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`Housecleaning' to Begin Soon for the Kings

Leiweke plans to meet with Lombardi this week about general manager job, though club denies it.

April 12, 2006|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Tim Leiweke, the Kings' chief executive, plans to meet with former San Jose Shark general manager Dean Lombardi this week, the first step in reworking the organization, two league sources said.

King General Manager Dave Taylor will remain until the end of what has been a disappointing season, but Leiweke intends a "big housecleaning," one of the sources said.

Taylor has been the team's general manager the last nine years, during which the Kings have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs four times. However, they have not reached the postseason since 2001-02 and have been haunted by late-season collapses.

The Kings have lost 10 of their last 14 games to fall out of a playoff spot, although they cling to hopes that they can still qualify. They lost their last 11 games and missed the playoffs in 2003-04.

Lombardi, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, was the Sharks' general manager from 1996 to 2003. During that time the Sharks reached the playoffs five times, advancing to the Western Conference semifinals twice, although in 2003 the team missed the playoffs after having won the Pacific Division the season before. Lombardi has also spoken with the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders about general manager openings.

Leiweke is expected to talk with other candidates in the coming weeks, a league source said. Leiweke did not respond to an interview request, but a spokesman for the team denied plans to meet with Lombardi.

The Kings have three games left in the regular season, beginning Thursday on the road against Phoenix. They can make the playoffs if they win those games, and the Edmonton Oilers lose their last two games and the Vancouver Canucks lose two of their last three games.

Though injuries have played a factor this season, the Kings also have unraveled. Jeremy Roenick and Valeri Bure, off-season acquisitions, did not produce as expected, with Bure sitting out the season after back surgery, and uninspired play has led to embarrassing losses in recent weeks.

The Kings led the Pacific Division by four points on Jan. 6 but have a 13-20-3 record since, which led to coach Andy Murray's firing on March 21. They have lost six of nine games under interim Coach John Torchetti, including three in a row by the combined score of 15-4.

"I'm disappointed how the team has played the last few weeks, no question," Taylor said Tuesday at the Kings' practice. "We could have moved within two points of eighth place if we had beaten San Jose [last Thursday]. We didn't play up to our capabilities."

The Kings lost that game, 5-0.

"We still have three games left, and we can't lose any of them," Taylor said. "We still have a chance to make this a better season."

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