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At the Rink: Kings at Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Los Angeles Kings look to sweep a four-game road trip when they visit the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN360, SN1, FS-W).

The Kings (23-11-2) have scored 14 goals in the first three games, all against Pacific Division opponents.

"We're scoring goals, finally. That's one of the keys," Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said. "These are big games for us, division games. When you're on the road and playing a divisional opponent, that's a four-point game. We put a lot of emphasis on these games and we're determined to win them."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Kings' 11-point lead in the Pacific matches the largest division lead in their history. They previously had an 11-point lead in 1980-81.

It's not one Los Angeles plans to sit on.

"We can't get too comfortable with that lead we have right now," Doughty said. "We need to continue winning games, keep making that margin bigger. Once you relax for one minute … we know these teams like Calgary and Anaheim. I don't think they should be having as little points as they have right now. They're both good teams. I think as the season goes on, they're going to start playing a lot better hockey. We can't get comfortable. We have to keep winning games and make that margin better."

Calgary (17-17-2), fifth in the Pacific, has one loss in its past 12 home games. It came in a 1-0 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday to end a Flames record of 11 consecutive wins on home ice.

"I think it's a short memory," Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. "I think it's getting back to doing the things that make us successful, getting our game plan early, getting our forecheck going. We have a lot of speed, so when we're creating chaos for the other team is when we're moving our feet, letting the puck do the work, and getting pucks to the net. I think when we play simple, we're an effective team. When you try to complicate things, that's when it kind of snowballs."

After starting the season 8-14-2, the Flames have rebounded to post a 9-3-0 record in December.

"I think we're just playing to our strengths," Russell said. "We're getting pucks deep, we're using our speed. I think we're playing a lot better in the defensive zone. We're limiting our chances. We're getting some big, timely stops as well. But with saying that, we're playing against a really dangerous team that comes at you. They try to create a lot of possession time in the offensive zone. We've got to make sure if we can kill plays quick, we do that and get on the transition."

Here are the projected lineups:


Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli

Tanner Pearson - Nick Shore - Marian Gaborik

Dwight King - Trevor Lewis - Dustin Brown

Michael Mersch - Andy Andreoff - Jordan Nolan

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez

Derek Forbort - Christian Ehrhoff

Jonathan Quick

Jhonas Enroth

Injured: Jeff Carter (upper body), Matt Greene (shoulder), Kyle Clifford (upper body)

Scratched: Jordan Weal, Jamie McBain


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Sam Bennett - Markus Granlund - David Jones

Micheal Ferland - Mikael Backlund - Joe Colborne

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Brandon Bollig

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dougie Hamilton

Dennis Wideman - Deryk Engelland

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Injured: Michael Frolik (upper body)

Scratched: Mason Raymond, Josh Jooris, Ladislav Smid

Status report: Carter participated in the morning skate but did not take line rushes. He is day-to-day and not expected to play. …The Flames held an optional skate but no changes to the lineup are expected. Ramo will make his eighth consecutive start for Calgary.

Who's hot: Toffoli has six goals and seven points during a four-game point streak and seven goals in his past seven games. Quick has allowed five goals on 98 shots, a save percentage of .949, in his past three starts. … Gaudreau has five goals in his past three games. Giordano has three goals and seven points in his past five games. Ramo has allowed 15 goals in his past eight starts.

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