Kings Enjoy First Day Playing With Some New Toys, 5-3 : Hockey: They make a lot of changes and most of them work in victory over Sharks. Goalie Goverde wins NHL debut.
It was quite a holiday week for the Kings. When they returned to work Thursday, they found all sorts of surprises awaiting them, all but gift-wrapped for the occasion.
Defenseman Marty McSorley was given a new position--wing on the first line.
Goalie David Goverde was handed a start in his first NHL game.
Wing Tony Granato was presented with the job of second-line center.
Seasons greetings, of course, had nothing to do with these moves. Instead they were motivated by the gloom of a season that seems to be slipping away faster than the days of 1991.
And for one night, at least, it worked. The new-look Kings, 1-7-2 over their previous 10 games and only 12 points ahead of the last-place San Jose Sharks in the Smythe Division at the start of play, defeated San Jose, 5-3, Thursday night at the Forum before a sellout crowd of 16,005.
Granted, it was against an 8-27-3 club that is 1-18-1 on the road.
But these days, the Kings (13-14-7) will take two points anywhere they can find them.
Not only did all the new pieces of the puzzle seem to fit Thursday. But so did the piece that has never seemed to fit since the Kings got it last spring. Jari Kurri, in a season-long slump, scored two goals, his 10th and 11th, giving him 485 in his career to surpass Darryl Sittler for 20th on the all-time list.
Wayne Gretzky, skating between McSorley and Kurri, added his 15th goal into an empty net along with two assists.
Goverde recorded a victory in his NHL debut by turning aside 28 shots. And the 21-year-old goalie, called up this week from the Kings’ Phoenix Roadrunner farm team, also had an assist on Gretzky’s goal.
“It doesn’t happen too often that I’m nervous the whole game,” Goverde said. “Usually it goes away, but tonight it didn’t.”
Goverde had made one Forum appearance this season, shutting out Team USA in an exhibition game. But even that performance didn’t allow him to imagine he was about to fulfill a lifelong dream by playing in the NHL.
“I didn’t know what would happen,” he said, referring to his arrival in Los Angeles Wednesday night. “They (Phoenix officials) told me to be ready for anything.
“I’ve got to rate this with the best Christmas presents I ever got.”
Goverde’s performance leaves the future of Daniel Berthiaume in doubt. Berthiaume has been yanked three times this season, including his last appearance when he gave up four goals on 24 shots to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday.
The Kings’ new first line didn’t take long to produce Thursday, Kurri scoring his first goal of the night 1:23 into the game.
“To be honest,” McSorley said, “to move up to the first line with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri is very flattering. But I have to make it work by working hard. I’m not kidding anybody. The skill level is different. If I’m not thinking and I’m not skating, I’m not helping. There’s a new responsibility.”
McSorley first learned that he might be switching from defense to offense last Sunday at practice. Assistant coach Cap Raeder, filling in with fellow assistant Rick Wilson while Coach Tom Webster serves a 12-game suspension, told McSorley to think about a switch over the Christmas break.
When McSorley returned, Raeder asked him if he was ready.
He need not have asked.
In Phoenix, David Goverde was 6-10-2 with a 3.43 goals-against average in 18 games. His .903 save percentage placed him third among International Hockey League goalies. . . . Tony Granato centered a line with Tomas Sandstrom and Luc Robitaille. . . . New King center Corey Millen, obtained in a trade Monday, made his debut on the third line. . . . Millen is wearing jersey number 23. . . . Jay Miller returned after missing four games because of flu. . . . Despite their struggles, the Sharks have sold out all 18 home dates at the Cow Palace.