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Rink Ramblings

by Nick Nickson / Los Angeles Kings

The 2014 Winter Olympics featured Kings captain Dustin Brown and goalie Jonathan Quick on the USA squad. Both players were participating in their second straight Winter Games. In checking back over the years the Kings have had consistent ties to the U.S. Men's Hockey teams that have played for gold.

In every Winter Olympics since the Kings franchise began in 1967 the U.S. team has had at least one player that played for the Kings or would eventually play or coach for the Kings.

In the 1968 Winter Games, Doug Volmar represented the U.S. and later would play briefly for the Kings in the 1972-73 season. In 1972, Robbie Ftorek, a Needham, Mass. native, played for the U.S. and he would later coach the Kings beginning in 1987. The 1972 team took the silver medal. In 1976, Steve Jensen and Bob Miller (the player, not broadcaster) played for the U.S. and Jensen would become the first former U.S. Olympian to become a regular for the Kings. He played four seasons with the Kings beginning in 1978. The 1980 "Miracle" gold medal team had future Kings Steve Christoff and Neal Broten on its roster.

Four players from the 1984 Olympic team would one day play for the Kings including Scott Bjugstad, Paul Guay, Corey Millen and Ed Olczyk. Millen was also on the 1988 team that had Tony Granato and Kevin Stevens. In 1992, forwards Steve Heinze and Shawn McEachern were on the squad and in 1994, Craig Johnson made the team. Johnson would go on to play 429 career NHL games with the Kings. This total is second to Brown in terms of games played by a Kings player that also was a former U.S. Olympian.

In 1998, NHL players were allowed to participate and Mathieu Schneider, Adam Deadmarsh, Jeremy Roenick and McEachern were selected for the U.S. team for the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Four years later in 2002, Deadmarsh and Roenick were repeats for the team along with Aaron Miller. The 2002 Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the U.S. won silver that year. In 2006, Schneider, Miller, Craig Conroy and Jason Blake took part with the Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

In Vancouver four years ago Jack Johnson, Brown and Quick were part of the team that won silver, losing the final game in overtime to Canada.

All tolled 24 individuals have represented the United States over the years that have the Kings on their hockey resume. Brown, Quick, Millen, McEachern, Schneider, Deadmarsh, Roenick and Miller are in a select group that has played for their country in two Olympic Games.

The Dallas Stars underwent a makeover in the off-season with the hiring of a new general manager in Jim Nill and a new head coach in Lindy Ruff. Nill's assignment as GM of an NHL team is his first after years working with Detroit's GM Ken Holland as Holland's assistant. Recently we spoke to Nill about his decision to hire Ruff.

"I'm a big fan of continuity," Nill stated. "When I looked around for who was available to coach the Stars and saw Lindy was available, I saw somebody who was with one team (Buffalo) for 17 years. He must have done something right. Buffalo went through a lot of ups and downs during Lindy's time there. They were a good team that went to the Finals, they were a team that went through a bankruptcy, and they've been through ownership changes. I knew that he'd seen everything and that would serve him well coming to our team – a team in transition. There are going to be good days and bad days here. I'm confident Lindy can handle it. He's seen it all."

Nill spent 15 years as an assistant GM in Detroit prior to joining Dallas and he spoke to his experience with the Red Wings.

"The number one thing, and I think any NHL GM would agree, is patience. It sounds like it's easy but it's a competitive business and it’s all about wins and losses. There are going to be times when you have to take some losses in order to move forward in the long term. I think the Kings are a great example of that, and it has paid off for them. I think patience is the big thing along with drafted and developing players. That has always been a big part of Detroit's success for years. I want to bring that same type of model to Dallas."

On the ice, Dallas has to feel good about the fact that they can build around two young forwards in Tyler Sequin, 21, acquired from Boston last summer, and 18-year-old Valeri Nichushkin, their first round pick in the 2014 Entry Draft.

The Kings have been on a pretty good run lately in terms of developing goaltenders. Jonathan Quick, who has been the Kings number one goalie for six seasons now, was a product of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Jonathan Bernier was taken by the Kings in the first round of the 2006 draft and served as Quick's back-up for three seasons before being dealt to Toronto in the off-season.

Jeff Zatkoff and Martin Jones shared the goaltending in Manchester (AHL) for two years before Zatkoff was acquired by Pittsburgh in July of 2012 as a free agent. Zatkoff, drafted in 2006 out of Miami of Ohio, is now Marc-Andre Fleury's backup in Pittsburgh. Jones is now in his fourth pro seasons after being signed as a free agent by the Kings prior to the 2008 season. Jones made his NHL debut December 2 in Anaheim, and beat the Ducks 3-2 in a shootout. The 23-year-old Jones won his next seven NHL starts while filling in for the injured Quick. Jones became only the second goalie in NHL history to post wins in his first eight games. He did so in impressive fashion, allowing only eight goals in those eight games. He also became the first goalie in 75 years (Frank Brimsek) to record shutouts in three of his first six games. One of his shutouts was in Montreal on December 10, 2013, when he back-stopped the Kings to a 6-0 win. He became the first goalie ever in Kings history to shutout a Montreal team. The shutout came in the Kings 136th game vs. the Canadiens.

Jones and Ben Scrivens combined to go 14-7-3 in the absence of Quick who was sidelined with a groin injury. The performances of these two kept the Kings among the league's elite teams in the first half.

Nick Nickson is in his 33rd season of calling Kings’ action on the radio. He and his partner, former Kings left wing Daryl Evans, can be heard on KTLK AM 1150 and along the Kings Radio Network. Nick and Daryl invite all Kings’ fans to join them for “Kings Talk” on the radio after every Kings home game. Call 1-877-Kings08 or 1-877-546-4708 with questions and comments or watch the show LIVE as they broadcast from The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott LA Live.

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