From the deck of his new apartment in the fashionable enclave of Marina del Rey, Los Angeles Kings rookie goaltender Jason LaBarbera sounds like a man who has finally found his place in the sun.
"I'm standing outside my place right now," the Burnaby, B.C., native is saying by phone on a recent off-day, "and I can see the ocean. It's very relaxing. People call me from back home and tell me how cold it is, but it's always warm here."
Maybe it's the time of year in Los Angeles, and maybe it's just time. Either way, LaBarbera has been rather warm lately, too.
After just two months in Los Angeles, LaBarbera, 25, is beginning to assimilate into the local culture. LaBarbera, who recently ditched the hotel he was living in next door to the Kings' practice facility in favor of the new waterfront digs, also has moved himself into a regular place in the Kings' net.
LaBarbera began the season in a goaltending rotation with Mathieu Garon, but his strong early season play has gotten him into 11 of the Kings' first 16 games.
Although Kings coach Andy Murray refuses to name a No. 1 netminder, LaBarbera has started five consecutive games. The former Ranger farmhand has posted an 8-2-1 record, 2.44 goals-against average, and .915 save percentage to launch his NHL career. His eight wins are fourth in the League, while his goals against average and save percentage are both eighth best in the NHL.
LaBarbera's surprising early season play in goal has been a large factor in the Kings' strong start. With a 10-5-1 record and 21 points, Los Angeles currently sits atop the Pacific Division. After being drafted by the Rangers in third round in the 1998 Entry Draft, he played in just five career games in New York before signing a two-year deal with the Kings as a free agent last summer.
"It's been awesome," LaBarbera says of the bump his career has gotten since he arrived in Los Angeles. "It's what every guy dreams of happening."
Rookie Jason LaBarbera has posted an 8-2-1 record, 2.44 goals-against average, and .915 save percentage to launch his Kings' career.