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More character-building blocks

Times Staff Writer

This was a sight the Kings should get accustomed to seeing.

The Dallas Stars were faced with back-to-back games and chose to start goaltender Marty Turco against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. They used understudy Mike Smith on Saturday against the Kings, a Pacific Division rival.

The message seemed clear. The Stars didn’t think they needed their star in net to beat the hapless Kings, and were proved right after a 3-2 victory. It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Kings, whose only postseason aspirations might involve competing for a top-five draft pick.

But from General Manager Dean Lombardi’s seat, things are getting better.

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“The whole thing is to establish a character and a work ethic, what you stand for, and that’s not going to happen overnight,” Lombardi said. “But I see a game like last night, it’s a sign. I think we showed the character that I want to see.”

That is the glass-half-full view, with an eye on what may well be a brighter future.

For the here and now, the glass seems to be cracked and leaking all over the counter. And fans are restless, demonstrated by low attendance at recent games.

The Kings have 25 goals in 13 games, making them the only team in the NHL averaging less than two goals per game. Their power play ranks 29th out of 30 teams. Their goaltenders have given up bad goals at bad moments, like the game-winner that slipped by Mathieu Garon against the Stars.

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“Scoring is an issue, we knew this going into the season,” Lombardi said. “They are going to figure out that if you score the ugly goals, the pretty ones will come.”

As for the goaltending, Lombardi said, “In spite of the bad goals, our goaltending is 13th in the league. Take away the five or six [bad] goals, and we’d probably be fifth or sixth.”

Lombardi said he was unwilling to rush into a trade to solve any of those problems, though trading center Craig Conroy has been discussed with teams and other Kings are believed to be available.

“If you’re in a situation where you feel you’ve got to make a deal and force one, you’re going to make a bad deal,” Lombardi said.

“Are you looking to improve? Sure. You have to have the ability to keep focused.... If you start trying to get a quick fix, if you get frustrated, it hurts you.”

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TONIGHT

vs. New York Rangers, 7:30, FSNW

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Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 1150.

Records -- Kings 3-8-2, Rangers 5-5-0.

Record vs. Rangers (2003-04) -- 0-0-1.

Update -- Alyn McCauley practiced with the Kings on Sunday for the first time since he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee but was unsure when he could play in a game.

Tickets -- (888) 546-4752.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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