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Kings Focus on More Than Victory : Hockey: After defeating Ottawa, 3-2, they talk of their concern for Penguins’ Lemieux.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kings’ Luc Robitaille was preparing for Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators when he heard that Pittsburgh Penguin star center Mario Lemieux has Hodgkin’s disease.

The details were unclear and Robitaille wasn’t sure whether the information was correct. But between the second and third periods, the Kings found out that the news was accurate.

After they defeated the Senators, 3-2, at the Civic Center to win their second consecutive game, the Kings weren’t talking much about the usual postgame matters. No one knew many details, but the report about Lemieux was the foremost topic.

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King defenseman Paul Coffey, who played in Pittsburgh for about 4 1/2 seasons before he was traded to the Kings in February of 1992, is particularly close to Lemieux.

“Wayne (Gretzky) said it to me between the second and third periods,” said Coffey, slowly shaking his head. “It’s just awful. They say it’s 90% curable, but you can’t say anything until you hear more details.”

King defenseman Jeff Chychrun, who also had been a teammate of Lemieux, was shaken. “It’s really sad,” he said. “My heart goes out to him and his family. It was totally unexpected. I heard it (the news) on the bench.”

Said Robitaille: “It’s a bombshell. It’s the same situation when Wayne was hurt--it was a bombshell, it came out of nowhere. We just don’t know anything about it. It has nothing to do with hockey, it hurts to see this happen.”

For the last few years, the success of Gretzky and Lemieux has linked them in the hockey world. Lemieux even credited Gretzky with pushing him toward greater heights after a Canada Cup event. And in Gretzky’s absence, Lemieux seemed on track to break some of his scoring records as he opened with 39 goals and 104 points in 40 games.

“Obviously, it’s pretty disappointing, a pretty scary situation,” Gretzky said. “I’m sure he’s getting the best possible medical attention. We just can’t afford to lose people of this caliber in the game. More importantly, he’s got to worry about his health, he’s going to have a difficult time ahead of him.”

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Many reporters were at the game because of Gretzky’s return, his fourth game back. Gretzky said he felt fine and that he liked it when King Coach Barry Melrose juggled lines and put him with Jari Kurri and Robitaille in the second period. The line accounted for two of the Kings’ three goals, with Gretzky getting one assist in the second period.

Ottawa (4-38-3) had a 2-0 lead early in the second period before the Kings (22-16-5) broke a lull and scored three straight goals. The game-winner came off the right skate of King left wing Warren Rychel at 2:35 of the third.

But that wasn’t being discussed much. And the only topic that put any humor into the evening was ongoing speculation about the Kings making a trade with the Montreal Canadiens that would send Robitaille and goalie Kelly Hrudey to Montreal for goaltender Patrick Roy and another forward. The deal has been dismissed as preposterous by everyone in the Kings’ organization from Melrose to President Roy Mlakar.

“Those are totally false,” Melrose said, fielding a series of questions from French Canadian reporters. “Luc is staying in L.A. He’s living in L.A. and he’ll die in L.A. He’ll probably die in L.A. at age 85.”

Robitaille wasn’t amused. Apparently, some Montreal journalists circulated a story that had him calling his father at 4:30 a.m., saying he would be traded to Montreal.

“I’m not going to Montreal,” he said. “I don’t want to go to Montreal. I’m happy where I am. They (the Canadiens) had nine chances in the draft to take me and they didn’t. It’s been five years they (the reporters) have been having me traded there. This year, it’s completely ridiculous. . . . I wish they all would get off my back.”

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WAYNE GRETZKY: King center is a special appointee to the Campbell Conference team in the NHL All-Star game at Montreal. C4

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