The search continues for a winger answering the general description of Jari Kurri to play at the right hand of Wayne Gretzky.
Enter Mikko Makela, a right winger from Finland who has been playing for the New York Islanders.
Makela was acquired by the Kings late Tuesday in a trade that sent defenseman Ken Baumgartner and center Hubie McDonough to the Islanders.
No one is saying that Makela is as good as Kurri. But he’s 6-feet-2, 193 pounds, quick and plays that quick-passing European style that Gretzky likes so much.
Gretzky is well into his second season with the Kings and has yet to settle upon a right winger who works as well with him as did Kurri, his longtime partner with the Edmonton Oilers.
After practice at the Culver City rink Wednesday afternoon, Gretzky said that he had not been in on the negotiations for this deal.
“I don’t know Makela,” Gretzky said. “I’ve only seen him play a couple of times a year. But I’ve talked today with a couple of guys who say he has a great deal of talent.”
Makela hasn’t shown much this season. He has appeared in 20 games, posting two goals and three assists. In his 307 NHL games--over five seasons--he has 95 goals and 124 assists for 219 points.
“Makela is big, he has strength and size, and he also has speed,” Coach Tom Webster said. “He does more things offensively than Mikael Lindholm (the Swedish forward who started the season on Gretzky’s line). Lindholm (who was optioned to New Haven, the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate) is more of a checking kind of a guy.
“We’ll try Makela on the line with (Mike) Krushelnyski and Gretzky against the Oilers, spotting him with Mike Allison. I think that will help Allison, who has had trouble with injuries in the past, and it will give him time to come in slowly.”
Makela, 24, hasn’t been getting much ice time. He has been scoreless in his last six games, has not scored a goal since Nov. 2 and was scratched for Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey.
So the trade gives three young players a chance to play more.
Baumgartner, 23, had played in only 12 games this season. As the eighth or ninth defenseman for the Kings, he had one goal and 28 penalty minutes, in keeping with his role as one of the Kings’ tough guys. Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1985 entry draft, Baumgartner was traded to the Kings in January of 1986 for Brian Engblom and Doug Smith.
McDonough, 26, is in his rookie season. He had appeared in 22 of the Kings’ 24 games. He had three goals and five assists. After signing as a free agent in October of 1987, McDonough led New Haven in scoring last season.
Webster said that he was sorry to lose McDonough and Baumgartner, adding that the Islanders had been very enthusiastic about getting Baumgartner.
Islander General Manager Bill Torry said: “Coming off all the injuries to our defensemen, we need to add some strength and aggressiveness back there. . . . (Baumgartner) is aggressive and fiery, and those are qualities we can use right now.”