Los Angeles Hockey: Semyon Varlamov

Kings: Overtime not the best time to play Avs

January, 21, 2012
Kings (23-15-10, 56 points) vs. Colorado Avalanche (25-21-2, 52 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Time and a half – The way games are unfolding these days, the Kings might as well skip the first three periods and go straight to overtime. They’ve been tied at the end of regulation in three straight games and 10 of the last 16. Should that trend continue, the Avs will own a noticeable statistical edge. They’ve won 11 of 13 games that have stretched past regulation this season, including all seven shootouts. The Kings, meanwhile, have won just seven of 16, including four of 10 shootouts. Colorado beat the Kings in a shootout on Jan. 2 at Staples Center.

2. Good time to roll – Yes, the Kings have earned at least a point in 15 of the last 16 games but they haven’t won two straight in nearly a month. With three home games remaining before an eight-day break, followed by a six-game road trip over nine days, the Kings need to squirrel away some nuts. They went into last season’s All-Star break on a three-game winning streak and their momentum seemed to carry over to the season-long 10-game road trip that followed. They finished 6-1-3 on the trip to climb back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

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Kings: Hoping to get in the way of the Avalanche

January, 2, 2012
Kings (19-14-6, 44 points) vs. the Colorado Avalanche (21-18-1, 43 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Pacific view: Thanks to the light NHL schedule on New Year’s Day, the Kings were able to enjoy another 24 hours atop the Pacific Division standings. They made that climb with a 5-0-2 mark over the last seven games, capped by an impressive 4-1 victory Saturday night against the visiting Canucks. The win gave them a one-point edge over division rivals San Jose and Phoenix, though the Sharks have played five fewer games than the Kings and Coyotes. Getting to the top of the Pacific is more of a moral victory anyway. It was just three weeks ago that they fired coach Terry Murray during a miserable stretch of low-scoring, lackadaisical efforts.

2. Kopi-tear? Kings forwards Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards tried the same move on Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. Richards hit the post on a tough-angle backhand sweep in the first period, Kopitar scored on his attempt in the third, ending a career-long 17-game goal-less streak. The Kings are hoping that will be the spark that ignites Kopitar on one of his hot streaks. Colorado might be arriving at just the right time. Kopitar has carved the Avalanche up in his career, scoring 23 points in 21 games.

3. Noticeably better: The Kings need to score nine goals against the Avalanche to remove the label as the league’s lowest-scoring team. While that probably won’t happen, the Kings have been taking two steps forward and one step back in that area lately, as it was before Darryl Sutter was hired two weeks ago. The Kings have scored 14 goals in six games under Sutter, getting marks from 10 players. Colorado is 20th in the league in goals against and its No. 1 goalie, Semyon Varlamov, has a lofty 3.05 goals-against average.

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