Saturday, March 26, 2011
Kings: Avalanche offer a rare breather
By Dan Arritt
Kings (42-26-6, 90 points) vs. Colorado Avalanche (28-37-8, 64) at Staples Center, 1 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Nothing comes easy – The Kings haven’t played a team with a losing record since the last time they met Colorado, exactly a month ago. The Kings nearly got caught napping in that one, letting a 4-0 lead with seven minutes remaining shrivel to one. Jonathan Quick gave up the final three goals in that game, but that was just a warmup for his next performance, when he was lit up for six goals on 24 shots before getting yanked in the second period of a 7-4 loss to the Red Wings. He has rebounded to go 4-1-1 in his last six starts.
2. Mixed bag – Only one team in the West, first-place Vancouver, is even close to locking in its playoff seeding. The next nine teams are separated by just 10 points, leaving them jockeying for one of the seven remaining playoffs berths. All seven of those teams play Saturday, meaning the pecking order could look a lot different come Sunday morning. One thing is for sure, if the Kings win they’ll remain in fifth place. A regulation loss and they could drop to seventh.
3. Jack’s not in the black – Jack Johnson is stuck in another rut for the Kings and it couldn’t come at a worse time. The 24-year-old defenseman, who signed a seven-year contract extension Jan. 9, doesn’t have a goal since Feb. 2 and one in all of 2011. As a point man on the No. 1 power-play unit, that’s a bit of a negative. His slump hasn’t been limited to scoring. He doesn’t have a game on the plus side of the plus-minus ledger since Feb. 24, and is minus-10 in his last 13 games. He had a stretch earlier this season when he was minus-13 through nine games.
4. Willie’s a winner – It’s a good thing the Kings have Willie Mitchell in the lineup. The 33-year-old blue liner matched his career high with his fourth goal of the season Thursday night in a 4-3 shootout victory against visiting San Jose. The point couldn’t have come at a better time as it gave the Kings a 2-1 lead and some much-needed momentum. Mitchell has been the grease that spins the wheel for Los Angeles. The Kings are 31-13-5 when he's on the ice and 11-13-1 when he's in the trainer's room.
5. Goalie battle – Quick has been penciled in as the starting goalkeeper for the Kings and Peter Budajreportedly gets the honors for the Avs. It’s an interesting matchup because neither has lost in regulation against their opponent. Quick is 6-0-0 lifetime against Colorado, Budaj is 6-0-1 in his career against Los Angeles with a 2.70 goals-against average. A win also gives the Kings a sweep of the season series for the first time.