Los Angeles Hockey: Karlis Skrastins

Kings: Pavol Demitra was a bright star during brief stay

September, 7, 2011
Pavol Demitra didn’t spend much of his NHL career in Los Angeles, just enough to time to leave one of his lasting impressions.

Demitra, who was among those killed Wednesday in Russia when a plane carrying members of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team crashed shortly after takeoff, played for the Kings during the 2005-06 season.

Despite missing 24 games because of injuries, Demitra still finished second on the team with 25 goals and third with 62 points. Perhaps the highlight of his stay came on Nov. 19, 2005, when he recorded the fourth hat trick of his career in a 4-3 victory against visiting Colorado, sending hats spiraling from the Staples Center crowd and onto the ice.

The third goal broke a 3-3 tie with 3 1/2 minutes remaining and was netted after Demitra's pass to Lubomir Visnovsky was blocked back to him by Colorado defenseman Karlis Skrastins, who was also on Wednesday's doomed flight.

Dustin Brown is the only player on last season’s roster who was on the Kings that season, but another former teammate, Hall of Fame forward Luc Robitaille, the Kings president of business operations, remembers Demitra living up to expectations right from the start.

“When he came to us he was going to be one of our top guys,” Robitaille told the L.A. Times. “He certainly didn't disappoint.”

Demitra was a three-time All Star and former Lady Byng winner when he signed with the Kings as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2005. His three-year, 13.5-million deal looked like a good investment when he entered the Olympic break tied for the team lead with 57 points, despite missing three weeks in January with a deep leg bruise.

However, he suffered nasal fractures and bleeding behind an eye when he was struck in the face with the puck while playing for his native Slovakia at the Olympic Games, then suffered a concussion in his first game back. He appeared in just eight games following the Olympics.

On daft day that June, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Patrick O’Sullivan, who was later part of a three-team trade that brought over current winger Justin Williams. Also included in the deal was the Wild’s No. 1 pick that year, Trevor Lewis, who is still a member of the Kings.

Demitra’s former agent, Rich Winter, told Edmonton’s Sports Radio Team 1260 that Demitra always had a fire in his eye, ever since he fell into the ninth round of the 1993 draft. He made the Ottawa Senators that fall and stuck around for parts of 15 more seasons.

“He committed to me the minute he was drafted that he would show these guys hard work and determination,” Winter said.

And he did. Only three players taken before Demitra have more goals in their career, Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott and Miroslav Satan.

Ducks: Everything is bigger in Texas

March, 23, 2011
Ducks (40-27-5, 85 points) vs. Dallas Stars (38-25-9, 85) at American Airlines Center, 5:30 p.m. ET

Five storylines to track:

1. No bigger than this – When it comes to late-season games, they don’t get more magnified than this. The eighth-place Ducks and ninth-place Stars each have 85 points but Anaheim is ahead on the tiebreaker because it has less shootout victories. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle acknowledged the importance of the game following practice Tuesday, calling it the biggest game of the season. Well, until the next game Thursday in Nashville.

2. Perry continues to shine – Ducks forward Corey Perry scored his career-high 39th goal of the season in overtime Sunday to defeat the Calgary Flames, 5-4. Perry became the first Anaheim player to score overtime goals in consecutive games, and the first NHL player since Todd Bertuzzi in December 2009. Perry’s 39 goals are the most by an Anaheim player since Teemu Selanne notched 48 during the Stanley Cup championship year of 2006-07. Perry has increased his point total in each of his six seasons in the NHL.

3. Elite company – The Ducks remain the only team in the NHL with four players owning 60 or more points this season; Perry (79), Selanne (67), Ryan Getzlaf (61) and Bobby Ryan(60). Toss in the 58 points by defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky and the Ducks are one of only two teams with five players owning 50-plus points. Anaheim is also the only team that has three players averaging a point a game (Perry, Selanne, Getzlaf).

4. A big plus – While Visnovsky leads NHL defenseman in scoring, fellow blue liner Toni Lydman continues to lead the NHL in plus-minus rating. Lydman is plus-32 for the season, four better than Brian Campbell of Boston. Lydman has finished plus or even in 58 of 68 appearances this season. He’s also among the top 10 in the league in blocked shots (157) and is on pace to match his career high with 28 points. He assisted on Perry's overtime winner Sunday.

5. Loui’s back – Dallas left wing Loui Eriksson, who is second on the team with23 goals and 63 points, is expected to return tonight after missing the previous two games with concussion-like symptoms. Eriksson was injured last week during a collision with Douglas Murray of San Jose. Not expected to dress are defensemen Karlis Skrastins (leg laceration) and Nicklas Grossman (knee) and forwards Adam Burish (leg) and Brian Sutherby (back). Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in goal.