For 32 years, trainer Peter Demers has taken care of the Kings. Tonight, they'll return the favor.
Demers will be honored before he works his 2,500th consecutive regular-season game, a career that has spanned 835 victories, 14 coaches and untold bruises, cuts and sprains.
Through the years, he has helped Dave Taylor through concussion problems and guided Tony Granato during periods of unsettling memory loss. More recently, he has been a sounding board for Adam Deadmarsh as the King power forward battles post-concussion syndrome symptoms.
Demers, 60, said he has rarely been awed by a player, with the exception of his initial interaction with Wayne Gretzky after he was traded to the Kings before the 1988 season.
"The first day he came to training camp, he came in and had a tiny cut on the end of his finger," Demers said. "I'd already worked many years in pro hockey -- the glory had worn off long ago -- but I said afterward, 'That's Wayne Gretzky. I just put a Band-Aid on his finger.' "
More often than not, hockey injuries are more severe than a sliced finger.
One of the most notable, if not unsettling, times for Demers involved Granato, who had recurring memory loss and headache problems. Granato called Demers at 2 a.m. the morning after a 1996 game and told him he was experiencing a headache. Then Demers became alarmed.
"He said, 'There's a picture of my teammates here, and I can't recognize them.' Obviously we got our support people going right away," Demers said.
Granato ultimately had surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. He is currently the Colorado Avalanche coach.
Demers, soft-spoken and humble, credited his consecutive-game streak to his wife, Marilyn, and team personnel through the years.
"Trust is very important," he said. "Players have to trust you, and management has to know the choices you're making on their behalf on a daily basis are the right choices."
The wait for center Jason Allison appears to be almost over, but a return date is difficult to pin down. Coach Andy Murray said earlier in the week he hoped Allison would be fit to play "after Christmas," but Allison cautioned against a definitive timetable.
"Whether I'm 90% or 95% or 85%, I'm not 100% percent yet," said Allison, out since January because of whiplash. "I felt great [Wednesday]. I'm out of shape, though."
Versatile veteran Brad Norton practiced for the first time since injuring forearm tendons in a Sept. 30 exhibition. Norton, who can play winger or defenseman, needed about 250 stitches when his arm was struck by a skate blade.