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Avs and Kings finally get together

by John Kreiser

AVALANCHE (35-19-6) at KINGS (36-20-4)

Last 10 -- Colorado 6-4-0; Los Angeles 8-1-1

Season series -- Amazingly, after 60 games, these two Western Conference teams are meeting for the first time this season. They'll face each other four times in their last 22 games. Colorado won three of four last season, including both trips to the Staples Center. Los Angeles won the last meeting, 6-5 at the Pepsi Center on Jan. 21 -- meaning, incredibly, that the teams haven't seen each other in more than a year.

Big story -- Two of the NHL's biggest surprise teams enter their first meeting of the season tied at 76 points -- and in solid playoff position in the Western Conference -- as they play for the last time before the Olympic break.

Team Scope:

Avalanche -- Every time it looks like the Avs are about to hit the skids, they seem to bounce back with another winning streak. Colorado completed a 4-0-0 homestand on Friday with a 2-1 victory, keeping them tied with Vancouver atop the Northwest Division (the Canucks are technically first on tiebreakers).

But the Avs aren't worried about the Canucks or anyone else -- only themselves.

"I think the best motto to have is to just take care of ourselves," said rookie center Matt Duchene, who scored both goals against Phoenix. "Don't worry about what you can't control. This is a big win for us. We're still battling it out with them."

Kings -- The Kings have dropped two in a row after their franchise-record nine-game winning streak. Thursday's 3-2 loss to Edmonton in a 10-round shootout was a tough one to swallow. But the Kings are still on track to end a playoff drought that extends to 2002, and GM Dean Lombardi told the team's Web site he's delighted with the way his young team has matured.

"I've seen them grow immensely," he said Friday. "I think you've got a room that cares, no question about it. I think that was a big thing, and I think, in today's day and age, that's something not to be underestimated. I think they've learned a lot about playing with pressure.

"I didn't expect this group of young players to be playing with pressure. I think there's a big difference between playing with the house's money and playing with pressure. I would have expected them to play with pressure next year. I expected to be in the hunt, but kind of be a Cinderella and not deal with the pressure. They put themselves in the position."

Who's hot -- Duchene's two goals Friday night gave him five two-goal games this season. … Anze Kopitar, the Kings' top scorer with 63 points, has 8 goals and 17 points in his last 11 games.

Injury report -- Colorado captain Adam Foote left Friday's game in the first period with a back injury and didn't return. … Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick, who sat out Thursday's game with flulike symptoms, practiced Friday and expects to play against the Avs.

Stat pack -- Duchene is the fifth rookie in Avs history to reach the 20-goal mark, and the first member of last June's Class of 2009 to do so. … Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson is second in the NHL in shots faced (1,656) and saves (1,531). … The Kings' record of 36-20-4 (76 points) through 60 games is the second-best in franchise history; only the '74-75 team (33-11-16, 82 points)

Puck drop -- Defenseman Jack Johnson will be in the lineup for the Kings after a day off unlike any he's ever spent in his life. Johnson, a member of Team USA, got permission to skip practice on Friday and traveled to Vancouver with his family to march in the Opening Ceremonies at the Winter Olympics -- they made it back in time for the morning skate.

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