YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Like Fire And Ice

Kings need a fresh start after missing playoffs, but Allison and Deadmarsh are still out, and another injury nightmare appears possible.

October 07, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

This may be the last way the Kings wanted to start the season, worrying more about medical charts than shot charts.

Far too familiar with the phrase "man-games lost to injury," the Kings have followed up last season's injury nightmare -- a franchise-record 536 man-games lost to various physical problems -- with an unsavory exhibition season that started with a dislocated shoulder, worsened with a fractured wrist and has ended with two of their top players in an injury netherworld.

Left wing Adam Deadmarsh, who has been called the "heart and soul of the Kings" by team President Tim Leiweke, has not played since sustaining two concussions in December. Equally disturbing, center Jason Allison has not played since experiencing three whiplash collisions in a 10-day span in February.

Allison and Deadmarsh have been skating with a small group of other injured players, uninvolved in contact. They are out of the season-opening three-game trip that begins Thursday in Detroit.

Coach Andy Murray has moved on. He has no choice.

"I haven't even brought those guys into the equation," Murray said. "I'm not even thinking about them right now. I haven't lost any sleep on it. They have to get through what they're dealing with. When they're ready to rejoin the team, they will."

When that might happen is anybody's guess. There are no time frames for concussions and whiplash injuries. Individuals respond uniquely to such injuries. Some never make full recoveries.

Both players are at least a week away from playing, possibly longer.

"I've got to feel right for a few days," Deadmarsh said. "Then I've got to start getting in two or three days of practice, and then I'll be ready. There's like a week in there I need [of feeling well] before I can play. Simple math."

If Allison and Deadmarsh don't return soon, this could start to look a lot like last season's 10th-place finish in the Western Conference, 14 points behind Edmonton for the final playoff spot.

"There's no secret about it," said defenseman Mattias Norstrom, the Kings' captain. "We're losing two of our top three forwards. When they play, they'd be on the first line."

Allison led the team in scoring two seasons ago but played only 26 games last season. Deadmarsh was on a tear, having scored 13 goals in 20 games, before his season ended.

Had it not been for right wing Ziggy Palffy, the Kings would have tumbled further. Palffy had 37 goals and 48 assists and is in the final year of a contract that pays him $7 million this season, giving him financial incentive to equal last year's performance.

Palffy will be reunited with center Jozef Stumpel, back with the Kings after scoring 21 goals in 150 games with the Boston Bruins. Also on the line will be promising left wing Alexander Frolov, sixth among NHL rookies last season with 31 points.

"We're going to have a lot of speed on our line," Palffy said. "Jozef is an excellent passer left to right, and Frolov could score 25 to 30 goals a year."

Despite their limited lineup -- defenseman Aaron Miller has also been out almost three weeks because of a fractured wrist -- the Kings outshot teams in preseason games, 289-174, and went 5-2-1. But the Kings were a combined 12-2 in the previous two exhibition seasons and didn't win a playoff series either year.

They will try to change that this year with a slightly revamped team.

The Kings gave up on goaltenders Felix Potvin and Jamie Storr, and traded next year's second-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for the enigmatic Roman Cechmanek, whose regular-season prowess has been offset by playoff problems.

Cechmanek's goals-against average of 1.96 is the lowest since 1943-44 among goalies with at least 150 games, but his 9-14 playoff record led to a no-confidence vote from Flyer General Manager Bobby Clarke after Philadelphia was eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in the second round.

Clarke publicly suggested Cechmanek's teammates had lost faith in him and said it would be "very difficult to bring Roman back" after Cechmanek surrendered nine goals in the Flyers' last two playoff games.

The Kings consider Cechmanek an upgrade.

"He has to be a deciding factor for us," Murray said.

The Kings also signed 37-year-old Luc Robitaille, who has something to prove in his third tour with the team after scoring a career-low 11 goals with the Detroit Red Wings last season.

Ever the optimist, Robitaille said when he was signed in July, "We could beat any team in the league."

His tone is slightly more sober now.

"For us to do what we want to do, we need [Deadmarsh] to be healthy, we need [Allison] to be healthy, we need Aaron Miller back," he said. "Your defensemen are key and your centers. You can't miss those guys if you really want to make an impact."




* 2002-03 record: 33-37-6-6, 78 points, tied for third in Pacific Division.

* The coach: Andy Murray, fifth season.

* Who's gone: Felix Potvin, Jamie Storr, Steve Heinze, Craig Johnson, Ken Belanger, Erik Rasmussen, Mikko Eloranta, Chris McAlpine.

Los Angeles Times Articles