February 5th, 2014, 04:36 PM #1
Kings' GM is trying to right the ship
By Kevin Baxter
February 5, 2014, 4:23 p.m.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was hunkered down in his office at the team's rink in El Segundo on Wednesday, meeting with players and coaches and working the phones in an effort to find a solution to a slump in which the team has lost nine of its last 10 games.
Where exactly all that talk will lead is uncertain.
What is certain is that Lombardi has spoken with the Edmonton Oilers about a trade for center Sam Gagner, although the Kings are having trouble fitting Gagner's $4.4-million salary under the salary cap. But that doesn't mean Lombardi will stop trying between now and the March 5 trade deadline.
Lombardi acquired Dustin Penner from Edmonton just before the deadline three years ago and a season later Penner helped the Kings win their only Stanley Cup. Before that playoff run to the Cup, Lombardi obtained Jeff Carter from Columbus in a deadline deal. Carter leads the team with 46 goals over the last season and a half.
Between those two moves, Lombardi changed coaches in midseason, firing Terry Murray and hiring Darryl Sutter, who turned a .500 team into the NHL champion.
But this time some players believe change might not be necessary.
"There's a lot of confidence within this room," center Anze Kopitar said. "The stretch that we've been on right now is just not going well. We realize that. We're putting pressure on ourselves, we're not looking outside of this room.
"We've got to start winning games and everybody's got the confidence in this group that we can do it."
Added Dustin Brown: "It's not about anybody but the 20 guys in the room and figuring it out together."
Sutter already has tired of the trade talk.
"You don't deal with gossip, rumors any of that," he said. "If we had won three in a row at home, you don't ask those questions. That's really unfair to ask."
However, the Kings haven't won three games in a row at home, or anywhere else, since mid-December. Since then they've lost 16 of 21 games, making talk of a trade not only fair but also probably necessary.
"It's a 23-man roster. That's what you deal with," Sutter said. "There's a salary cap here and there's a roster. Why do you think there's not much movement in the National Hockey League?
"It's not a $250-million payroll. You deal with what you deal with."
The decision to pair Kopitar with Carter and Tyler Toffoli paid dividends Monday when the line produced two of the Kings' three goals in a loss to Chicago. So Sutter will stick with that combination Thursday against Columbus.
"We've been creating quite a bit of chances," Kopitar said. "We're getting the looks and when you do get the looks it's a matter of time for one to bounce in.
"As a team, we took a step forward. It doesn't show on the scoreboard but I thought the first half of the second period [against Chicago] was as good a hockey as we've played this year.
"Now we've got to do it for 60 minutes."
Jeff Schultz is sent down
Defenseman Jeff Schultz was reassigned to Manchester of the American Hockey League. Schultz was called up Jan. 22 but has not appeared in a game for the Kings this season.
Kings' GM is trying to right the ship - latimes.com