All Kings going right for Gauthier

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Randy Newman sang I Love L.A.

Denis Gauthier could do a remake.

After a season in a purgatory known as the American Hockey League, the former Calgary Flames defenceman would be thrilled to be in the NHL in any city.

Los Angeles with the Kings? That's the sweet life. Who can't enjoy life in L.A.?

"Yeah, it's awesome," Gauthier said. "The kids, they go nuts on boogie boards and playing in the sand. I'm enjoying life, too, because I'm not taking anything for granted. If this is the end for me after this season, there will be no regrets. I'm enjoying it."

Gauthier, the Flames' 1995 first-round pick who spent seven seasons in Calgary, has always been appreciative of life in the NHL.

But spending all of last season in the minors -- placed there by the Philadelphia Flyers because of his US$2.1-million salary cap hit -- he understands what he has now.

"It was tough on the ego, tough on the confidence. I don't want to say you're embarrassed, but you don't feel good about yourself," said Gauthier, who spent the season with the Phantoms collecting his full NHL salary.

"You can say, 'He's still making his money,' but I'd have traded that for playing in the NHL. When you're young, you dream of winning the Stanley Cup, not making a lot of money, and you can't win the Stanley Cup in the minors."

The 32-year-old blueliner did what he could to make the most of the situation.

At least he was still in Philadelphia, so he didn't have to live in a hotel for the season or uproot his family, wife Stephanie and their children Kaylen, Kelly Ann and Ethan.

More importantly, he did what he could to be a positive influence for GM Paul Holmgren and head coach -- and ex-teammate -- Craig Berube.

It would be easy to mouth off or cry foul.

"It just didn't feel right to do," Gauthier said. "I felt if I kept my mouth shut, worked hard and was an example for the younger players, it would be a better decision. That's the route I took, and I'm glad.

"I'm sure there were a lot of days my wife would like to have thrown a frying pan at my head, though," he added with a chuckle.

There were rumours of a call-up, with the hopes another team would claim him on re-entry waivers for half the salary, but it didn't come to fruition.

At season's end, he was placed on waivers and told he would likely receive a buyout. Instead, on Canada Day, the Kings came calling with a trade, sending a couple of prospects for Gauthier and a second-round choice in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

"I was thrilled. For some reason, there wasn't a doubt I'd find a way back. I didn't know how or when, but I knew it would happen," he said.

It hasn't taken him long to assimilate to the SoCal life. In fact, he and teammates Derek Armstrong, Kyle Calder and Dustin Brown were part of a taping of The Price is Right, which airs Wednesday.

"It was hilarious. We had a great time," Gauthier said.

"You know me, I'll never shy away from a camera.


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