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Battered 'Canes hope to crown Kings @NHL

KINGS (10-6-2) at HURRICANES (2-11-3)

Last 10 -- Kings 6-2-2; Hurricanes 0-8-2

Season series -- This is the first and only meeting this season. Just over a year ago, Michal Handzus scored 56 seconds after the opening faceoff and again at 3:21 of overtime, leading the Kings to a come-from-behind 4-3 home victory on Oct. 17, 2008. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar scored their first goals of the season to help the Kings erase a two-goal deficit.

Big story -- Three games after losing No. 1 center Eric Staal to injury -- and he never gets injured! -- the Hurricanes lost starting goalie and Canadian Olympic candidate Cam Ward to a nasty cut on his leg courtesy of Rick Nash's skate blade in last Saturday's loss against Columbus -- their 12th consecutive defeat (0-9-3). The 'Canes have gone more than a month without a victory and are already 10 points out of the last playoff berth -- a huge decline for a team that's coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Team scope

Kings -- This is the second in a five-game road trip for Los Angeles. It began with a 4-1 loss at Chicago on Monday.

While the organization basks in the glow of Luc Robitaille's Hall of Fame induction on Monday, the Kings have lost two straight and scored only one goal in each game. In Monday's loss, Los Angeles managed only 18 shots on goal, including two in the third period. The Kings rank third in the League with 58 goals.

Anze Kopitar scored the Kings' lone goal on Monday, and his 14th tied injured Washington star Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL lead. Kopitar leads the NHL with 28 points, and he and linemates Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams have 51 points in 13 games.

Hurricanes -- Carolina is beginning a three-game homestand that also includes visits from the Islanders and Wild.

The spotlight is now squarely on backup goaltender Michael Leighton and newly signed Manny Legace, who will man the net for the next month while Ward is out.

Legace signed a one-year deal with the 'Canes on Monday and will start against the Kings. The 10-year veteran formerly with Los Angeles, Detroit and St. Louis, was signed after he appeared in six games with the AHL's Chicago Wolves this season, posting a 2-2-1 record with a 3.21 goals-against average. Legace, 36, has a career NHL record of 177-92-36.

“He knows that conference very well and he knows their shooters,” coach Paul Maurice said of his reasoning for starting Legace, who has spent his entire career in the  Western Conference.

Ward was hospitalized after his leg was cut by a skate in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. "From the information I've been given, it's expected to be about a month," GM Jim Rutherford said of Ward's recovery time to the Raleigh News & Observer. "I feel so bad for him. This just goes with everything else that has gone on this season."

Who's hot -- For the Hurricanes, Jussi Jokinen has 2 assists in his last two games. For the Kings, Kopitar has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last four games, Smyth has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last three games, Williams has a goal and 3 assists in his last four games, and Wayne Simmonds has 3 assists in his last three games.

Injury report ­-- Carolina left wing Michael Ryan (concussion) is on injured reserve, Staal (upper-body) and left wing Ray Whitney (upper-body) are day-to-day, and Ward is out for up to a month with a laceration to his leg. For the Kings, defenseman Alec Martinez (ankle) is on injured reserve,

Stat pack -- Hurricanes center Rod Brind'Amour is one assist shy of tying Kevin Dineen (294) for second place on the franchise's assists list. … Kopitar had 14 goals and 28 points in 18 games for the Kings. Last season, it took him 43 games (Jan. 17) to earn 28 points and 50 games (Feb. 5) to score 14 goals.

Puck drop -- "It's like they have a big cloud over them," Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock to the News & Observer of the injuries on the Hurricanes.

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