The Kings-Ducks rivalry is young but thriving, and the latest bone of contention is in Dave Karpa's right wrist.
The Kings said Karpa needed surgery. The Ducks said yes, but it could wait.
The Kings said he couldn't play. The Ducks said he could.
Even before the opening faceoff of tonight's Kings-Ducks game at The Pond, the score is Duck medical team 1, King medical team 0.
Karpa can play.
He will undergo surgery after the season if not sooner, but already the young defenseman has given the Ducks four games of the hard-hitting, irksome play both teams were after.
Nevertheless, Karpa was King for a day. Or more precisely, for one practice.
"I met them all that one day, but I don't really know any of them," he said. "I have nothing against the players or management. Every team has got to look out for themselves. I'm just grateful the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim thought I could play."
The Kings traded a fourth-round draft pick for him Feb. 28, but General Manager Sam McMaster called the whole thing off three days later, asking the NHL to void the trade with Quebec because Karpa failed his physical.
Less than a week after the trade was voided, the Ducks made virtually the same trade themselves.
"I completely understand the Kings' reluctance to complete the deal," Duck Coach Ron Wilson said. "They need help now and can't afford to give away any more draft picks. They're trying to win now and get in the playoffs. There's a lot of pressure on them.
"The Kings have got injuries and maybe Dave didn't fit into their long-term plans. For us it didn't matter. If there is a risk, we'll accept that. We fully understood the risk."
The Kings hardly know Karpa, but they aren't going to like him. The other team never does.
Sunday night, he was jawing at Brendan Shanahan through the glass panes of the penalty box during the Ducks' loss to St. Louis. Shanahan didn't know him from Adam before the game, since Karpa has played in only 82 NHL games, none of them against the Blues. He's well-mannered off the ice, but on it, he makes enemies fast. Karpa and Shaun Van Allen, another Duck pest, exchange glances and laugh.
"I can't use the word," Karpa said. "But it kind of applies to us both."
Van Allen played against Karpa a couple of years ago in the American Hockey League.
Karpa admits his wrist is sore, and he plays with it heavily taped.
"I've jammed it a couple of times," he said. "I try to block it out."
Surgery will be required to repair an improperly healed fracture of the scaphoid, the navicular bone on top of the wrist near the base of his thumb. The indentation created by the bone is nicknamed "nature's snuff box," but when Karpa reaches for a can of snuff he neglects his navicular.
"Two-finger technique, the bowling ball," he said.
"I wish my wrist felt better, but I'm not afraid to fight," said Karpa, who had 148 penalty minutes in 60 games with Quebec last season and already has eight with the Ducks. "I don't know if anybody's really tried to start a fight because of it. In Calgary, I almost went with Ronnie Stern. The other night it was Shanahan."
The back-and-forth with Shanahan started after Karpa checked him hard against the boards. Shanahan came back at him and they both ended up in the penalty box, Karpa for cross-checking and Shanahan for roughing.
"Some guys in this league think they're untouchable, and they shouldn't," Karpa said. "I'll hit anybody, I don't care who he is."
Wilson nods his assent.
"We heard that's the way he plays. He goes out and (ticks) everybody off. He had Doug Gilmour off his game and he took a whack at Mats Sundin. That's what he does, he goes out and tries to get their best players off their game."