Mark Parrish feels rejuvenated. Going from a team that's destined to finish out of the money to another that's in the thick of the playoff race will do that to a guy.
The 29-year-old Parrish has been through a lot this season. Between representing the United States in the Olympics at Torino, then coming home to the Kings from the Islanders in a March 8 trade, Parrish could easily feel a little disoriented.
Instead, he's feeling right at home, even though he's been living in a hotel.
"It's been more exciting than anything," the 5-11, 200-pound right wing said recently, of all the places his hockey career has taken him this year.
Parrish has learned a little optimism can make the ride a lot smoother in a profession that's bound to have its share of highs and lows.
"You have to be optimistic," Parrish says. "If you get too negative about things, you just make it harder on yourself. It's a long a career and you need to stay as positive as you can. You just go out there and play your best."
Parrish has no problem finding the upside to playing hockey. He's never lost sight of the fact that he's living his dream. Even if it meant dealing with the nightmare of moving his family across the country at a moment's notice.
"I've had some great opportunities this year," Parrish says. "First on Long Island, then in the Olympics, and now in Los Angeles. It's what I play for."
Parrish says that when a player finds himself traded to a team in the thick of a playoff race, adrenaline takes over.
"We were in a situation on Long Island where we were struggling and things weren't going very well at all," he said. "Then I came out here to L.A. where everybody is excited about fighting for a playoff spot and it's a great feeling. Everyone is very positive around the locker room.
"It's fun to go to the rink again."
Parrish had a pair of goals in the Kings' clutch 6-4 win over Nashville in the team's first game under interim coach John Torchetti on March 25. In leading the come-from-behind win, Parrish showed Kings fans the skill that has enabled him to score 129 NHL goals, including a career-high 30 in 2001-02 with the Islanders.
"This is the fun time of year to be playing," Parrish says. "I've been on teams in the past that were out of the playoffs at this time of the year and it's not fun to go out and play against teams that are fighting for the playoffs. It's great to be in the thick of the race."
Parrish got experience in playing in meaningful games with the U.S. Olympic team in Italy. The American team went home without a medal, but Parrish's spirits were not dashed.
"It was fun," Parrish says. "The guys on the team were great and that made it a lot of fun. Just to be able to say that you played in the Olympics is a great experience. I'm sure it's something that I will remind my friends and family of for a long time."
Like the games Parrish and the Kings are now playing in as they drive for a playoff berth, the Olympics were all must-win contests.
"In the Olympics," Parrish says, "there's just that much more importance on every shift and every period. You can't sit there and say, 'we had a rough night and we'll get them tomorrow.' It's the seventh game of the series every night."
A native of Edina, Minnesota, Parrish took a unique road to the NHL. He played two years of college hockey at St. Cloud State, then left school to spend a year playing juniors at Seattle of the Western Hockey League.
"I got to play two years of college hockey, then I played one year of Major Junior in the Western League," Parrish says. "I got to experience both and I love the fact that I had two different experiences. Most players either take the college route or the junior route. Not too many do both. I got to play in two great leagues and I had a great time with both styles of play. I feel very fortunate."
In two years at St. Cloud State, Parrish scored 42 goals in 74 games.
"When I was being recruited for college," Parrish says, "I knew St. Cloud State was the right place for me. I fell in love with the arena and the atmosphere when I was there. The coaches and team were a great fit as well."
In the fall of 1997, Parrish left college behind to play Juniors. The two styles of play couldn't be more different.
"The Western League adopts the NHL rules," Parrish said. "So coming from college, which was mainly on larger ice sheets with a lot of passing and no fighting, it was different. Both styles really prepared me well for the NHL."
Parrish began his NHL career in Florida where he displayed a goal-scoring knack from the beginning. He had 24 goals in his rookie season of 1998-99, and followed it up with 26-goal sophomore campaign.
In four-and-one-half seasons with the Islanders, Parrish scored 20-or-more goals four times.
Parrish has been traded twice before and knows it is part of the game. But it's never easy.
"It's not a piece of cake," Parrish says of uprooting his family on short notice.
"I was in Long Island for six years and made a lot of good friends, off the ice as well as on the team. To pick up and completely move everything, it does take a toll. But at the same time, everybody in this league knows what it's about. It's part of the business."
Parrish would like to think he's in the business of winning, so moving up in the standings makes things easier. Supportive new teammates help, too.
"The guys on this team have been great in welcoming me," Parrish says. "So, it's difficult, but there is an ease about it when it comes to guys making you feel welcome. That helps you fit in very quickly."
If he can help the Kings earn a playoff berth, Mark Parrish will be a most welcome addition.