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Avalanche host Kings in battle of youth movements

by Deborah Francisco
KINGS  (4-2-0) AT AVALANCHE (4-3-0)

TV -- FS-W (HD), ALT (HD)

Season Series --
This is the first meeting of a four-game series between the two Western Conference clubs this season. The last regular-season meeting -- an April 11 tilt at the Pepsi Center -- was decided by Dustin Brown, who netted the OT tally to lift the Kings to a 2-1 win.

Big Story --
This game is a battle of the youth movements as it features the two youngest teams in the NHL (see stat pack). Both teams clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference last season despite many projections of poorer finishes, and are again off to solid starts. These two clubs always keep the score close when they face each other, as last season two games were decided in overtime and one game was decided in a shootout.

"I think we're really similar (teams)," Avalanche forward Brandon Yip said. "They're a good young team as well. They work really hard, they’re gritty and they have some great young forwards up front. It should be a fun game."

Team Scope:

Kings --
This is the second stop on a five-game road trip for the Kings. Special teams, or lack thereof, are the latest story in L.A. The Kings have only converted once in 22 power-play chances, placing them dead last in the league for power-play percentage (4.6). However, Colorado has given up 17 man-advantages in its past three games, so perhaps L.A. will have a chance at redemption.

"No, it's not a good thing, the result,'' coach Terry Murray said, "but there are power plays that we've been very good on. Power-play breakouts have been, I think, tremendous through the year. It's our possession recovery, rather, that is a concern for me, and now it's leading to other things."

Between the pipes, L.A. is switching between Jonathan Quick and rookie Jonathan Bernier. Quick lost for the first time in the Kings' last game, a 4-2 setback in Phoenix on Thursday.

The loss of key defenseman Drew Doughty has forced Los Angeles to shuffle its lines. Peter Harrold, in his season debut, filled Doughty’s spot on the blue line on Thursday. However, Matt Greene might fill that spot Saturday. The Kings expect to shuffle things up on defense until Doughty returns.

"I think that's the adjustment that you inevitably get to whenever your best defenseman is out of the lineup,'' Murray said. "So that's probably the way you'll see it play out in every game. There's special teams, there are different looks for that, and then it's who is going well at critical times in the game."

Avalanche --
After coming off a five-game road trip to the East Coast, this is the finale of a two-game homestand for Colorado.

During its trip out east, Colorado saw a decided improvement in its power play, tallying four power-play goals in as many games after scoring just one in its first three contests of the season. Chris Stewart is responsible for two of those goals, both scored against the New York Rangers on Oct. 18.

Besides Colorado’s recent improvements on special teams, the young club has seen offensive success from across its entire roster, not just from one or two stars. In fact, 11 different players have tallied for the Avalanche so far this season.

"You obviously have your top scorers, but when they aren't scoring it helps out a lot to have depth like we do," Yip said. "We have a lot of players who can chip in offensively and also some good d-men who can jump up into the play. It's huge, because it takes a lot of pressure off the top-line guys."

Who's Hot -- Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles set a franchise record by opening the season with points in seven straight games. Liles has seen a lot of time on Colorado’s power play unit. Stewart has also hit a stride this week, scoring 7 points in his last four games. Stewart and Liles lead the Avalanche in scoring with 9 points each.

Wayne Simmonds is on a roll for the Kings, tallying a pair of goals on Thursday. Ryan Smyth has 6 points in four games, and currently leads the Kings in scoring. Brown is on pace to eclipse the 56 points he scored last season, with 5 so far in six games.

Injury Report --
L.A. expects to be without Doughty, its start defenseman who was injured in the first period of Tuesday's win over Carolina. Doughty did not accompany the team on the trip -- though he may join up later -- and is expected to be out for at least a week with an upper-body injury. Murray hinted that Greene, who underwent shoulder surgery in July, might make his first appearance of the season.

"I haven't decided yet," Murray said. "He had a pretty good practice. I know he's feeling good. I think we need to decide, as coaches, and I need to decide if he's game-ready."

Colorado expects David Jones to return to the lineup after missing the last contest due to a forearm bruise sustained against the Rangers. Defenseman Adam Foote is listed as day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms.

Stat Pack --
Los Angeles boasts the youngest average roster age in the League at 25.9, while Colorado ranks second at 26.4.

Puck Drop -- In an effort to support the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, both clubs are participating in a unique fundraising event via Twitter.

During Saturday's game, fans of the two teams will engage in the NHL's first "Hashtag Battle" on Twitter. For each #GoAvs hashtag posted between the first puck drop and the game's final buzzer, the Avalanche and Kroenke Sports Charities will make a $1 donation to cancer research (donation capped at $5,000).

Kings fans will also compete using their own unique hashtag, #GoKings, with the winner being determined by which team's hashtag receives the most mentions.

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