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Kings aim to gain ground on Flames in playoff race

by Curtis Zupke

FLAMES (30-21-3) at KINGS (23-18-12)


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings have had to patch holes in their defense for most of the season, so this latest setback isn't anything new.

Defenseman Alec Martinez will miss his second straight game Thursday against the Calgary Flames because he is being evaluated for concussion-like symptoms. He has not been skating. The Kings recalled defenseman Derek Forbort from the American Hockey League, but Forbort did not take line rushes and won't appear to make his NHL debut.

Defensemen Robyn Regehr and Drew Doughty were partnered again as the top pair after coach Darryl Sutter put them together the previous game.

"We've been all over with moving guys around," Sutter said. "It's been an off-and-on thing the last few games. It's just more trying to get some stability in our pairs … Drew's playing a lot, so it's just getting guys with him. [Jake Muzzin], I think he's coming on again, so hopefully that's a good sign for him and [we can] basically take him away from Drew to take a little bit of that pressure off him."

The Kings are trying to climb back into the Stanley Cup Playoff picture and can take a big step against the Flames, which is five points ahead of Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. The Kings have won two straight for the first time since Dec. 18-20.

"We've been checking better and using the center of the ice," right wing Trevor Lewis said. "When you use the center of the ice, it creates more offense for us and kind of eliminates their chances. We've just got to keep going with it."

Lewis took rushes with center Anze Kopitar and left wing Marian Gaborik in a new wrinkle on the top line.

"I think everybody's used to playing with everyone in here," Lewis said. "It definitely doesn't matter to me."

Calgary has won the first three games against Los Angeles this season, including two in overtime. Ex-Calgary coach Sutter cited goalie Jonas Hiller behind a solid defense as a big part of the Flames' success.

"I think the difference in their team now is clear," Sutter said. "They went out and got a No.1 goaltender. They've haven't had one since [Miikka] Kiprusoff and now they have Hiller. It's proven. Their game has come on tremendously. It's not just something that just happened this year. That's something that's been coming, if you look at. Those four guys on the back end. Everybody's looking for the top four guys and then you get the goalie, and away you go."

Calgary is 9-3-0 in its past 12 games and comes off a win against the San Jose Sharks. The Flames have won five games in California for the first time since 1995-96 and are one win shy of tying the 1992-93 franchise record.

Flames coach Bob Hartley had not finalized his lineup but center Paul Byron and left wing Brandon Bollig are likely to go back in after they missed a game with illness, according to the Calgary Sun.

Here are the projected lineups:


Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanJiri Hudler

Lance BoumaMikael BacklundDavid Jones

Mason RaymondMatt StajanCurtis Glencross

Brandon BolligJoe Colborne - Paul Byron

Mark GiordanoTJ Brodie

Kris RussellDennis Wideman

Raphael DiazDeryk Engelland

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Injured: David Wolf (leg), Ladislav Smid (upper body)

Scratched: Corey Potter, Josh Jooris


Marian GaborikAnze KopitarTrevor Lewis

Dwight KingJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Dustin BrownJarret StollJustin Williams

Kyle CliffordNick ShoreJordan Nolan

Robyn RegehrDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinMatt Greene

Brayden McNabbJamie McBain

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Injured: Alec Martinez (concussion symptoms), Tanner Pearson (leg)

Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Derek Forbort

Suspended: Slava Voynov

Status report: Quick was off the ice first … Backlund and Hudler reportedly did not skate but are expected to play.

Who's hot: Hiller is 5-2-0 with a 1.79 goals-against average in his past seven starts. He is 4-0-1 in his past five games against the Kings. Carter had his 11th multipoint game this season and Brown had his 30th career game-winning goal Monday.

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