The Los Angeles Kings had a rough stretch at home last month prior to their lengthy trip. They're hoping their first game at Staples Center in nearly a month is a positive sign looking forward.
The Kings look to win their fourth straight at home Saturday afternoon when they face the Colorado Avalanche, who are trying to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
Despite setting a franchise record by winning its first eight home games this season, Los Angeles (34-23-4) went just 2-6-0 on a season-high eight-game homestand from Dec. 30-Jan. 15.
The Kings, who won their last two contests at Staples Center before a 6-1-3 trip that ended with Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Anaheim, defeated Minnesota 4-2 on Thursday to open a six-game stretch in Los Angeles.
"It establishes our game at home," said Wayne Simmonds, who scored twice to snap a 16-game goal drought. "Last time we were at home, we didn't play too well, so we thought about that and we wanted to put the right mark on it right from the start this time."
The Kings moved into fifth place in the Western Conference standings, but coach Terry Murray is well aware that his club could lose ground fast in the crowded playoff race if it doesn't take advantage of home ice.
"We know this is a critical time now in the schedule for us," said Murray, whose team is 10-1-3 overall since Jan. 22. "We've got some home games, we're in a tight race to get into the playoffs, and the opportunity is there for us."
The Avalanche (26-28-7) may have lost that chance, dropping 13 of 15 to fall into 14th place in the West.
After ending a 10-game losing streak with Tuesday's 4-3 victory at St. Louis, Colorado lost its season-high sixth straight at home on Wednesday, 5-1 to conference-worst Edmonton.
Brian Elliott, acquired from Ottawa last Friday in a swap of goaltenders for Craig Anderson, was unimpressive in his Avs debut, stopping just 26 of 31 shots.
"It's a tough game for him," coach Joe Sacco said. "He'd been off for a few days. You obviously have to get him in there, and tonight was the night we decided to get him in there."
Peter Budaj is 1-5-1 with a 3.66 goals-against average in his last eight starts, but he could get the start Saturday considering his success against the Kings. Budaj, who backed up Anderson in two home losses to Los Angeles earlier this season, is 6-0-1 with a 2.70 GAA in nine starts in this matchup.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has also enjoyed plenty of success in this series, going 5-0-0 with a 2.80 GAA. He made 28 saves in a 6-4 win in Denver on Oct. 23 and turned away 23 shots in a 5-0 victory Dec. 21 that ended Colorado's season-best six-game winning streak.
Los Angeles center Brad Richardson hasn't scored a goal in his last 19 games, but a matchup with his former team could help him break out of that slump. He recorded his first career hat trick in the Oct. 23 victory and found the back of the net once in the last meeting.
Defenseman Drew Doughty's goal with 1:20 left in overtime gave the Kings a 4-3 victory the last time the Avalanche were in town March 22.
Los Angeles is 6-0-1 in its last seven versus Colorado.
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