Teams can rise and fall quickly in the middle of the Western Conference, and the Los Angeles Kings have been a great example of that. The Kings are on the upswing after sweeping East contenders Washington and Philadelphia on back-to-back days and are now on a 7-0-2 run.
Los Angeles is currently in 10th place in the West, tied with Minnesota at 65 points but only one shy of the top eight and four back of Phoenix for the No. 3 spot. The Kings are also, like St. Louis and Columbus, a franchise that has been trying rebuild with youth and establish a group that contend for years to come.
It makes for an interesting dilemma for Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who wants to help his club reach the playoffs but also doesn't want to sacrfice building for the future. Lombardi said in an interview on NHL Network that his team's recent success hasn't altered his plan for the next two weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
"No -- so many parts of this plan are coming together -- even in the summer you gauge how certain players are going to perform and I think in most cases, although maybe some of young players took a little stumble before they got back on their feet, that our projections are we are where we thought we'd be and what we need," Lombardi said. "We'll continue to look for it.
Lombardi's Kings were one of the two finalists in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, but trying to match New Jersey's creative deal, which endup being 15 years and $100 million, was not something he wanted to pursue.
"I don't think we look back on that because that deal never made sense for us," Lombardi said. "Part of putting this team together is a process and you've got to think not only about what is right in front of you but what's down the road. We have a very strong nucleus that is starting to come together. It needs time to mature, but we want to keep it together. It was one thing to go out and acquire a player prior to the [salary] cap, but you start doing things like that [now] and you're setting yourself up to create a huge hole later. Quite frankly that made zero sense for us the way it came out."
The Kings did eventually add Marco Sturm in a trade with Boston, but offense -- and in particular an impact forward -- remains on the wish list in Los Angeles. Lombardi's team was the one most-often linked to Jarome Iginla, though interim GM Jay Feaster has said he didn't talk to anyone about his captain. Expect the Kings to mentioned when other potential impact forwards are rumored to be on the move in the next two weeks.
"That was something we felt we needed to upgrade," Lombardi said. "We felt coming into the year that we'd be one of the best defensive teams in the League, which we are if you look at our goals against. Yeah, we'd like to increase our 5-on-5 scoring, but not at the expense of eventually having to blow this thing up because we went out and did something extreme."