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Old 02-24-2008, 02:41 PM   #213
Obi-Wan Phillips
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Keep Calm and Chive on

Join Date: Aug 2005
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With the trade deadline fast approaching and the playoffs just around the corner, this is an exciting time of year.

For many fans, the best hockey they'll see lies ahead.

But for teams like the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, the 2007-08 season is as good as done.

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To those fans I suggest, do not fret. Your teams made significant improvements this season and success is not too far off.

That may be a difficult notion for Kings fans to swallow, but those who have been critical of GM Dean Lombardi must also admit the team has a solid foundation of youth from which to build on.

What some fans don't comprehend is when you elect to build through a youth movement, you need to surround those players with veterans to help them get over the hump.

So if the Kings signed a veteran or two that you don't necessarily care for, understand those players will, in all likelihood, be gone when the kids begin to hit their stride.

Players such as Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov, Dustin Brown, Patrick O'Sullivan and Jack Johnson all have the potential to be impact performers for years to come. And when that day arrives, Lombardi will surely surround them with a higher quality of unrestricted free agent.

And for the second time this year, the Kings come roaring back from a 4 goal lead in the 3rd period.

Dallas, Part II?

Not quite.

Apparently, the Kings are allocated one classic, near-miraculous comeback victory per season, having pulled that off against the Stars in November. They almost made it two with a spirited third-period rally -- scoring four goals to tie it, including two in the final 1:07 of regulation -- only to lose, 6-5, in overtime to the Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.

Kings forward Anze Kopitar was the driving force in sensational fashion, tying it, 5-5, at 19:45, with his 27th goal of the season, and added two assists. Michael Cammalleri picked up three points, a goal and two assists, and Alexander Frolov had two assists, the second setting up Kopitar's goal. Kings defenseman Peter Harrold scored his first NHL goal, at 5:23 of the first.

"That's as good an overtime loss as you're ever gonna see. . . . That was a lot of blood and guts there in the third period," Kings Coach Marc Crawford said.

If those words aren't the catchy marketing slogan the Kings envision, how about this one? If you don't like what's happening on the ice right now . . . . well, wait one period.

Interesting for the fans, irritating for the masked men attempting to stop the puck. Which is why there was a brief huddle about the streaky nature of the squad afterward between three Kings goalies in the dressing room -- injured No. 1 Jason LaBarbera, Dan Cloutier and rookie Erik Ersberg.

Cloutier was pulled during a team-wide, train wreck of a second period, in which Chicago scored four goals in 4:06 to go up, 5-1.

He was replaced by Ersberg, who was making his NHL debut at age 25.

Ersberg was more than adequate, stopping 18 of 19 shots, including Patrick Sharp's breakaway at 13:15 of the third. Sharp scored the winner at 1:48 of overtime.

"They're such a streaky team, offensively and defensively," said a bemused Cloutier. "We were just talking, all three goalies here. It's got to be so tough on the coaching staff.

"Down 5-1 in the NHL, going into the third period, is not easy to do. That was a character builder. It's the way we get down, the chances we allow for five or six minutes. It's hard to pinpoint it. If we could find a way to start games the way we played in the third period, we'd be a hell of a hockey team.

"We wouldn't be having this discussion. For me, I've got to be better on some of those goals. I know it's a young team. We've been saying that for two years now and I think it's time to come up with something else."

He was not dodging blame.

"I'm an older guy," Cloutier said. "I have to make saves at certain times of the game. We're down 2-1, there's still a lot of hockey left."

But Kings defenseman Jack Johnson pointed out that the team in front of Cloutier wasn't exactly providing much support.

The Kings would not have grabbed a point without Johnson's standout effort on rookie forward Jonathan Toews, stopping him in the waning seconds of regulation just before Kopitar's goal.

Crawford called it the play of the game, saying: "His effort to fight off a very competitive Toews and keep the play alive. . . . "

Said Johnson: "I just got lucky. I think if I do that 100 more times, don't think I'd bat it out of the air like that again, but I'll take it. I think he [Toews] gave up there a little bit on the play, I took one more stride to catch up to him. There was still plenty of time to make another attack at him."
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