Listen to Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi talk for more than 30 seconds and wedged somewhere between references to the New York Yankees and cannon fodder, you are bound to hear the term “internal improvement.” Tonight, as the Kings face the Dallas Stars on home ice without off-season acquisitions Willie Mitchell and Alexei Ponikarovsky, they will rely on exactly that.
Lombardi’s third favorite term (only trailing “right fit” and “I had to play Yutaka Fukufuji!”), is perhaps his most apt. Internal improvement is ultimately responsible for this team’s 10-3 start. It is what got this team to the playoffs last year and it is what will ultimately win them the cup. While the losses of Mitchell and Ponikarovsky will be felt, most sorely on the penalty kill, their absence only exacerbates the importance of the Kings that have been here being the Kings that will take us somewhere.
But back to cannon fodder.
What better team to wet our essentially 2009-2010 team feat against than the Dallas Stars?
Well, I shouldn’t say 2009-2010 team. Its not entirely correct. There are still two players who beg to make a difference. Jake Muzzin, fresh off his second recall of the season for his third stint, looks to take some quickly gained confidence from two big minute games with the Manchester Monarchs and make an immediate impact on the blueline. Meanwhile Kyle Clifford, scheduled to play the game that will seal his countdown to UFA fate, is set to prove that he makes the 2009-2010 Kings’ look like scared field mice compared to the 2010-2011 version that features his instantly classic scowl.
But once again I digress.
Back to cannon fodder, erm… Dallas Stars.
Well actually, there isn’t much to get back to, cannon fodder kind of wraps it up.
Though to be fair, Dallas is playing fairly well early in their season. At 8-5-0 they sit in a tie for 7th place in the West with the Minnesota Wild. The Stars boast a completely healthy team, shocking for a team that has Kari Lehtonen as their #1 goalie. Even more shocking is that Steve Ott hasn’t had his face rearranged yet. Oh well, I didn’t mention Kyle Clifford for nothing.
Both teams have had 4 days off since their last game, a rarity. Regarding the phenomenon, ex-King coach Marc Crawford said:
“Very rarely do you see both teams having four days off, so you should see two well-rested teams. We’ll see which coaches have screwed up their teams the most.”
Funny quote. As I peruse through my file folder under the “been there, seen that” tab, I’m going to go with you Marc.