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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
On Monday morning, the Kings hopped on a flight from LAX at 9 a.m. to Philadelphia and practiced at 6 p.m. that night. Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar flew directly from Atlanta after the All-Star game this weekend and joined the team in Philadelphia.

The Kings begin a season-long eight-game road trip today in Philadelphia. The trek will end Feb. 12 in St. Louis. It’s only the sixth time in club history the Kings have had a road trip of eight-or-more games (last was Nov. 5 to Nov. 21, 2002). The longest road trip in team history is nine games (Nov. 15 to Dec. 2, 1969). Los Angeles has 499 all-time wins on the road.

“We would like to get off to a good start. I think it’s better to build momentum and try and build some on the road,” Kings head coach Marc Crawford said from Philadelphia. “We played well before the (All-Star) Break and we are hoping to continue that play. We had a good practice yesterday I thought.

“Today we had everybody come out (for the morning skate), usually we give them the option, but we had everybody come out today. (We want) to make sure everyone is prepared for the start of the game tonight. Good starts are always important for the start of a road trip. If we can have a win here today I think this will really set up the rest of your road trip nicely. It’s a long trip for everybody, eight games, that is a lot and you don’t want to have to re-adjust. Hopefully we can build off of momentum.”

The Kings have won five of their last seven games (5-2-0) and eight of their last 13 overall (8-5-0). The Kings have also won four of five on the road, their best stretch away from STAPLES Center since they won four straight (Dec. 6 to Dec. 21, 2005).

“I think that we are playing a lot better defensively since Christmas,” Crawford said. “We have paid a lot more attention to the plays in both ends. We are recognizing that in order to be in the game you have to limit what the opposition gets and our club is a very good offensive club. I think we are in the top-10 scoring teams in the league, maybe No. 8 even, but we are right at the bottom on the defensive side.

“Our focus has been on defending and recognizing that when you defend well, our offense kind of gets nudged along. Our power play is good. We have some young guys who have some really offensive flare to their game. The improvement has to be on the backside. Our players understand that, they bought into that and we have been better because of it.”

Jason LaBarbera has stopped 177 of 187 shots in the Kings’ last five victories (.947 save percentage). He had his second 40-plus save game of the season Jan. 19 at Vancouver (43 saves). His other came in a career-high 48-save effort Jan. 10 vs. Toronto. LaBarbera has started 16 of the last 18 games since coming back from a rib injury.

The Kings (20-29-2 = 42 points) have three more wins and two more points than they had last season through 51 games (17-28-6 = 40 points)

The Jan. 24 game vs. Anaheim was the Kings’ ninth sellout of the season (18,118), tying last season’s total.

The Kings defeated the Ducks, 3-1 in that game. ”That was a very strong game for us," Crawford said. "I thought that physically it was a very strong game. You are always going to be challenged by Anaheim, physically in nature, and I thought our guys responded real well to that.

"I think that they were surprised at how competitive and how confrontational our guys were and in the end that was the difference in the game.”

The Kings will be visiting Atlantic Division teams for the first time since the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. Los Angeles last played in…
Long Island: Feb. 16, 2004 (Tied 1-1)
New Jersey: Feb. 15, 2004 (OTL 3-2)
New York City: Oct. 25, 2002 (Won 6-2)
Philadelphia: Feb. 20, 2003 (Lost 5-0)
Pittsburgh: Oct. 10, 2003 (Won 3-0)

“I don’t know,” Crawford said of the differences between the Eastern and Western Conferences. “We talked to (Flyers Assistant Coach) Jack McIlhargey last night asking him if he saw the difference and he said ‘no, not really.’ A good team on either side is going to be a good team and most of the games are decided by your goaltenders got to play good in the game and your team has to execute fairly well.

“I think the goaltending takes the higher level of importance. I think the Flyers are a really good team looking at them. They have as much depth of scoring as anybody. They have two goalies that have found themselves hot at different times in the year. Their defense is pretty good. They hove some resurgence from some of their defensemen this year, especially (Derian) Hatcher. They are as good as anybody.”

Kings head coach Marc Crawford (458 career wins) is three victories away from passing Roger Neilson for 15th all-time. Crawford (956 games) is nine games away from passing Sid Abel and Jack Adams for 15th all-time.

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