Season Series: This is the second of four meetings. On Nov. 3, Edmonton handled Los Angeles, 3-0, at Staples Center behind a 19-save shutout from Nikolai Khabibulin.
Big Story: A lot has changed in two and a half months. When these teams last met, Edmonton extended a six-game winning streak, as Los Angeles was enduring a five-game losing streak as part of bigger early-season struggles. Now, the depleted Oilers have plummeted to 13th in the conference and are looking for any sort of momentum, while Los Angeles has used points in 12 of their last 13 to climb into playoff position.
Kings: Despite its remarkable run of points of late, Los Angeles has only won five of those 12 in regulation, suggesting an inability to put a full game together. But after the Kings sacrificed a late one-goal advantage for a 5-4 shootout loss to Dallas on Thursday, the Kings put it all together Saturday in a 4-1 win against Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mike Richards, Matt Greene and Anze Kopitar – who left the Dallas game after a physical check from Brenden Morrow – scored second-period goals to take a commanding lead. Jonathan Quick improved his fourth-best GAA to 1.95 with 29 saves on 30 shots.
"I thought we were pretty sluggish in the first period," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after Saturday night's win. "But we played really well in the second period and our power play came up with a huge goal."
Oilers: Since its torrid start to the season has worn off, Edmonton has sunk like an freshly-thrown anchor, losing five in a row and 12 of 14. That streak went from bad to worse on Friday, when Anaheim routed Edmonton on its home ice, 5-0. Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk split the loss, with the 1-2 punch allowing three and two goals, respectively. After the game, coach Tom Renney seemed like a man desperate for answers.
“I'm not sure what Anaheim did in the game was all that spectacular. We were just brutal," he said. "They don't feel real good about themselves at the moment and they shouldn't.
"The thing I don't like is that I don't see ice bags and guys sore from really gutting it out and doing everything they possibly can to win a hockey game."
Who's Hot: Kopitar has 3 goals and 2 assists over his last three games.
Injury Report: Simon Gagne (concussion) is out indefinitely, while Scott Parse will miss the remainder of the season for hip surgery. … The injury bug has made itself at home in the Edmonton locker room. Low-line center Eric Belanger (leg) is questionable for Sunday's game. Key attackers Jordan Eberle (right knee)and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (left shoulder) will both miss significant time, while high-scoring blueliner Tom Gilbert (right knee) is out a month. Ryan Whitney (ankle tendinitis), Alex Plante (facial laceration/concussion) and Cam Barker (left ankle surgery) are also on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Despite his recent run of form, Khabibulin is 20-11-1 lifetime with a 2.40 GAA and .915 save percentage in 33 starts against Los Angeles. To further than strong mark, Khabibulin will need to shake off his six straight losses – five in regulation – in which he has surrendered 21 goals.
Puck Drop: Renney and forward Ryan Jones – one of the few attackers not hobbled by injury – attempted to diagnose the reasons behind Edmonton's recent skid.
"Poor response to falling behind," Renney said. "Tonight we weren't very good in any department."
"We have to find a way to play a better defensive game and the offense will come from there," added Jones.