Kings (18-12-1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (19-10-4) at Pepsi Center, 6:30 p.m., PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Sturm ready for return? – Preparations are being made for Marco Sturm to make his debut for the Kings. Sturm, who was acquired from the Bruins in a Dec. 11 trade, practiced for the fifth time Monday and reportedly said if he gets through Tuesday’s morning skate with no setbacks, he’ll take the ice against Colorado, likely in a limited fourth-line role. Sturm underwent knee surgery last spring, his second major knee operation in just over two years. Absorbing that first hit will be a big step.
2. Homeward bound – Following tonight’s game, the Kings are scheduled to play 10 of their next 12 games at Staples Center, with their only road games at Phoenix and San Jose. It might be tempting for the Kings to look ahead to a long stretch at home, but finishing their five-game road trip on a high note would be beneficial. No. 1, it would give them a winning record on the trip. No. 2, a victory would put them back in the top eight in the Western Conference standings.
3. Smyth is feeling it – Kings left wing Ryan Smyth, who spent two seasons in Colorado before he was traded to Los Angeles in the summer of 2009, has four goals in the last five games, his most productive stretch this season. The last time he had back-to-back multi-point games was in March, when he scored two goals against his former team in a 4-3 victory at Staples Center, and produced two assists two days later at Colorado in a 4-3 overtime loss.
4. A true team effort – Colorado doesn’t have a player among the top 10 in scoring, but the Avalanche are the highest-scoring team in the NHL. They have three players with more than 30 points and five who are in double digits in goals scored. Then there’s Tomas Fleischmann, who was acquired from Washington in a trade Dec. 1 and has five goals in nine games since, including a hat trick against Chicago last Wednesday.
5. Snowballing Avs – The Avalanche will be trying for their seventh straight victory, a streak they haven’t accomplished in five years. It’s been quite a turnaround for Colorado, which lost six of seven between Nov. 24 and Dec. 7, prompting Fleischmann to claim the Avalanche were "a desperate team." Their latest victory came Sunday, a 3-2 win against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.