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Blake expects familiar sound

The Kings defenseman, who was booed by L.A. fans after being traded to the Avalanche in 2001, figures to get the same treatment tonight in Colorado.

October 23, 2006|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Rob Blake will walk into another arena tonight where he'll probably get booed.

Colorado Avalanche fans in the Pepsi Center figure to give Blake the cold shoulder when the Kings take the ice. Blake played four-plus seasons in Denver, helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.

"It's going to be a little different," Blake said about returning to the scene of his prime. "I'll have mixed feelings about being there. There were so many good times. I guess I'm glad that we're getting this out of way early in the season."

Blake was a key component in the Avalanche's success the last five seasons, but the team felt the salary cap pinch after last season, leaving Blake to test the open market. He waited a few hours, then signed with the Kings.

While Blake may be gone from Colorado, he certainly is not forgotten, especially when the Avalanche's hierarchy does the books. Blake was owed a $2.3-million bonus by the team, which counts against the Avalanche's salary cap.

Avalanche management has tried to hang Blake's departure on his wife, telling local reporters last month that it was similar to Chris Pronger's situation with the Ducks. Pronger reportedly asked to be traded from Edmonton because his wife wanted out of the city.

Blake laughed at this, and the numbers are on his side. The Avalanche had trouble remaining under the salary cap even without signing Blake.

"We enjoyed Denver," Blake said. "We had an acre of land, with a mountain view. Growing up in Canada, we always had winters. These were better. We'd get a couple feet of snow one day, then the temperature would rise. Hockey-wise, it was a great sports city. It's a first-class organization and I have a lot of good memories from there."

Tonight probably won't be one, as Blake knows there will be a chilly reception.

"I don't think a Rob Blake jersey is too popular there any more," Blake said. "I bet the sales probably aren't too good."

What does he expect from the Avalanche fans? "I'll tell you after the game," Blake said. "Let's wait and see."

It'll probably be similar to how Kings fans greeted Blake each time he returned. He took the blame for the trade after failed contract negotiations late in the 2000-01 season and fans made him the object of their disaffection.

Blake has been mostly welcomed back by fans, give or take some Internet griping. Still, they are waiting for him to score his first goal.

Blake was scoreless through seven games, then had two assists -- both on the power play -- in a 4-0 victory Thursday over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Blake, who has 200 career goals, said he wasn't stressing the goal-less stretch. He came close Sunday against the Ducks, hitting the outside of the post with a shot in the third period.

"I'm not worried about that," Blake said. "I worry about getting shots on net and scoring chances. I'm getting those. Everything will take care of itself."

chris.foster@latimes.com

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