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2006: A YEAR OF CHANGE IN L.A.

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
By Thomas LaRocca / LAKings.com


As the final month of 2006 draws to a close Sunday with the Kings playing at the Detroit Red Wings, LAKings.com takes a look back at the year that was for the Los Angeles Kings. For the 40-year-old franchise, 2006 was a year filled with highs and lows, with numerous changes in the organization, and marked the return of a superstar as well as a fond farewell to another.

JANUARY
The Kings entered 2006 on a 7-1-1 run, putting L.A. in first place in the Pacific Division with a 25-14-2 record through the first half of the season. A wave of injuries stung the Kings as names such as Pavol Demitra , Eric Belanger, Dustin Brown, Jeremy Roenick and Aaron Miller were among 10 players missing from their every day roster as the club went 5-7-2 during the opening month of '06.

The year started out on a winning note as the captain Mattias Norstrom scored a power-play goal in overtime as the Kings dropped division rival Dallas, 3-2, extending the Kings' hold on the division to a four-point cushion on Jan. 2

The following day, goaltender Mathieu Garon, who led all goaltenders in victories with a 9-3-0 record, 2.40 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in the month of December, was named the NHL Defensive Player of the Month.

On Jan. 12, forward Alexander Frolov scored the second hat trick of his young career and Garon stopped 30 shots to help the Kings beat the Boston Bruins, 6-0.

One week later, Luc Robitaille became the King's all-time leader in goals, potting three for his 15th career hat trick, passing Kings' great Marcel Dionne with his 551st goal in a Kings sweater. In addition, Norstrom set a career high the same night, scoring 1-4-5 as the Kings earned a wild 8-6 victory over Atlanta.

FEBRUARY
After dropping the first three games of the month (one in OT) to extend a season-high losing streak to seven games (0-5-2, from 1/24-2/8), Los Angeles responds by winning the final two games of the month before the season was put on hold for the Winter Olympics. The club finished February with a 2-2-1 record.

Three Kings reached notable milestones during the month as Belanger played in his 300th NHL game (Feb. 7); Tim Gleason scored his first NHL goal (Feb. 8); and Tom Kostopoulos picked up his first career "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" with a goal, an assist and a fighting major (Feb. 11).

The next night after Kostopoulos' big game, Derek Armstrong scored the game-winning goal during a four-goal third period which helped Los Angeles erase a 5-2 deficit entering the final period, in a 6-5 win over Dallas.

Four Kings participated in the Olympic Games, unfortunately, Norstrom missed the Tournament due to injury, after being selected to play for Sweden; Lubomir Visnovsky skated in six games with Slovakia, scoring 1-1-2, and former King Demitra also saw action for Slovakia; while Frolov played for Team Russia, scoring 0-1-1 in three games before suffering a shoulder injury.

MARCH
In March, the Kings used a season-high five-game win streak from the close of February to the beginning of March (2/11 – 3/7) to right the ship, but L.A. would drop eight of 11 to close the month to finish 6-8-0. Head coach Andy Murray would be relieved of his duties during the month.

Sean Avery set a career high with two goals vs. Columbus on March 4 and two days later, the Kings extended the contract of Norstrom, who then became the first Kings defenseman to skate in 700 games with the club in a 3-2 win over Minnesota on March 7. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky netted the game-winning goal 1:21 into overtime in the win over the Wild.

The Kings would bolster their roster for the stretch run, acquiring Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel from the New York Islanders and right wing Tim Jackman from the Phoenix Coyotes in separate trades.

Miller picked up his 100th NHL point on March 13 at San Jose, and eight days later, Murray and Assistant Coach John Van Boxmeer were relieved of their coaching duties. Murray concluded his Kings career with a 215-176-89 in 480 games with the franchise. John Torchetti was named Interim Head Coach.

In Torchetti's debut, Frolov returned from a shoulder injury suffered at the Olympic Games and scored two goals in L.A.'s 6-4 win over Nashville. Craig Conroy collected his 400th point in the win.

APRIL
April marked the end of the 2005-06 season and the end of an era as Dave Taylor would be relieved of his duties as GM. On the ice, the Kings sandwiched a pair of two-game winning streaks around a four-game skid to close out the season. Garon posted back-to-back shutouts to start the month and then a four-game losing streak eliminated the Kings from playoff contention as the club closed out the month with a 4-4-0 record.

Garon was no joke on April Fools day, becoming the fourth Kings goaltender in franchise history to earn 30 victories in a single season joining Mario Lessard (35 wins in 1980-81), Rogie Vochon (33 wins in 1976-77) and Felix Potvin (31 in 2001-02) with his 1-0 win over Dallas. Garon matched that effort two days later, with his second consecutive 1-0 shutout win, this time over Vancouver.

On April 11, Robitaille officially announced his retirement and in the season finale, Los Angeles sent Robitaille out on a high note, beating the San Jose Sharks 4-0. Jason LaBarbera stopped 31 shots for his first NHL shutout as Los Angeles finishes fourth in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, with a 42-35-5 mark for 89 points, six points removed from a playoff spot.

The Kings announced their annual post season awards and Visnovsky was named the Most Valuable Player as well as the team's Outstanding Defenseman; Demitra was named the Best Newcomer; Norstrom took home Best Defensive Player and Most Inspirational Player awards; Robitaille was named the Most Popular Player; Conroy was the team's Unsung Hero; while Jeremy Roenick received the Community Service Award.

