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Flames host Kings, chase seventh straight win

by Brian Hunter
KINGS (28-22-2) at FLAMES (26-21-6)

TV: CBC (HD), FS-West (HD)

Last 10:
Los Angeles 5-4-1; Calgary 8-1-1

Season series: Third of four meetings this season. The home team has won the first two, with the recently-retired Craig Conroy scoring the decisive goal in a 3-1 Calgary victory on Oct. 10, and Anze Kopitar's power-play strike the difference as Los Angeles prevailed 2-1 on Dec. 9.

Big story:
While the Flames have been on the longer tear, the Kings have also kicked it back into gear lately with a 4-0-1 mark in their last five games. As a result, both teams enter this game just one point out in the Western Conference playoff race.

Team Scope:

One night after Jonathan Bernier was credited with a shutout but Los Angeles still lost 1-0 to Minnesota in a shootout, the Kings' offense woke up and helped Jonathan Quick to a 3-1 win over the Oilers. Quick stopped 32 shots and Ryan Smyth scored a pair of second-period power-play goals -- or did he? The official scorer in Edmonton, where Smyth began his career, credited him on the pair of scores that turned a brief 1-0 deficit into a lead Los Angeles wouldn't relinquish, but upon further review it was determined Smyth didn't get a stick on either puck blasted by defenseman Drew Doughty and the goals were eventually awarded to him instead.

"I thought we had good movement," said defenseman Jack Johnson, who added an insurance goal in the third. "Guys were shooting when they could, and I thought that was the biggest thing. I thought we moved well, and moved the puck well. Everyone was in sync."

Flames: This marks the beginning of a four-game homestand for Calgary, which will be looking for its seventh consecutive victory. The Flames came out of the All-Star break by sweeping a brief road trip through Nashville and Atlanta. Thursday's 4-2 win was their first in seven trips to Atlanta, where they played from 1972-80 before moving to Alberta. Mikael Backlund broke a tie with 5:57 remaining and Miikka Kiprusoff continued his strong play of late with 22 saves.

"We have to keep this going," said defenseman Mark Giordano, who opened the scoring. "There are some big conference games coming up. We're finding ways to win close games.

"We've been a good team all year. We feel like we have a strong team. Now is the perfect time to move up in the standings."

Who's hot:
Quick has won his last four starts for the Kings while posting a .949 save percentage. … Brendan Morrison has 4 goals and 3 assists during a six-game points streak for the Flames. Kiprusoff has won his last five starts while posting a .939 save percentage.

Injury report:
Los Angeles forwards Marco Sturm (knee) and Scott Parse (hip) are on injured reserve. … Calgary forward Niklas Hagman (undisclosed) is day-to-day, while defenseman Steve Staios (upper body) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck) and Raitis Ivanans (concussion) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Conroy, who announced his retirement Friday, played the last 10 seasons of his career for the Flames (two stints) and Kings. He finishes with career totals of 182 goals and 542 points in 1,009 games played, also wearing the sweaters of the Canadiens and the Blues.

Puck drop:
It's now the Scotiabank Saddledome instead of the Pengrowth Saddledome, but to Los Angeles it's just a house of horrors. The Flames have won 10 consecutive games there between these teams dating back to the last Kings' victory on Dec. 21, 2005.

"It's been a very hard building for us to come in and play in," coach Terry Murray said after Thursday's practice. "They've got a team that digs in and are gritty. They play a way, in here, that we've had problems with. It's real important for us to continue on with the game we showed in the third period. We've got to continue to build and play a solid game here Saturday."

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