Kings rising

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How important can one player be to a team? Well, at least to the Los Angeles Kings defenseman and captain of the team Rob Blake means everything.

After the Norris Trophy winner Blake came back from a 15-game absence with a broken foot, followed by a three-game suspension, the Kings regained their heart and soul. Combine that with the return of enforcer Matt Johnson from a 12-game suspension and all the sudden the Kings have won four out of five and are back in the playoff picture.

"No good team is going to be able to play without their top three or four players. You just can't do that at this level," Johnson said. "We've come together a lot more as a team lately."

Wednesday the Kings routed the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference bottom-feeder showdown 5-1, and Johnson scored a rare goal to keep his shooting percentage perfect for the season; two goals for two shots.

Los Angeles struck first when Matt Johnson took a pass from Ian Laperriere, reached around defenseman Bob Rouse and tipped it in past Vernon. Johnson's first goal since October 18th came just 2:28 into the game.

"Lappy (Laperriere) was digging hard to get the puck out," Johnson said. "It one of those plays when you go to the net, take a whack at it and hope for the best. The guys were bugging me to shoot more."

Kings coach Larry Robinson voiced his approval for his team that seems to have turned it around after falling on the bottom of the Western Conference.

"It was important for us to follow up the win in Phoenix," Robinson said. "It is pretty sad when you have a better record on the road than you do at home. All of these games are important."

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