The day after the season ended, the Kings entire coaching staff as well as President, Hockey Operations/General Manager Dave Taylor were dismissed and on April 21, Dean Lombardi was named President & General Manager,

MAY
In a mostly quiet month for the franchise, Marc Crawford was named as their new Head Coach on May 22 to highlight the month of May.

JUNE
In the month of June, Ron Hextall was named Assistant General Manager and the Kings selected nine players in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

Highlighting the Kings' haul at the draft in Vancouver was goaltender Jonathan Bernier, the highest ranked North American Goaltender in the draft, whom the Kings tabbed with the 11th overall selection. The Kings had a second first-round selection after completing a blockbuster deal with Minnesota, picking up center/left wing Patrick O'Sullivan and the 17th pick in the draft (C Trevor Lewis) for Demitra.

JULY
July was a busy month for the Kings, signing numerous free agents as the new management overhauled the team's roster. Joining the kings were C Scott Thornton, C Alyn McCauley, RW Brian Willsie, D Mike Weaver, D Brendan Buckley, D Kevin Dallman, C Gabe Gauthier, LW Raitis Ivanans, while the club re-signed RW Tim Jackman, G Mathieu Garon, C Eric Belanger, LW Sean Avery and C Michael Camalleri.

The biggest singing of all, however, was bringing back D Rob Blake on a two-year contract. Before the close of the month, the club would trade for G Dan Cloutier.

AUGUST
In another quiet month after a busy July, the Kings agreed to extensions with Bob Miller and Jim Fox as their club television broadcasters.

SEPTEMBER
September would see the first training camp under the new management as well as the final tweaking of the roster as the club prepared for the franchise's 40th season. The wheeling and dealing picked up where it left off in July, as the club completed a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, acquiring highly touted defensemen Jack Johnson and veteran blueliner Oleg Tverdovsky in exchange for Belanger and Gleason.

Later that month, the Kings hosted the fourth annual "Pacific Division Shootout" -- featuring prospects from the Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, where Los Angeles fans were introduced to rookie forward Anze Kopitar.

The Kings went 4-1-1 in the preseason, including a 3-2 win over Colorado on Sept. 23, in the annual Frozen Fury game played in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. During the preseason, the squad was led by Frolov (2-6-8), Dallman (3-3-6), Kopitar (2-3-5) and Willsie and Visnovsky (1-4-5), while Avery led the squad with 21 PIM.

OCTOBER
Despite a strong preseason, the Kings dropped their season opener to the Ducks and finished the month with a 4-8-2 mark. October also marked the debut of Kopitar and the rookie was impressive, scoring 3-13-16 in 14 games in October, the most points by any NHL rookie.

October was also a very busy month for Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Miller, who would release his first book, Tales From the Los Angeles Kings, in addition to receiving the 2,319th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 2

Kopitar scored two goals in his NHL debut, a 4-3 loss at Anaheim. The next night, the Kings got their 2006-07 home campaign off to a great start by defeating the Blues 4-1 with Kopitar assisting on three of the club's four goals.

In a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, which was the second game of a four-game losing streak, Cammalleri scored the 10,000 goal in franchise history on Oct. 14.

Garon stopped 40 shots to earn his ninth career shutout and Cammalleri, Frolov and Kopitar each had a goal and an assist, as the Kings beat the Coyotes 4-0 on Oct. 19, to end a four-game losing streak.

After the win vs. Phoenix, the club would drop five straight games before Sopel scored the first two goals of the game and Avery added a goal and an assist for the Kings in a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers to close out the month.

NOVEMBER
November was a much better month for LA, as the club skated to a 5-6-2 mark and Frolov went on a scoring binge during the third week of the month, being named one of the NHL's three stars of the week.

Blake reached another personal milestone, playing in his 1000th NHL game on Nov. 4 at Phoenix.

On Nov. 13, Robitaille joined Kings front office as an Assistant to the Governor and Alternate Governor for the Los Angeles Kings.

That was the same night that Frolov began his streak, with three straight two-goal games, scoring 6-2-8 in three games with the Kings that week. Frolov was the first Kings player with three consecutive multi-goal games since March 1993, when Robitaille had a hat trick against Calgary and followed that with two-goal efforts against Ottawa and Edmonton. The club went 2-1-0 during the scoring streak, with wins over San Jose and Phoenix.

Cammalleri and Visnovsky scored during regulation, and the Kings got shootout goals from Kopitar and Frolov to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Nov. 27 to close out the month.

DECEMBER
The club finished the month, 5-8-1, alternating wins and losses before suffering a four-game losing streak from Dec. 16-23, which was snapped by a shootout win over Phoenix and a win over Edmonton two nights later. Frolov was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week for the period ending on Sunday Dec. 31, after leading theentire NHL scoring 4-6-10 in four games during the week.

On Dec. 9, Conroy netted the go-ahead goal with 6:12 remaining and Cammalleri scored twice, leading the Los Angeles Kings to a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Los Angeles would go 1-4-1 over the next six games before Avery scored with less than a minute remaining to force overtime and Kopitar and Brown scored in the shootout in a 4-3 win over Phoenix on Dec. 26.

On Dec. 28, the Kings scored a season-high seven goals as 13 different Kings recorded points in a 7-4 defeat of Edmonton for the club's second straight win.

After a 6-4 loss to Calgary in which the Kings scored two goals in the final minute of play, Los Angelesclosed out 2006 with a 6-2 lossto the Red Wings onNew Year's Eve. Frolov scored two goals in the loss.

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