More changes for the Kings?
The Kings peeled another page off the desk calendar Saturday, marking the day with a 6-5 shootout victory over to the Colorado Avalanche before an announced capacity crowd of 18,118.
Dustin Brown’s goal in the sixth round of the shootout sent the Kings into a four-day break with a victory. Just who will be in uniform for the Kings when they take the ice next will be determined by late Tuesday, after the NHL trade deadline. There are some certainties.
Rookie Anze Kopitar, who has become a better basis for a marketing campaign than the Kings’ “Play Hard” slogan, will still be around. He again demonstrated his value Saturday, maneuvering past two Avalanche defensemen in the first period as he scooted to the net for his 18th goal and a 1-0 lead.
Rob Blake, who banged in the game-tying goal with 3.9 seconds left, will remain as well. He considered requesting a trade to a Stanley Cup contender, two league sources said, but decided against waiving his no-trade clause after two days of discussions with General Manager Dean Lombardi.
Others, though, remain in limbo. Brent Sopel is expected to be dealt before Tuesday’s trade deadline, and Aaron Miller remains another possibility. Both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
“It’s a tough time of year,” Kings Coach Marc Crawford said. “No one wants to be in this situation, where we’re out of the playoff race and trade rumors are swirling around. That’s partly our fault. We put ourselves in this position.
“What helps is we’re playing our best hockey of the season.”
That can be seen as grading on a curve. While the Kings have 12 points in their last 10 games, four have come in overtime and shootout losses. Still, Saturday’s game was an entertaining mish-mash of shaky goaltending, defensive errors and gritty determination.
The Kings first squandered a two-goal lead, then rallied from two down to force overtime. The trade deadline is the next obstacle for the Kings. Some can rest easy. Lubomir Visnovsky, who had a goal and an assist Saturday, and Michael Cammalleri, who had three assists and a shootout goal, will stay put, barring exceptional offers. Others, like Sopel, should have their bags packed.
The Kings, though, have already begun to restructure their roster for next season, trading Craig Conroy and Sean Avery in the last month. They also sent Oleg Tverdovsky to minor league Manchester after he cleared waivers Saturday.
Sopel is likely to be next. A league source said the Kings would make a deal for Sopel, whose appeal is his ability to move the puck and create offense from the blue line.
“There’s a lot of guys in this position around the league,” Sopel said. “It’s part of the business. My job is just to go out and play and let the chips fall where they may. It’s out of my hands. It’s whatever management wants to do.”
Management wanted to keep Blake. Working a trade would have been a tall order, as Blake will receive $6 million next season. Still, trade speculation spread like a prairie fire across Canada.
Blake said he never considered asking for a trade.
“The decision to be here was one I made in July,” Blake said. “Nothing different has happened since July. I’m going to stay here.”