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Doughty feeling strong, confident

by Curtis Zupke
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – At first glance, it would appear that coach Darryl Sutter has sparked something in Drew Doughty.

The Los Angeles Kings defenseman has 5 points with a plus-3 rating in five games under Sutter. He also looks more active with 18 shots on goal and only 10 giveaways in that span going into Saturday's game against Vancouver.

But Doughty said he's felt a lot better for a few weeks.

"I feel like my last 15 games I've played really well," said Doughty, who has tied a career-high with points in five straight games. "Even when (former coach) Terry (Murray) was still here, I was playing some real good hockey. The points were going in for me. Since Darryl got here, the points started to happen so I feel that people are thinking that I'm playing better, but at the same time they don't realize the other things I was doing to get points.

"I felt like maybe I was struggling for a little bit there, but the last 15 games I don't think I've had a bad game."

Doughty missed training camp because of a lengthy contract negotiation and then he hurt his shoulder. It wasn't until the Nov.26 game against Chicago that he began to get back to really being physical.

"Coming back from a shoulder injury, that was tough to do. I came back slow but I definitely got my legs back under me."

Doughty also said he's ready to re-assume his role as a team leader.

"I just realized this team wants to be where we think we should be, every one of us needs to step up our game," he said. "That starts from our top players and I expect myself to be a top player every night. So I know I need to lead this team on and off the ice. If I do that, everyone will kind of pull up their socks and we'll turn this team around."

Kings power play struggling: Sutter is charged with improving the Kings' power play, which has converted only twice in its past 12 games (2-for-42).

Sutter interrupted a question about it to opine that he's seeing good things.

"Our power play's awesome," Sutter said. "Other than the 5-on-3 in the two games we just played ... in Chicago we had six minutes on the power play in the first period and had 12 shots. The next part is you and me tipping one in."

Sutter and the Kings will have their hands full against a seventh-ranked Vancouver penalty killing unit. He used a basketball analogy to describe what they need to do.

"The one thing we're trying to do more is get guys in the middle of the ice," he said. "We're a real perimeter power play – fadeaway jumpers."

Intriguing matchup: Saturday's game features a hot Canucks team, with the No.1-ranked power play, against a Kings team that is 3-0-2 under Sutter with the fourth-ranked penalty killing unit.

"At the beginning of the season, everybody predicted this was going to be one of the better teams in our conference," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think a lot of people still feel that way. There’s a lot of talent, a lot of upside on that team, and it's going to be a good game for us."

Higgins update: Vigneault said forward Chris Higgins is taking antibiotics for what is believed to be a staph infection in his hand.

"I think they're going to see how that reacts this morning, and if it's good, I think him and David (Booth) might skate today," Vigneault said. "Then we'll see how they'll react today and tomorrow."

Luongo vs. Quick: Roberto Luongo will start against Jonathan Quick. Including the playoffs, Luongo is 6-1-1 in his last eight starts against L.A. Quick is 3-7-1 lifetime in the regular season against the Canucks, but carries a 2.17 goals-against average in those 11 games.

Here are the lines and pairings:

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond-Ryan Kesler-Jannik Hansen
Dale Weise-Cody Hodgson-Andrew Ebbett
Mark Mancari-Manny Malhotra-Maxim Lapierre

Kevin Bieksa-Dan Hamhuis
Alex Edler-Sami Salo
Keith Ballard-Andrew Alberts

Brad Richardson-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Andrei Loktionov-Mike Richards-Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Trent Hunter

Drew Doughty-Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson-Matt Greene

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