Wake-up Call: Kings, David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre, Stump (the dog)
First things first: Are the Kings for real? Is coach Terry Murray a godsend for this young, talented team? Answer to both questions: It's looking like it. They played the struggling Islanders last night and might have been expected to have a letdown after their unexpected victories against the Washington Capitals (second in the Eastern Conference) and New Jersey Devils (third in the Eastern Conference). But they came through, winning 4-3 -- in a shootout no less -- and now have won seven of their last eight games. They have 55 points, two points out of the playoffs. There are 30 games left, 19 of those on the road. Of the 22 road games they've played, they've lost only 11, one of those in a shootout. But of the 11 road games since Dec. 23, they've won eight.
Add NHL: In case you missed it, the Dallas Stars assigned bad boy (and thankfully ex-Kings) Sean Avery to the American Hockey League's Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday. He cleared waivers Monday but, because Dallas does not have an AHL affiliate, finding a home for him wasn't easy. The New York Rangers eventually agreed to let Avery be assigned the Wolf Pack. He was with the Rangers before signing a four-year, $15.5-million deal with Dallas over the summer.
More Becks: Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber today said he wanted David Beckham's future resolved by Friday or he would not approve any transfer between the Galaxy and AC Milan. Read the report from LAT's Grahame Jones. Garber also confirmed that Beckham has a clause in his five-year contract with MLS and the Galaxy that would allow the English midfielder to leave at the end of this season.
Another milestone: Kobe Bryant showed no lingering effects from the flu, scoring 34 points and becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 23,000 in the Los Angeles Lakers' 105-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But does he mean it? Brett Favre, having failed to lead the New York Jets into the playoffs, says he is retiring. Again. This time he probably means it, given the horrible ending to last season, which resulted in the firing of head coach Eric Mangini. ESPN.com has put together the Top 10 moments of Favre's long career. My favorite is from 2007, when he tied Dan Marino for the all-time record in career touchdown passes.
A dog's life: A Sussex spaniel called Stump became the oldest Best in Show winner at America's top canine competition, the Westminster Kennel Club. Stump, age 10, came out of retirement last week to claim the top prize. For a different take, of course, there is T.J. Simers' column. (Am still trying to figure out whether he likes dogs or not.)
Olympic countdown: International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is in Vancouver this week to mark the one-year countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics amid worries about the global financial crisis. Look for our special coverage this week from Vancouver on latimes.com/sports, including an overview of what Vancouver has done to try to stay ahead of the money crisis, a look at the U.S. medal chances and a rundown of some of the athletes to watch.
-- Debbie Goffa