Some stuff from this morning, in advance of tonight’s game against San Jose
– I wouldn’t expect to see Brent Sopel in the lineup tonight. He has a sore ankle and didn’t practice yesterday or skate today. That probably means a choice between Oleg Tverdovsky and Mike Weaver for the last defense spot, although Marc Crawford has some room to tinker if he wants to use Kevin Dallman as a forward again.
– The injury news is better for Derek Armstrong and Jeff Cowan, both of whom went through non-contact drills on the ice after the morning skate. Both players are dealing with mild shoulder injuries but reported improvement.
– As usual, Crawford was mum about who will be in goal tonight. If I had to bet, I’d say Garon. Both goalies have been getting some extra practice work recently with goalie coach Bill Ranford. Crawford said: “That special attention is so taxing on them, but it’s so beneficial too. … Our goalies thrive on the extra work and they thrive on the repetition they get from the drills they do.”
– Rumors continue to fly north of the border that the Kings will trade Craig Conroy. Keep in mind that any time a trade is reported as a “done deal” and it hasn’t been announced, it’s not a done deal. The average hockey folllower might be surprised to know how many trades are talked about during the course of a season, and how many deals get really close to being completed but never actually get done. Regardless, Conroy’s name is out there, and the Kings are talking to teams about him. Asked about the Conroy rumors, Crawford also pulled Lubomir Visnovsky’s name into the conversation, even though nobody had brought up Visnovsky. Interesting. Crawford said he talked to both players and urged them to ignore the rumors as much as possible. Crawford also pointed out, accurately, that these rumors almost always get started in Canada, where media outlets thirst for any hockey news and breathlessly report and discuss any rumors. Crawford said: “Craig is an older guy and he’s been through it before. He knows that speculation can be a part of (the game). … It’s not really a problem for (players). It’s their families that get to be concerned.”
– Here’s a telling stat that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The Kings have a 3-0 record when they score more than one power-play goal, and an 0-5-2 record when shut out on the power play. “They used to call it the game within the game, but now it’s the game that is the game,” Michael Cammalleri said. Cammalleri took some ribbing from Scott Thornton for sounding a bit Zen-like with that comment, but how can anyone argue? It’s no accident that San Jose, Anaheim and Minnesota, three of the top four teams in the Western Conference, are ranked first, second and fourth in the league in power-play efficiency. The Kings are ranked 24th in power-play efficiency but have been making some progress of late.
– Here’s a stat that’s a little more surprising. The Kings have a 2-6-3 record in games in which they’ve outshot their opponents and a 3-3-1 record when they’ve been outshot. How do you figure that one?
– Cammalleri said that before Tuesday’s game in Colorado, Rob Blake stood up and talked to the team in the dressing room. “He talked about how there was a certain way we were going to have to play and how we all had to buy into it or we’re not going to win. He’s such a great leader but he’s a quiet guy. He does his leading by example but when he does say something, it’s all eyes and ears on him. … He said some things about how we need to play, and in those first 12 minutes we went out and did it.” The Kings took a 5-2 lead in that game and held on for a 6-5 victory.
– This is a big month for Kings president/GM Dean Lombardi, at least from an emotional standpoint. Tonight the Kings face San Jose, the team Lombardi helped construct during his seven seasons as GM there. The Kings also face the Sharks on Monday and on Thursday they host Philadelphia, the team for which Lombardi worked as a scout after the Sharks fired him. Assistant GM Ron Hextall played with the Flyers for 11 seasons and, starting in 1999, worked for the team as a pro scout and director of pro hockey personnel.
– I got my first real look at Marc Crawford’s office today. It’s always interesting to see what people put on their walls. In Crawford’s case, he chose a lithograph of himself behind the bench during his one season with the Quebec Nordiques, a picture of himself with Bill Clinton, presumably after Colorado won the Stanley Cup, a frame containing a picture and autographed ball from Willie Mays and a picture of himself with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. “Arnold asked me to take that with him,” Crawford joked.