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GAME DAY: vs. Los Angeles

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Los Angeles Kings
RECORDS - CBJ: 9-17-4 (Home: 6-8-2), LA: 13-13-4 (Road: 5-4-3)
WHEN: Dec. 15, 2011 - 7 p.m.   |   WHERE: Nationwide Arena
FOX Sports Ohio (HD)  |  LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan &

The theme for the Los Angeles Kings has been fairly consistent this year: scoring. They have struggled mightily to score goals and generate offense, and given the quality of players in their lineup, one would think it to be the least of their concerns.

When Kings GM Dean Lombardi made a blockbuster trade to acquire Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers this summer (and sending top prospect Brayden Schenn to the Flyers in the process), the Kings’ much-maligned offense appeared to receive a major boost – but it has yet to materialize in Tinseltown. Lombardi made the one move he dreaded earlier this week: firing coach Terry Murray on Dec. 12 and elevating assistant coach John Stevens as interim coach. Though Stevens has NHL head coaching experience, the feeling around the league is that former Flames GM Darryl Sutter is the frontrunner to take over the Kings on a permanent basis.

For the time being, however, Stevens has a tall task to get the Kings turned around in the middle of a significant road trip. Los Angeles (30 points) is a victory away from putting itself back into the Western Conference playoff picture, but trending in the opposite direction upon arrival in Columbus. The Kings are losers of five consecutive games and have scored just six goals in those games, and their most recent loss was a dismal 3-0 defeat to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

They haven’t been much help to Jonathan Quick, their excellent young goaltender who has pulled his weight all season. The 25-year-old native of Milford, Conn., has been tremendous in net for the Kings, posting 11 of the club’s 14 wins and being as stingy as possible with a 2.14 goals-against average. He has 74 wins combined the past two seasons and forms a dynamic tandem with 23-year-old Jonathan Bernier, who has shown he’s more than capable of being a solid NHL goaltender.

One look at the Kings’ top six makes their scoring woes even more perplexing; with names like Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Los Angeles is losing due to lack of offense.

Nash (9) Richards (11)
Prospal (16) Kopitar (18)
Prospal (23) Kopitar (28)
Dorsett (73) Clifford, Penner (29)
MacKenzie (+7) Mitchell (+5)
Sanford (5-4-3)
Quick (11-9-4)
Sanford (2.45) Quick (2.14)
Sanford (.909) Quick (.929)
• In the midst of a five-game homestand, the Blue Jackets returned to the win column Tuesday with a 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver. Columbus went 3-1-0 at home Nov. 12-25, but posted a 0-2-1 mark Nov. 27-Dec. 10 prior to Tuesday’s win. Overall, the club has gone 7-5-3 its last 15 games after opening the season 2-12-1.

• Goal scoring has improved as of late, with the Jackets scoring three or more goals in five of the last six games. Columbus has scored 33 goals its last 12 games (2.75 per game) compared to 18 goals the previous nine games (2.00 per game).

Rick Nash scored his first goal in three games with his team-leading ninth of the season Dec. 10 vs. Boston. He has points in four of the last six games, with 2-2-4 during that stretch. He has collected 5-4-9 the last 11 games after being held to 1-3-4 the previous 10 games.

James Wisniewski has points in three-straight games and five of the last six after recording an assist Tuesday against Vancouver. He has registered 0-6-6 the last six games, as well as 1-15-16 the last 21 games. He ranks fifth in the NHL in time on ice average (26:29), while leading Blue Jackets defensemen in assists and points.

• Tonight marks the first of four meetings overall and first of two meetings at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Kings. Columbus is 18-19-3 all-time against Los Angeles, including a 11-7-2 mark at Nationwide Arena. The Kings have won three-straight and six of the last seven meetings overall.


D  -  #3
  5 Goals
  7 Assists
  12 Points

• One of the most highly-regarded young defensemen in the NHL, Johnson was acquired by the Kings in a September 2006 trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, who drafted him with the third overall pick in 2005.

D Radek Martinek (upper body); indefinitely
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
RW Derek Dorsett (lower body); day-to-day

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