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Royal Lineage

Conroy, Demitra and Frolov have emerged as one of the NHL's top scoring trios, stirring memories of Kings' Triple Crown days

November 28, 2005|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

They sound like the makings of a tired bar joke. A Russian, a Slovak and a New Yorker walk into a hockey arena ...

Still, this is a pretty good punch line for the Kings.

Alexander Frolov, the skilled 23-year-old Russian, projects a shy image, yet occasionally offers stinging comment, followed by a got-ya-good smirk.

Pavol Demitra, the high-end free agent, maintains a stoic public demeanor, as if the Slovak national anthem is constantly playing in his head.

Then there's Craig Conroy, the veteran center emerging from anonymity, whose interviews certainly take longer than a New York minute.

In a league that has a United Nations look, the Demitra-Conroy-Frolov connection may be a mere face in the culturally diverse crowd. But they do stand alone, or at least in the top three, in one crucial area: .

In Ottawa, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have combined for 46 goals and 115 points. Philadelphia's Peter Forsberg, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble have 93 points. The Kings' trio, thrown together after the season opener, has combined for 92 points, which includes 36 goals. "Those guys are just playing with so much confidence right now," King center Jeremy Roenick said. "They're getting some great breaks, the puck is bouncing their way at times. But when you work hard, that happens."

Twenty-six players have turned in hat tricks this season; three of them skate on one line. Conroy and Frolov each scored three goals against Columbus on Nov. 13, and Demitra had a three-goal game six days later against Colorado.

The point production may be about all they have in common. Frolov still has a baby-faced look, Demitra a shaved head and Conroy, well, he tends to get bug-eyed when he's on a conversational roll.

So a Russian, a Slovak and a New Yorker walk into a hockey arena

"... and the only one you can understand is the New Yorker," Conroy said. "You don't know what those other guys are saying."

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Conroy's impressive play this season has put him on the Team USA radar. He was added to the list of candidates after Olympic team officials saw Conroy collect three assists and the game-winning goal in a come-from-behind victory over Colorado on Oct. 19.

A year ago, he was so appealing as a free agent that five teams jostled to sign him despite the looming lockout. The Kings won out, giving him a four-year, $12.6-million contract.

"When we signed him, we knew what a great individual he was and the character he would bring to our team," General Manager Dave Taylor said. "We knew he was a really good two-way player, but I think we're even getting more offensive numbers from him than we expected."

Playing with Demitra and Frolov helps. But Conroy has shown he belongs at that level, having played alongside Jarome Iginla in helping Calgary reach Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.

Conroy, 34, can be found digging out pucks in the corners or crashing the net. Or working on the defensive end, freeing up his line mates to attack offensively.

In the dressing room, his skills are considerably more verbal, as he chatters at a pace that seems to indicate the need for one less cup of coffee in the morning.

Yet, those motor-mouth capabilities are a blessing to a team.

"He likes to talk," said Demitra, who played with Conroy for three-plus seasons in St. Louis. "He has so much energy for the game or just being around him."

*

Frolov had a chance for more money last summer but turned down an offer from Avangard Omsk of the Russian elite league. Instead, he accepted a five-year, $14.5-million offer from the Kings.

"I still want to play playoff game and try to win the Stanley Cup," Frolov said. "I'm just 23 years old. I'm looking forward next 12 or whatever years."

His career will be a remarkable one, according to his line mate.

"I knew he was good, but man, I didn't know he was this good He's strong on the puck, and his hands are nice. He's a young Jaromir Jagr, " said Conroy, referring to the New York Ranger forward and NHL scoring co-leader. "He's that size; he has those kind of hands.

"I think, at times, he doesn't know how good he really is. He's out there laughing having fun. It's exciting to be with a guy who is 23 and starting to come into his own."

Conroy knows, though, having had to defend against Frolov in the past.

"The way we used to play Fro was the first guy hit him, finishing off, and the second guy come pick up the puck," Conroy said. "With the new rules, you can't stop him in front of the net unless you take a penalty. One on one, he's going to make you look silly."

This sort of production has been building in Frolov, the Kings' first-round pick in 2000. He had 14 goals as a rookie in 2002-03 and a team-high 24 in 2003-04.

Frolov is more than halfway to that total already this season and ranks 13th in the NHL with 31 points -- 13 goals and 18 assists. That can be attributed in part to Conroy, who has 11 goals and 16 assists, and Demitra, who is tied for sixth in the league with 34 points.

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