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Sagging record may force deals

Times Staff Writer

The Kings remain grounded in last place in the Western Conference, 13 points shy of the final playoff spot with more than half the season completed. Is now the time to pull the parachute and trade a veteran player, such as defenseman Rob Blake, for young talent before the Feb. 26 deadline?

“Unfortunately, we’re probably going to be in that type of position,” said Blake, who turned 38 last month. “We would’ve rather been battling for a playoff spot.”

The highest-scoring defenseman in Kings history, Blake is in the final year of a two-year contract that pays him $6 million this season. Last weekend, he told a Denver reporter that he would consider waiving the no-trade clause in his contract.

“If the team approaches you, that means they want to trade you, then you don’t want to be part of that organization,” he explained Friday after practice. “That’s how I’ve always felt about my career and that hasn’t changed, whether I have a no-trade clause or not.”

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Before Thursday night’s 4-3 loss to Columbus, the Kings had a three-game winning streak. But Blake said his teammates needed to be realistic about their situation.

“Players need to understand we need more than three wins to be competitive,” he said. “We’ve got to win a lot of games, but we’ve got to learn how to win games too. Last night was a game, if you don’t win, you should at least get a point out of it. . . .

“We had it close enough, and we let it slip away.”

Blake was particularly frustrated with the game’s final minute, when the Kings were awarded a power play and pulled goalie Jason LaBarbera for a two-man advantage.

“We had 50 seconds and we kind of had them running around, but I don’t think we had a shot on net,” said Blake, who did manage to get off a wrist shot with five seconds left but was wide. “You’ve got to force the puck in there, somehow.”

Musical chairs continues to be played out in goal for the Kings.

Coach Marc Crawford pulled J.S. Aubin after he allowed the Blue Jackets -- ranked 24th in the league in scoring per game -- three goals in only 12 shots. It was the second time in five games Crawford had a quick hook for his goalie.

“You’ve got to find some positives in everything,” Aubin said. “The third goal wasn’t a bad goal, it’s just we had to change things around, and it almost worked out.”

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Crawford spent extra time after practice with Aubin and LaBarbera, working on technical areas of their game. Many of the goals they’ve been giving up are not the result of defensive breakdowns.

“I can’t remember the last time we gave up a two-on-one, three-on-one. I can’t remember the last time I saw a guy wide open in front of the net,” Crawford said.

Dustin Brown scored his team-high 20th goal of the season against the Blue Jackets, but it was his bone-jarring hit on Columbus defenseman Jan Hejda that brought out one of the biggest cheers from the crowd of 14,173.

Brown collided head on with Hejda along the boards late in the second period, dropping Hejda on his backside, breaking his stick and knocking loose a glove.

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“That’s one of my better hits this year,” he said. Hejda “bobbled the puck and had to look down for a second. I was in position to get in on him.”

TONIGHT

vs. Calgary, 7:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

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Radio -- 1150.

Records -- Kings 15-25-2, Flames 21-14-7.

Record vs. Flames -- 0-1.

Update -- The Flames are heading in a different direction from the Kings, winning four consecutive games and 11 of their last 16. Right wing Jarome Iginla has totaled four goals in the last two games and 18 in the last 16. Calgary defeated the Kings, 4-3, on Oct. 18, the first of eight one-goal losses this season. Calgary defeated host San Jose, 3-2, in overtime Thursday night, its 10th one-goal victory this season.

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dan.arritt@latimes.com


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