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Kings fans may have to be more patient as upgrade chances dwindle

HELENE ELLIOTT / ON THE NHL

They will try to boost their anemic offense before Feb. 27 trading deadline, but the pickings are slim and the team is close to the salary cap. At some point promises to fans have to become results.

February 06, 2012|Helene Elliott
  • Kings right wing Kevin Westgarth checks Blue Jackets defenseman Aaron Johnson in the second period last week at Staples Center.
Kings right wing Kevin Westgarth checks Blue Jackets defenseman Aaron… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

The Kings beat the clock once this season, scoring the winner against Columbus last Wednesday at Staples Center despite a one-second timing pause late in the third period (more on that later).

Now, can they beat the clock before the Feb. 27 trading deadline and make a deal to boost their anemic offense?

The Kings' goals-per-game average shrank to 2.09 after they started a six-game trip with a 1-0 loss at St. Louis and 2-1 loss at Carolina. Only the Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams line has been reliable. They've gotten none of the secondary scoring they anticipated from Dustin Penner (four goals), Scott Parse (hip surgery) or Simon Gagne (concussion). Mike Richards, their best player in the early going, has no points in eight games and one goal in his last 18.

"I'm amazed at how many other general managers say, 'We can't score. I say, 'YOU can't score?' " Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said by phone Monday.

"It's hard to find an upgrade right now."

Lombardi spent a few days watching his Manchester (N.H.) farm team before traveling to Tampa for the Kings' game against the Lightning on Tuesday. He said he would discuss his impressions with Coach Darryl Sutter, so some shuffling could result soon.

With the Kings close to the salary cap, they are not likely to make a blockbuster move before the trade deadline. Lombardi will gain more than $13.6 million in cap space after the season when the contracts of Penner, Parse, Willie Mitchell, Jarret Stoll, Colin Fraser and Trent Hunter expire, but premier unrestricted free agents have found it possible to resist the Kings' offers, so it's not realistic to count on help from that avenue.

Waiting until July 1 also means Lombardi will ask long-suffering Kings fans for more patience after he spent close to the salary cap for a team that isn't as close to Stanley Cup contention as he thought. At some point promises have to become results.

Unhappy Columbus center Jeff Carter, Richards' teammate in Philadelphia, might be an option for the Kings, but his cap hit is $5.3 million through the 2021-22 season. That's a risky commitment for a player whose desire has been questioned, but Carter might get Richards going again. Lombardi is more likely to make smaller deals, such as acquiring impending unrestricted free-agent winger Tuomo Ruutu from Carolina and sifting through offerings from non-contenders such as Edmonton, Columbus and the Ducks.

What's another season of waiting when you've waited since 1968?

Time check

NHL representatives planned Monday to interview the clock operator and chief of the off-ice crew on duty at Staples Center last Wednesday when the clock paused long enough for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty to score with 0.4 of a second left to beat Columbus.

Colin Campbell, the league's senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said technicians went to the arena Friday and determined the overhead cameras focused on each goal were consistent in showing the clock had stopped for a full second with 1.8 seconds to play.

He also said officials of Daktronics, the clock's manufacturer, will examine the big clock at Staples Center but won't have access until after the Grammy Awards setup is removed from the arena.

Iginla carries torch for the Flames

Calgary right wing Jarome Iginla, who has been the subject of trade rumors and can control his fate through a no-movement clause, said Monday he intends to stay put.

Iginla, 34, said he didn't see a destination where he'd have a better chance at the Cup even though the Flames were four points out of eighth place in the West before they faced the Ducks at Anaheim.

"I think we're going to be a playoff team. I believe that," said Iginla, who scored his 500th career goal last month and has 19 this season. "I don't want to speak about the Eastern Conference, but in the Western Conference it's tight. I don't think there's any heavy favorite front-runner. I think [if] you make the playoffs, we've got a shot.

"We've played Detroit. We've played Vancouver. We've played San Jose and we've played them lately. And while we respect them, we definitely believe we can beat them. I don't know that there's necessarily teams out there in the West that you're like, you go there, you have such a great opportunity. I like Calgary and I believe that we can be in the playoffs this year and have a shot."

Flames General Manager Jay Feaster tried to quash the rumors in December by saying Iginla hadn't asked for a trade and the team doesn't want to trade him, but the truth rarely gets in the way of these things. Iginla has learned to ignore them.

"I don't know where I'm supposed to be going or who's going where or what," he said. "The focus has totally been on getting better here and we need to put a streak together and get into the playoffs ourselves."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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