Lombardi could act based on standings

Foster is a Times staff writer.

The time will come when General Manager Dean Lombardi will make a significant move in a bid to get the Kings to the next level -- the playoffs.

The Kings have not been there since the 2001-02 season and appear to be only a couple of roster adjustments away.

First they need to show Lombardi they are able to handle that responsibility. The last two games didn’t help, blowing one-goal leads in losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes. Instead of a four-game winning streak and a look-at-us 12-9-3 record, they sit at 10-11-3.

“That is something we need to correct,” Coach Terry Murray said. “We need to figure out again how to close a game down in the third period. We’ve shown the ability to do it, and we know how to do it. . . . We get away from being as intense as necessary at times in critical moments of games.”


How the Kings do through January probably will determine whether Lombardi makes a big move. They are about $12 million under the $56.7-million salary cap.

“We’re always looking,” Lombardi said. “One thing is we see the prospects here. It’s not what the guys are doing now, it’s what they can become. That’s what we have to think about. About 20 games into the season, [GMs] are still trying to see if their teams are contenders. In another 20 games, it’s going to be a lot clearer.”

The Kings could be one of those teams. Lombardi shies away from pointing out deficiencies, but it is clear the team could use a top-line scorer and a legitimate No. 1 goaltender. Neither comes on the market often. But in the salary-cap era, anything is possible.

“There are about 20 teams pushing the cap and some may start looking to cut payroll,” Lombardi said. “Something is going to happen and we may be in a position to make a move if it’s the right guy.”


And if the Kings, themselves, are right.

“It’s all about preparation . . .,” team captain Dustin Brown said of the last two losses. “Mental errors can cost you, and they did cost us.”