The Kings, who have missed the playoffs four consecutive years,
are back in contention for the postseason. Here are three
reasons for their revival. 1) Coach Larry Robinson has gotten
rid of the casual atmosphere. Players can no longer bring
friends and fans into the dressing room. 2) New general manager
Dave Taylor, who played 17 years for the Kings, has made all the
right moves. His best may be the signing of 34-year-old free
agent Garry Galley, who has accepted his role as the fifth
defenseman and acted as a bridge between the veterans and the
young players. 3) For years the Kings' unusually grueling travel
schedule allowed limited time for practices. With the entire
league's schedule compressed because of the Olympics, the rest
of the teams are now having these difficulties too. L.A.,
however, is used to it. In fact, the worst of the Kings' road
trips is behind them, and with only one East Coast trip
remaining, their schedule is favorable down the stretch....
Next time you go to the post office, look for Glen Sather's
picture on the wall. The Oilers' general manager should be on
the Most Wanted list for his recent trades. He stole defenseman
Roman Hamrlik from the Lightning. Since that deal the previously
struggling Oilers had gone 7-5-1 through Sunday....
Teams are always looking for ways to get their players to bond.
Long road trips, during which teammates are forced to live and
eat together, are one way. It makes you wonder why the
Hurricanes came home for a day in the midst of a six-game road
trip last month, especially since they had just acquired two
more new players, goalie Kirk McLean and forward Martin
Here are five forwards whom you may not be familiar with, but
any coach would love to have: Rene Corbet, Avalanche; Steve
Konowalchuk, Capitals; Bill Lindsay, Panthers; Kirk Maltby, Red
Wings; and Shjon Podein, Flyers. These players are valued
because they never coast through a shift, understand their role,
are willing to sacrifice for the team and, most important, are
The league's best-kept rookie secret is 19-year-old Calgary
defenseman Derek Morris, who was a first-round draft choice in
1996. He has tremendous instincts with the puck and outstanding
poise reading the rush. No wonder he's getting tons of ice time.
Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.
COLOR PHOTO: SAM MIRCOVICH/REUTERS L.A. STORY Galley's leadership is a reason for the Kings' rise to playoff contention. [Garry Galley in game]