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Kings have chance to move back into Pacific lead

Los Angeles needs win against Calgary to pass Anaheim for first in division

by Abbey Mastracco / Correspondent

FLAMES (32-39-6) at KINGS (45-26-5)

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-W, NHL.TV

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings can move back into first place in the Pacific Division with a win Thursday against the Calgary Flames at Staples Center.

The Kings have 95 points, one behind the Anaheim Ducks who defeated the Flames 8-3 on Wednesday.

The Kings are expecting a battle of emotions and wills from the Flames and are wary of offensive-minded young players.

"They're going to be playing hard to try and get a spot on the team next year," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "A lot of them are pretty highly-skilled offensive players, so they're going to be looking to score goals and make plays. They're guys that we haven't seen a lot, so we're not familiar with a lot of these guys and not sure what they bring to the table."

However, Kings coach Darryl Sutter is familiar with one of those young players, Calgary native Hunter Shinkaruk, as Sutter is a friend of Shinkaruk's father Roger, a dentist for the Calgary Hitmen. Shinkaruk scored his first NHL goal against the Ducks on Wednesday and has a point in each of his two NHL games.

Despite the new blood in the Flames' lineup, Sutter isn't expecting any different structure than what the Kings have already seen this season.

"They're a high-end offensive team," Sutter said. "Those three defensemen -- (Mark) Giordano, (Dougie) Hamilton and (TJ) Brodie -- they've contributed a lot to the offense. And then down the middle with (Sean) Monahan, (Sam) Bennett and (Mikael) Backlund, those are six dominant players right there."

The Kings are one win away from tying the franchise record for the most in a season. They have hit the 46-win mark four previous times, including their 2013-14 Stanley Cup season.

Calgary lost its 23rd consecutive regular season game at Honda Center on Wednesday to match an NHL record. The Flames, who did not hold a morning skate Thursday, are hoping a short memory helps them bounce back against Los Angeles.

"It's definitely frustrating, but at the same time you can't dwell on it," Brodie said. "You've got to put it in the past and move on."

Here are the projected lineups:

Derek Grant - Sean Monahan - Hunter Shinkaruk
Michael Ferland - Sam Bennett - Joe Colborne
Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Emile Poirier
Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Josh Jooris

TJ Brodie - Dougie Hamilton
Mark Giordano - Deryk Engelland
Brett Kulak - Jakub Nakladal

Joni Ortio
Jonas Hiller

Injured: Karri Ramo (ACL), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Jyrki Jokipakka (undisclosed), Johnny Gaudreau (upper body), Michael Frolik (lower body), Dennis Wideman (triceps)
Scratched: Niklas Backstrom

Tanner Pearson - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Milan Lucic - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Nic Dowd - Andy Andreoff

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez
Rob Scuderi - Luke Schenn

Jonathan Quick
Jhonas Enroth

Injured: Matt Greene (shoulder), Marian Gaborik (knee), Jordan Nolan (undisclosed), Kris Versteeg (foot)
Scratched: Nick Shore

Status report: Quick did not take the ice but is still expected to start as Enroth stayed on the ice late with the inactive skaters. He is one win away from tying his career high and the Kings' franchise record of 39. … Gaudreau and Jokipakka were the only two players to take the ice for the Flames. Calgary coach Bob Hartley said they will be game-time decisions. … Ortio is expected to start for Calgary. He is 1-3-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .932 save percentage against Los Angeles.

Who's hot: Giordano has 10 points in the past nine games. Brodie has a goal in each of the past two games. Monahan has four points in the past two games. Hamilton has seven points in the past six games. … Lucic has four points in the past two games and eight points in 10 games against the Flames. Kopitar has 28 points in 39 games against the Flames. Toffoli has six points in the past four games.

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