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Budaj to start, Pearson back in as Kings take on Rangers

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings


NYC, MSG: Tonight marks the first of two meetings with the Rangers this season, and the Kings’ lone visit to New York’s Madison Square Garden; the Rangers will pay a visit to STAPLES Center on March 17. The Rangers are playing the first of a three-game home stand; they’re coming off of a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. The Kings are playing the third of a seven-game road trip; they’re coming off of a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

BACK-TO-BACK: The Kings are no strangers to games in consecutive days, tonight will complete their ninth back-to-back set of the season. The Kings have earned points in all second games played in back-to-back sets this season, posting a 7-0-1 mark. When coming off of a loss this season, the Kings are 14-6-0.

LINEUP: The Kings held a morning skate at Madison Square Garden in anticipation of tonight’s game. Jonathan Quick did not skate; Kyle Clifford, Andy Andreoff and Jamie McBain remained on the ice for extra work and are tonight’s presumed healthy scratches. Peter Budaj was the first goalie to leave the ice and is expected to start in net.

FORWARDS

LUCIC – KOPITAR – BROWN
PEARSON – CARTER – TOFFOLI
GABORIK – LECAVALIER – LEWIS
KING – SHORE – NOLAN
(CLIFFORD – ANDREOFF)

DEFENSEMEN

MCNABB – DOUGHTY
MUZZIN – MARTINEZ
GRAVEL – SCHENN
(MCBAIN)

GOALTENDERS

BUDAJ
(ENROTH)

PEARSON BACK IN: It looks as though Tanner Pearson will return to the Kings’ lineup after serving as a healthy scratch the previous two contests. Pearson, who has 21 points (6G, 15A) in 51 games this season, skated on the left side of Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli on the Kings’ second line during Thursday morning’s rushes. Pearson registered one goal in one game played against the Rangers last season.

BUDAJ CALL: Peter Budaj, who was recalled from the AHL’s Ontario Reign on Thursday on an emergency basis, will make his debut with the Kings when he gets the call in net tonight. Budaj has absolutely torn up the American Hockey League this season, posting a 26-9-3 record with a league-best 1.58 GAA, .935 SV% and eight shutouts. Budaj hasn’t appeared in an NHL game since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final with the Montreal Canadiens. In 296 NHL games with Montreal and Colorado, Budaj is 124-107-36 with a 2.76 GAA and a .903 SV%.

THE LAST TIME AROUND: The Kings split their two games with the Rangers last season, losing 4-3 on January 8, 2015 at STAPLES Center and winning 4-2 on March 24, 2014 at Madison Square Garden. Dustin Brown (2A) and Jeff Carter (1G, 1A) each had two points in the two meetings, Anze Kopitar led the Kings with three (3A). The Kings have earned points in six of their last seven regular season visits to Madison Square Garden, posting a 5-1-1 record that dates back to January 9, 2002.

ANTTI UP: Antti Raanta will be in net for the Rangers tonight, making his ninth start of the season where he’s gone 4-4-1 with a 2.33 GAA and a .909 SV% thus far. Raanta has made two career starts against the Kings, both as a member of the Blackhawks, and was stellar in both outings. Raanta is 2-0-0 against the Kings with a 0.50 GAA and a .979 SV% including one shutout.

HOT AT HOME: New York comes into the night boasting the NHL’s third-best record on home ice, they’re 20-5-2 at Madison Square Garden this season. The Rangers have earned points in each of their last eight games at home (7-0-1) and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 at MSG dating back to December 6.

WE’RE DOING IT LIVE: Catch the ‘Kings Live’ pregame show on Fox Sports West at 3:30 PM PST followed with Nick Nickson and Jim Fox on the live play-by-play call from Madison Square Garden for puck drop at 4:00. As always, you can listen to Jon Rosen and Daryl Evans call the action over the radio airwaves on AM 790 KABC.

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