Left wing Brian MacLellan of the New York Rangers has been looking forward to getting back to Los Angeles since early last month, when the Kings sent him to New York for defenseman Grant Ledyard and goalie Roland Melanson in a three-way deal with the Rangers and Minnesota North Stars.
That's why tonight's game against the Kings is important to him.
Same old story, right? The big kid wants to show that the Kings made a mistake by trading him after he'd gone 14 straight games without a goal.
Not this time.
"I'm not bitter, just a little disappointed," MacLellan said. "It's going to be a weird feeling playing the Kings. I don't want to play the game with any vengeance. I also don't want to go in and stink up the joint."
Which gets to the heart of the matter.
The real reason MacLellan is so happy to be coming back to Southern California is that he has not been back to his Redondo Beach condominium to pack his clothes since the trade Dec. 9.
"I've been going around the last month with two suits, an overcoat and a pair of jeans," MacLellan said from Vancouver, where the Rangers played the Canucks Tuesday night.
The Kings were in the middle of a nine-day trip when the trade was made. MacLellan learned that he'd been traded before the team got to the airport in Winnipeg. He flew straight to New York.
"I didn't really expect it," MacLellan said. "I'd heard the rumors all the time, but I didn't expect to be traded."
MacLellan will finally get a chance to pack some clean clothes Thursday, since Coach Ted Sator has given the Rangers the day off.
He'll also have time to visit the beach.
MacLellan may be the ultimate Southern California beach bum. His Redondo Beach condo is just steps from the surf. Several of his former teammates live in the area. "They said the bad thing to do is to buy a place because you might get traded," he said. "I bought my place last January."
The place has not gone to waste, though. Ledyard and King defenseman Craig Redmond are living in the two-bedroom condominium, and Ledyard also is driving MacLellan's Corvette. MacLellan and Ledyard met when they played for Team Canada in the world championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia, last year. Canada finished third.
"He took over my life style," MacLellan said. "He's living in my condo and driving my car. I hope he's not wearing my clothes."
MacLellan, meanwhile, is subleasing an apartment on New York's west side from actor Tony Danza. He met Danza through his agent.
MacLellan is one of only four Rangers living in Manhattan. The others are George McPhee, Barry Beck and Ron Greschner. The Rangers play at Madison Square Garden, but most of the players live near the team's practice rink at Rye, N.Y.
MacLellan and Ranger left wing McPhee grew up together in Guelph, Canada, and played on the same team at Bowling Green University in Ohio. In the Ranger press guide, McPhee listed Redondo Beach as his favorite vacation spot.
"New York's different because I'm used to living the beach life," MacLellan said. "But it's kind of neat to experience New York. That's why I got an apartment in the city. But I'm going to go back to Redondo Beach after the season."
He has also adjusted well on the ice, earning a place on the Rangers' top line with center Mark Pavelich and right wing Tomas Sandstrom.
Said Pavelich: "He's a big player who handles the puck well. We need someone with a little size. He uses his weight well. But he doesn't go out to hit people.
"He's played pretty well from the time he stepped into New York. He's done what they wanted him to do which was to score goals."
Sator, in his first year as coach of the Rangers, said that MacLellan has fit in well with the team.
"We were looking for a big, strong left winger, and Brian has been doing a great job, especially on the power play," he said. "Since Brian has come to us, he's averaging a point a game, and you don't find many left wingers in the National Hockey League who can do that.
"He's what we consider a power forward. He was one of the players that was on our priority list. We gave up a lot a lot to get him because Grant Ledyard is a quality defenseman. Grant fit their needs and Brian fit ours.
"But we always thought of Brian as one of the best left wingers in the game. And he certainly hasn't disappointed us."
MacLellan, who scored a career-high 25 goals in 72 games for the Kings last season, was in a slump before he was traded.
He had moved into Charlie Simmer's spot on the Kings' top line, skating with center Marcel Dionne and right wing Dave Taylor. Dionne was also struggling early in the season.
MacLellan went for more than a month without scoring a goal, and when he was traded he had 5 goals and 8 assists in 27 games. Four of his five goals had been scored on the power play.
The Kings were also unhappy because MacLellan wasn't being very physical. MacLellan, whose hobby is weightlifting, was the Kings' biggest player at 6 feet 3 inches and 212 pounds, but the coaches complained that he didn't throw his weight around. It also didn't help that MacLellan isn't very emotional, which is sometimes mistaken for a lack of intensity.
"We hated to trade big Mac," King Coach Pat Quinn said. "But we were offered a good deal for him."
Said MacLellan: "They say I was in a slump, but it's not because I wasn't working hard. Sooner or later I was going to get out of it.
"There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to get the goals. Everyone goes into slumps. Look at Marcel Dionne."
MacLellan has matched his totals with the Kings in just half as many games with the Rangers.
He had 5 goals, 4 on the power play, and 9 assists in 14 games before Tuesday night's game against Vancouver. In fact, he's on a hot streak with 4 goals and 7 assists in his last 8 games.
MacLellan has been struggling on the road, though. He scored a power-play goal in his first road game with the Rangers, but hadn't scored again in four road games going into Tuesday night's game.
And as MacLellan goes, apparently, so go the Rangers, who had lost their last three road games and had scored just two goals in the process.