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Back in the Saddle

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
CALGARY -- Because of scheduling conflicts, the Kings on Friday will practice at Calgary's Corral, which was the home arena for the Calgary Flames in the early 1980s.

The Kings might prefer to play Saturday's game there, instead of the Saddledome.

The Saddledome has not been kind to the Kings in recent years, to put it mildly. The Kings have lost 10 consecutive games in Calgary, and haven't won here since Dec. 21, 2005. In the last five games, the Flames have outscored the Kings 17-6.

For the most part, it's not as though the Kings have been blown out in Calgary, but they have not been able to score. The Flames won last year's meetings in Calgary by identical 2-1 scores and, in their second game of this season, the Kings came to Calgary and again scored only one goal, as a late empty-net goal gave the Flames a 3-1 victory.

The Calgary Saddledome was built in 1983 for the Flames and in anticipation of the 1988 Olympics.  In the past 5+ years there the Kings have lost ten straight games.
``It's been a very hard building for us to come in and play in,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said after Thursday's practice at the Saddledome. ``They've got a team that digs in and are gritty. They play a way, in here, that we've had problems with. It's real important for us to continue on with the game we showed in the third period. We've got to continue to build and play a solid game here Saturday.''

Kings captain Dustin Brown, who was in his second NHL season in 2005-06, is the only remaining member of the last Kings team that won in Calgary. The Kings won 5-2 that night, as they rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit and scored four third-period goals.

Since then, it's been nothing but losses in Calgary, and Murray said the Kings are well aware of their futility in this otherwise pleasant, hospitable city.

``Players think about it. Coaches think about it,'' Murray said. ``I've often been asked about looking at the record of goaltenders, and when they have a real good record against certain teams, do you take that into consideration when you start them? I do. And there's no question that when you come into a building like Calgary, you know what has happened in the past.

``But there's a time, also, when you've just got to figure that part out and get through it. You've got to win and compete. That's what it's going to take in this game coming up. I know that Calgary is back on track. They seem to be doing the stuff that they need to do in order to put a big push on their game. We're going to have to match that intensity.''

Rookie Andrei Loktionov had a much more pleasant trip to Edmonton than last year when he dislocated his shoulder.
Andrei Loktionov played nearly 16 minutes -- mostly in a first-line left-wing role -- in Wednesday's game at Edmonton. Most importantly, Loktionov finished the game.

It was Loktionov's second trip to Edmonton with the Kings. The first, on Nov. 25 of last season, ended with Loktionov in the hospital. The rookie, making his NHL debut, dislocated his shoulder in the third period and had to be left in Edmonton.

``It was a long night,'' Loktionov said Thursday. ``I was in the dressing room, after the game, for like two hours. Then we go to the hospital. I was there for like two hours, and then we came back to the hotel and I couldn't sleep. It was a long night.''

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 32 of 33 shots against the Oilers on Wednesday and is scheduled to get the start against the Flames on Saturday. Quick has won four consecutive decisions and allowed two or fewer goals in five of his last six starts.

Against the Oilers on Wednesday, Quick was sharp, particularly early in the game, when the Kings' skaters seemed a bit flat-footed and had to kill three first-period penalties.

``Right at the start of the game, they [the Oilers] get a couple attacks with their speed and skill,'' Murray said. ``You could see the first moves that he made, to make those first couple stops, and you just know he's on top of it. You sense it, you see it and there's a great feeling on the bench. Guys just follow up with the shifts that are needed.

``He was very sharp, very alert. Compact, quick on the puck, just really positive stuff out of his game. Very encouraging to see that he is coming alive here at a critical time for us.''

Looking for some type of spark on the power play, the Kings put top defensemen Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson together on the first unit, and it worked.

The Kings had been 1-for-28 on the power play in their 10 previous games, but went 2-for-4 against the Oilers. Both power-play goals came as a result of Johnson passing the puck laterally to Doughty, who then scored on slap shots.

``Well, we had to change something up,'' Murray said. ``That was important, to get a different look. Sometimes a change is a good thing, and that's basically where that came from. We started talking about it a couple days before. You just need to look back at the fun they had together in the playoffs last year in Vancouver.

``It was a good look. They jumped right on it last night, and we started to get a shot mentality. Smytty [Ryan Smyth] was excellent at the net, and you get a good result out of those kinds of attitudes, so we'll keep building on it.''

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