AVALANCHE (25-21-2) AT KINGS (23-25-10)
TV: ALTITUDE (HD); FS-WEST (HD)
LAST 10: Colorado 6-3-1, Los Angeles 5-1-4
Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between these Western Conference rivals. Colorado took the first two with a 3-2 home victory on Oct. 30 and a 2-1 shootout win in L.A. on Jan. 2.
Big Story: This is a vital contest for both the Avalanche and the Kings as they battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Los Angeles is seventh with 56 points, four more than the eighth-place Avs.
Avalanche: Colorado is coming off of a big 4-3 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers thanks in part to the play of Peter Mueller who returned to the lineup four games ago after missing the first 40 games of the season with a concussion. Mueller scored his first goal since April 4, 2010, and then tacked on an additional goal and assist to fuel Colorado's win.
"It feels unbelievable," Mueller told ColoradoAvalanche.com. "I wish I could explain more how good it feels to get that one out of the way."
Mueller's return has been a big boost for the Avs who are hovering at .500 so far for the month of January.
"(It was) a huge character win for us," Ryan O'Reilly said. "It shows that no matter what, we're in each game."
Kings: L.A. has yet to win back-to-back games since the start of the new year; however, the Kings have managed to grab four wins so far in January. They lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Flames on Thursday night despite the stellar play of Jonathan Quick, who turned aside 24 shots through 65 minutes. Quick leads the NHL with six shutouts and has a 1.44 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in his last 14 starts.
The Kings are 8-1-6 since Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as coach and have allowed two goals or fewer in 30 of their 48 games (19-4-7). But the lack of offense from the third line has become a concern for Sutter -- the trio of Brad Richardson, Andrei Loktionov and Trevor Lewis has one goal in six games.
"Our third line has got to start scoring some goals for us," Sutter said Friday. "They're doing a lot of good things, working hard and giving us a lot of energy and doing good things. We want them to be better at faceoffs and we want them to do better finishing. Trevor is, right now, carrying that line. The other two guys can play better for us.'"
Who's Hot : Mueller notched three points in his last game and has tallied 17 shots in five games … L.A.'s Justin Williams has a six-game point streak.
Injury Report: Colorado defenseman Shane O'Brien and center Mark Olver are day to day and center Matt Duchene remains out indefinitely with a knee injury. … Forwards Simon Gagne (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) are out for the Kings.
Stat Pack: Colorado boasts 17 one-goal wins this season, tops in the NHL. The Avs are 17-5-2 in one-goal contests and they are tied for first in the NHL for OT/shootout victories with a record of 11-2 in games that go beyond regulation.
Puck Drop: The Kings cleaned up in the shootout last season -- Quick was 10-0, and the team went 10-2 -- but things have been different this season, with opponents winning six of the 10 tiebreakers.
Sutter prefers to look at the point his team goes home with, rather than the one it didn't get.
"The shootout losses come because you didn't score enough goals in the first 65 minutes, right? So I'm not happy with the shootout losses, but what's the big deal?" Sutter said Friday. "I always take the high road and say we took one (point). You've got to get points, one way or another.''
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