and Miller about contract extensions but have yet to approach Smolinski and Johnson, though Taylor indicated the club would reach out to them soon.

"If we can get some contracts into place right away," he said, "we'd like to do that. Ultimately, we'd like to get all the unrestricteds under contract."

Two years ago, the Kings failed to come to terms with then-captain Rob Blake, a free agent to be, and the situation turned ugly, putting a drag on the team until Blake was finally traded to the Colorado Avalanche in February 2001.

In the summer of 2001, they retained Mathieu Schneider but lost Luc Robitaille to the Detroit Red Wings. This summer, they lost defenseman Philippe Boucher to the Dallas Stars and forward Kelly Buchberger to the Phoenix Coyotes.

The signing of Norstrom, they hope, signaled to their players a commitment to winning. It was well received in the locker room.

"I think obviously they learned from what happened with Rob a couple years ago," Schneider said. "Rob did a tremendous job of keeping it out of the dressing room, but it was there right down to the end--trade rumors and so on.

"It's the same thing that might have happened with Matty, and to have your captain in that situation makes it difficult for everyone. He's not just another player on the team, so that's great [to get him signed beyond this season]."

*

Coach Andy Murray, on enforcers Ryan Flinn and Kip Brennan, each of whom was banged up over the weekend: "They were laying on the massage tables, both of them, and I said, 'You two guys are our tough guys, aren't you?' "

Jerry Crowe

*

Center Andy McDonald, one of the few bright spots for the Mighty Ducks last season, found himself out of position Saturday during the team's scrimmage.

Signing Adam Oates and Steve Rucchin being healthy has left the Ducks deep at center. So McDonald, 10th among rookies with 28 points last season, shifted to left wing for the scrimmage.

"They told me I could play either this season," McDonald said. "I haven't had any experience at wing. I want to play, so I'll adjust."

McDonald had seven goals and 21 assists last season to overcome concerns about his size. He is 5 feet 10 and weighed 175 pounds last season. He added 10 pounds during the off-season.

It would seem difficult to find a spot for McDonald at center. Besides Oates and Rucchin, the Ducks have center Matt Cullen, coming off his best season. McDonald's skills and size are not suited for playing on the fourth line.

"We want to give him an opportunity to play," Coach Mike Babcock said. "Playing on the wing might give him that opportunity. But nothing is set in stone."

*

The white team defeated the black team, 1-0, on a goal by enforcer Kevin Sawyer. Defenseman Fredrik Olausson, slowed by a sore groin muscle, did not play in the scrimmage.

The Ducks sent centers Tim Brent and Igor Pohanka back to juniors, assigned center Brian Gornick to Cincinnati and released defenseman Rod Sarich, who was brought in for a tryout.

Chris Foster

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Carolina Hurricane goaltender Kevin Weekes was taken to the emergency room Sunday after having a seizure and collapsing on the ice during the first day of training camp in Raleigh, N.C.

Weekes, 27, was later released from the hospital in good health after undergoing evaluations. He is unlikely to practice again before Thursday.

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