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Robitaille Upset by Murray's Decision

December 17, 2005|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

A surprised and unhappy Luc Robitaille took a seat Friday night, scratched from the lineup for the Kings' 4-3 victory over the Mighty Ducks, in what is another flash point between the likely future Hall of Famer and Coach Andy Murray.

It is only the sixth time in Robitaille's 19-season career that he has been scratched from a game for a non-health reason; the fourth time by Murray.

Robitaille, 39, learned of the news during a team meeting before the Kings' morning skate. He did not skate with the team and later expressed his disappointment with his lack of playing time -- he played only 5 minutes 10 seconds in a 3-2 loss to Washington on Wednesday.

"I totally disagree with what's going on," Robitaille said. "After playing five minutes, I thought I would go back in after losing such a big game. It doesn't make sense to me. In the past, if a coach didn't play me a lot and we lost, he thought maybe it was time to give this guy a chance."

Murray said he made the move because, "We have some other players who fit better in the matchups."

Robitaille, a popular player with teammates and fans, learned he was sitting when Murray went over line matchups that did not include Robitaille. He later talked with Murray, who said Robitaille's reaction to the news was, "I think, um, passionate."

"Luc's a proud guy," forward Eric Belanger said. " ...The last two weeks he hasn't seemed happy. I think he felt disrespected."

Robitaille's production has dropped off this season, in part because of a broken bone in his leg that led to his missing nine games. He has five goals, only one in his last 10 games.

Asked why he has struggled, Robitaille said, "It's ice time, strictly ice time. It's that simple."

Murray explained Robitaille's absence as, "Luc has a bit of a groin thing." Robitaille said that was not true and that he was ready to play in Friday's game.

"I think Luc is like any other player.... I shouldn't say that, he's is not like any other player," Murray said. "That's why it is so tough when it comes to making these decisions. But by the same token, you're trying to win hockey games."

The Kings have lost seven of their last 11 games.

General Manager Dave Taylor spoke with Robitaille on Thursday night and again Friday morning.

"I support what the coaches are doing," said Taylor, a former teammate of Robitaille. "Andy is going to use the 20 players who are going to give us the best chance of winning."

Robitaille has 658 goals in his career and 547 as a King, which is three shy of Marcel Dionne's franchise record.

Robitaille has averaged 13 minutes a game this season, but that has slipped to 10 minutes in the last five games. His time on the power play has been significantly reduced -- 40 seconds on the power play Wednesday, the fewest of any King player used on the power play, and only one second on the power play against Florida on Saturday.

"Many people counted me out two years ago, I was counted out by Andy, but I found my way back," Robitaille said. "Everyone counted me out after I was done playing in Detroit [in 2003], I came back. This is not the first time I have been counted out."

This is not the first time that Robitaille and Murray have sparred over playing time. Murray held Robitaille out of back-to-back games in the 2003-04 season.

"I don't want players who accept not playing," Murray said. "That is why Luc is such a great player, he has that drive and pride.... I want nothing more than for Luc to finish his career here in Los Angeles on a high note."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Laboring Luc

Luc Robitaille suffered a broken bone in his lower leg Oct. 11. He continued playing until Nov. 2 and returned 20 days later. Here are his statistics for his first three months of the season:

*--* Mth. G Gls. A S* IT* Oct. 11 4 3 23 14:04 Nov. 5 1 0 8 14:12 Dec. 5 0 0 8 10:42

*--*

*S -- Shots. IT -- Average ice time per game.

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