You can be sure that the Los Angeles Kings feel like they let an extra point slip away from them in Phoenix last night, but fortunately for them, they won’t have any time to worry about that as they’re right back at it today in Colorado to take on the Avalanche. The Kings will be looking to try and keep their recent run of success agianst the Avalanche going. The Kings have won five straight games over their Western Conference rivals, and the last time the Avs beat the Kings was back on March 24th, 2010, in a 2-1 shootout victory here at the Pepsi Center.
Colorado is surprisingly off to a pretty strong to their season, sitting at 6-4-0. However, they’ve lost two straight games, and they’re 0-3-0 at home on the year. The Avs made a bold move in the off-season, trading away a pair of draft picks to the Washington Capitals for talented young Russian netminder Semyon Varlamov, including their first-round pick in the upcoming 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and after finishing 29th in the NHL last year, many were shocked at Colorado dealing away their first rounder this year, as some projected it to be another top-five pick.
Will it be? Well although it’s early on, the Avalanche haven’t looked like a lottery pick team so far, and Varlamov has been strong in goal, posting a 9.22 Sv% and a 2.51 GAA to go along with a 4-3-0 record and a shutout. Although it hasn’t yet been confirmed who will start in goal, although it’s expected to be Varlamov, it is possible that it could be veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The former Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner with the Anaheim Ducks has been strong in his own right so far this year, with a 2-1-0 record to go along with a GAA of 2.00 and a .924 Sv%. But again, it’s likely to be Varlamov.
The Avalanche possess a lot of talent up front, with the likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, David Jones, Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny, and Ryan O’Reilly. Making up the bottom-six forwards, the Avs have Joakim Lindstrom, Daniel Winnik, Chuck Kobasew, Cody McLeod, T.J. Galiardi, Jay McClement, Kevin Porter, and Peter Mueller to choose from.
Making up the Avalanche blue line, they have 2006 first-overall pick of the St. Louis Blues, Erik Johnson, who has been a major disappoinment so far in his career which is why the Blues were willing to package him to Colorado in a blockbuster trade back in February. Johnson has six assists so far on the year, but is also a minus-7. Former King Kyle Quincey is off to a very strong start to his season, with two goals and four assists so far. Four of Ryan Wilson, Jan Hejda, Shane O’Brien, Ryan O’Byrne, and Matt Hunwick will make up the remainder of Colorado’s defense.
A bit of a side story to the game, Anze Kopitar will be hoping for a happier game than the last time he played the Avalanche, which was when he got tangled up with Avalanche defender Ryan O’Byrne and suffered his season-ending ankle-injury. Despite getting the victory in the game, the Kings suffered a much greater loss, and were left wondering what could have been had their leading scorer been around for final seven regular season games and the playoffs. Kopitar is off to a strong start to his season with five goals and eight assists in 10 games, and no player in the Western Conference has more points than him.
There will be no lineup changes for the Kings today. Jonathan Quick will be back in goal, Simon Gagne is better according to Terry Murray, but not ready to play yet. He will go with the same lines he started yesterday with, with Anze Kopitar in between Dustin Penner and Justin Williams, Mike Richards in between Scott Parse and Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll in between Brad Richardson and Trent Hunter, and Trevor Lewis in between Kyle Clifford and Ethan Moreau.
The Kings don’t play again until they host the surprising Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, so they’ll look to head into this mini-break on a winning note, rather than having two straight losses to think about for the next few days. Can the Kings bounce back from their overtime loss in Phoenix yesterday and continue Colorado’s home woes, or will the Avalanche finally give their fans something to cheer about?