Beno Udrih has gone missing. At least the version seen above.
Sure, we all know where you can find the player purporting to be Udrih - especially in the fourth quarter. But the bench certainly isn't where he'd planned to spend this season.
The fifth-year player who was given a five-year, $32 million deal last summer isn't keeping the pine warm all the time, of course, just when the game is on the line. And as he shared in our conversation that led to this story in today's paper, he is lacking more than playing time these days. He's lacking confidence.
The Udrih-Kenny Natt combination is certainly an oil-water mix for the moment. As Udrih shares at the end of a revealing eight-minute interview you can find below, he's looking for pats on the back from his coach and instead gets quizzical looks or head shakes and a short leash. If Udrih could peek inside the family rooms of so many fans who have watched him play this season, however, he would likely see the same expression of disappointment.
But Udrih's ability to play out of this funk is nothing short of a dire necessity for the Kings. They need him to earn the contract that so many folks around the league can't believe he was given, both because those are big paychecks being handed out and because he is a vital player on a team whose vitals are fading. And beyond the dollar amount, they can ill afford to have Udrih's value dip to these depths for their own purposes and any potential for future trade.
There were some interesting points made by Udrih that weren't in the story, chief among them his feeling that too many players are handling the ball and essentially stealing his role. At one point, he cuts to the chase, saying "I want to run my team."
This file of the eight-minute chat is a bit raw with background noise from the United Center before Wednesday's game, but it should offer a comprehensive sense of where his head is at these days.
- Sam Amick