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Helene Elliott

For Kings, still a zero-sum game

October 13, 2008|Helene Elliott

These being the Kings, who are still traveling a cursed course set by an excessively curved stick, a felonious owner and decades of bad drafting, there could be no silver lining to their 1-0 loss to San Jose on Sunday without a curtain of clouds.

Playing their Staples Center opener to complete a home-and-home set with the Sharks, the Kings won many of the small battles they had badly lost Saturday in a 3-1 defeat at San Jose.

But they didn't win the game, the difference being a wrist shot that Lukas Kaspar pinpointed over Jason LaBarbera's pad from the right-wing boards, catching the Kings' goaltender by surprise at 9:56 of the second period. Kaspar is a left-handed shooter and he placed the shot in an area above LaBarbera's pad that the goalie called a "dead zone."

LaBarbera faced only 19 shots by the Sharks, who tired toward the end of their third game in four nights but emerged a perfect 3-0. The Kings, held to 13 shots Saturday, took 21 on Sunday and saw that as a good sign.

"We had some fight," LaBarbera said. "We were a better team than we were [Saturday]."

That might turn out to be small consolation because they lost prize defenseman Jack Johnson to what Coach Terry Murray called "an upper-extremity injury" in the league-endorsed practice of being vague about players' infirmities.

Johnson was hurt in the first period while trying to knock the puck out of the air just inside the Kings' blue line. He played only one shift in the second period before retreating to the locker room, and Murray said he would be evaluated by a doctor today.

Johnson told reporters that he was fine, but the angle of his left arm and his care in cradling it tightly against his body suggested otherwise. Murray said he hadn't been told the extent of the damage.

"Hopefully it isn't serious," he said.

Costly and ill-timed losses are almost the norm for the Kings. But on Sunday they experienced a degree of misfortune unusual even for them: they had two goals disallowed in the second period, meaning they have had more goals waved off than they've scored in their first two games.

The first wipeout came at 11:08 of the second period, when the on-ice officials ruled Jarret Stoll had interfered with Sharks goaltender Brian Boucher in the crease.

The second incident went to video review upstairs at Staples Center and at the NHL's offices in Toronto. The verdict was that Matt Moulson had used a deliberate kicking motion with his right skate to get the puck past Boucher at 16:02.

"I thought maybe I got a piece of it with my stick, but I guess not," Moulson said. "It clearly went off my foot, but I was trying to kick it to my stick and jam away at it. I was hoping maybe they'd say it went off my stick afterward, but I don't think it did."

The Kings also had to withstand 10 minutes without Anze Kopitar, who was given a misconduct penalty at 12:21 of the second period for swinging his stick at the glass near his team's bench and shattering a large pane.

His frustration might have been understandable. But as a newly designated alternate captain and a player capable of tying or winning a game with just a few quick strokes, taking himself out of the game for that long was unacceptable.

He knew it.

"It was not a great thing. A stupid thing," he said. "Definitely not the right time. I take full responsibility for that."

Perhaps the best sign for the Kings was the season debut of Patrick O'Sullivan, who missed training camp and didn't sign his new contract until last week. His instincts were evident but his timing was off, leaving Murray optimistic that he will get himself in sync soon and add some flair and energy to the Kings' offense.

The team's effort was there, Murray said, even if the goals weren't.

"I really liked the way we played especially in the second half of the game," he said. "The third period was tremendous. We started to see something that I haven't seen yet and that's compete for each other, playing hard for your teammate. There was a lot of blocking shots and playing real hard and heavy on pucks in front of the net and it was great to see that.

"That's kind of a bar that's set and I'm going to try very hard to keep them to that level. It's something to build on."

They'll have to build quickly. On Tuesday they play host to the Ducks, who are also 0-2 and struggling to score.

Murray, told that the Ducks had been involved in a brawl late in their game against Phoenix on Sunday, suddenly smiled.

"Maybe there'll be a few suspensions," he said.

The Kings are almost never that lucky. And they're not good enough yet to get by without good fortune.


Helene Elliott can be reached at To read previous columns by Elliott, go to

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