Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said Sunday things got so bad for the inconsistent team this season that after a victory Feb. 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the players barricaded themselves behind locked doors and garbage cans and held a players-only meeting.
The cans were stacked in front of the dressing room and meant to be a signal to Kings coach Darryl Sutter to stay out. The Kings then snapped from a midseason funk to win eight consecutive games before faltering down the stretch and missing the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Lombardi said during an hour-long session with reporters at the team’s El Segundo practice facility that he didn’t have a problem with the meeting in general, but took mild offense to the extreme measures the players took in locking out Sutter.
“I guess it’s fair to say there was a little scuffle in Tampa,” Lombardi said when asked about a report in the New York Post that suggested the incident happened during a winless trip to play the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary, Flames, which knocked them out of the playoffs.
Lombardi corrected several elements of the Post’s story, including the date and location of the incident.
“I could look at it and say, ‘That’s when we won eight in a row, so let’s do this more often,’” Lombardi said when asked if he was troubled by the incident. “In terms of what actually happened, maybe they don’t have to go to that extreme, but theoretically I don’t have a problem with it.”
Neither Sutter nor the Kings players were available for immediate comment.
Robyn Regehr played his 1,089th and last NHL game Saturday at Staples Center, one final battle for a hockey warrior whose hard-nosed style of play earned few headlines but whose teams couldn’t have won without his workhorse approach that served him so well.
The 34-year-old defenseman logged 21 minutes, 54 seconds of ice time in the Kings’ 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on the final day of the regular season. He did not score a goal or record an assist, but played his customary hard-nosed game.
“I think it’s time to move on to the next chapter in life,” Regehr said in typical no-frills fashion, every bit as direct and to the point in the dressing room as he was while batting opposing forwards in the corners and in front of the net for two-plus seasons with the Kings and 15 overall.
“There’s a lot that goes into a decision like that. I’ve been thinking about it for a little while. You’ve got to think about your body and how it’s holding up, or not holding up. There’s family decisions and all that kind of stuff that’s involved with a decision like that. It’s a big decision and I think we have decided.”
KINGS AT OILERS
Faceoff: 6:30 p.m. TV/Radio: Prime, 790-AM
The Kings fell out of the second wild-card spot when they lost in a shootout Monday to the Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Minnesota Wild. The Kings’ single point moved them into a tie for third place with the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division, but the Flames hold the tiebreaker with more wins in regulation or overtime 39-37. The Kings also dropped to 2-8 in shootouts and when coupled with a 1-7 mark in overtime it helps to explain why they face another must-win game when they face the long-since eliminated Oilers. The Kings complete the regular season with games Thursday against the Flames in Calgary and Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 63 points, including 47 assists. Backup goaltender Martin Jones might be called upon to play tonight after Jonathan Quick started Monday. Jones hasn’t started since a Feb. 27 loss to the Ducks and has appeared in only two games in relief since then. The Kings are 39-25-15. Jordan Eberle leads the Oilers (23-43-13) with 62 points (23 goals, 39 assists).
KINGS AT CANUCKS
Faceoff: 7 p.m. TV/Radio: Prime, 790-AM
The Kings (39-25-14) are tied with the Winnipeg Jets with 92 points, but hold the second wild-card spot because they hold the tiebreaker with more regulation and overtime victories 37-33. The Kings have four games remaining, including a three-game trip to play Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. The Jets (40-26-12) also have four games left, including tonight’s contest in St. Paul, Minn., against the Wild. The Kings also are one point behind the Calgary Flames (43-29-7) in the battle for third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings trail the second-place Canucks (45-29-5) by three points. Jeff Carter had two assists in the Kings’ 3-1 victory Saturday over the Colorado Avalanche, giving him 32 this season, the second-most in his career behind the 38 he recorded while with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008-09. Anze Kopitar has a team-leading 47 assists. “We know them and they know us,” Kopitar said of the Canucks, who are led by Daniel Sedin with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists).
Here’s what Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said after a strange play in which he appeared to score only to have the puck bounce back to him before he sent it back into the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday: “I thought the first one went in, but I looked at the ref and he was shaking his head and so I just tried to put it in again just for good measure.”
Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said when someone asked if he felt compassion for Edmonton Oilers goalie Tyler Bunz, who gave up three goals on 12 shots in the third period in his NHL debut Thursday at Staples Center:
“Yeah, damn right. He hasn’t played much in the American (Hockey) League either and that’s not an easy situation to go into. He’s a pro. He’ll learn from it and he’ll be better for it. He’s a good western Canadian.”
Bunz hails from St. Albert, Alberta. Sutter is from Viking, Alberta.
Jarret Stoll’s return to the Kings’ lineup for Thursday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center was a very big deal. He didn’t like sitting out because of a concussion and missing nine consecutive games in the heat of the tightly-contested playoff race.
Stoll detested watching games on television and noticing when and where he could have helped his teammates had he been healthy enough to play. The last two games, lopsided losses to the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks, were especially painful to watch from afar.
“Feel good,” he said. “Excited to be back in the lineup and help this team win any way I can. Obviously, it’s an important time and important games, big games. This is definitely the time you want to be playing as opposed to watching your team. So, yeah, I’m excited to be back in.
“I watched every game and the first three games (on a five-game trip), it was great to watch.”
Stoll referred to victories over the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders to start the five-game trip. He remained behind to skate in El Segundo and continue to recover from a head injury that produced lingering post-concussion syndrome affects.
Stoll even enlisted the help of a young goaltender who plays on a Midget-level team.
“I warmed him up a little bit,” Stoll said, breaking into a laugh when reporters joked that he might have damaged the kid’s confidence beyond repair with a flurry of shots. “No, it was good. I ramped it up every day and I’ve had a couple of good practices here and I’m ready to go.”
Tanner Pearson smiled broadly as reporters surrounded him after he stayed on the ice for an extended period with several teammates after the Kings’ regulars completed their Thursday morning skate in El Segundo. He had plenty of reasons to be happy despite lacking medical clearance to play.
Pearson signed a two-season contract extension worth $2.8 million.
“It’s exciting news,” he said. “I was happy to get a deal done. To stay here is awesome, too.”
Pearson sat out Thursday night for the 35th consecutive game after suffering a broken leg. There is no timetable for his return to the ice, except as a practice player, and it’s expected that he won’t be cleared to play in a game by the end of the regular season April 11.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said of his possible return. “It’s still up in the air. I’m just taking it day-by-day. I’m hoping to return as soon as possible. I still have a bit more healing to do. I don’t want to close it (returning by April 11). There’s always a chance of seeing another X-ray and you’re good to go.”
Pearson had 12 goals and 16 points in 42 games before he was hurt Jan. 10 against the Winnipeg Jets. He played a major role in the Kings’ early-season success, joining with center Jeff Carter and fellow winger Tyler Toffoli to form That 70s Line. Wednesday, he was happy they would be reunited for two more seasons.
“I want to be here as long as possible,” he said of signing his new deal. “I love L.A. I love the team, the fans and everything about it. It’s one of the best places to play in my opinion. So, to be here for at least another two years is special.”