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Kings can still climb as they face Avalanche

by Matthew Mankiewich
KINGS (45-27-9) at AVALANCHE (43-30-8)

Last 10 --
Los Angeles 3-3-4; Colorado 3-5-2

Season series -- Final game of the regular season for both playoff-bound teams, with each of the previous three going to the home team. The last two meetings, a home-and-home in late March, were particularly interesting in that both games saw the visiting team came back from two goals down to force overtime only to have the home team eventually prevail.

Big story -- Both teams may be in the playoffs, but that doesn't mean the seedings are set yet. As of early Saturday evening, the Avs were locked in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, Vancouver and Phoenix were set for third and fourth, and that was about it. The Kings can steal the fifth seed from the Red Wings with a win and a Red Wings loss of any kind. If both lose, the Predators can leapfrog them into fifth with a win.

Team scope:

Kings --
They don't play on Manchester Boulevard anymore, but April 10 marked the anniversary of the "Miracle on Manchester" in which the Kings completed the largest comeback in NHL playoff history back in 1982, overcoming a 5-0 deficit to beat the Oilers in overtime, 6-5, in Game 3 of their first-round series. Consider that the Oilers of those days were the Gretzky-Messier-Coffey-Kurri Oilers and the Kings finished 48 points behind them that year. Those Kings would eventually topple the mighty Oilers in a five-game series.

These present-day Oilers built a 3-0 lead by the third period, but Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Michal Handzus came back with scores to tie it, only to lose in the shootout, 4-3.

"We need to realize that you can't just turn it on, come Wednesday or Thursday of next week," Sean O'Donnell said to the Kings' Web site. "We're still undisciplined and we're still losing some checks, but the main thing that I see is the penalties. Come the playoffs, you can't be taking five, six, seven penalties a game. It's got to be three, or maybe four at the most.”  

Avalanche -- With the playoff spot nailed down, the emphasis is naturally on getting ready for whichever opponent they face. The Avs could face the Blackhawks in the first round, a team they lost to 5-2 at home on Friday night. Calder Trophy candidate Matt Duchene was hurt in that game.

He left after playing 5:18 of the first period and went to a local hospital for tests on a torso injury apparently sustained against Wednesday in Edmonton on a hit by Oilers forward Zack Stortini.

"It happened in the Edmonton game, and kind of flared up again (Friday) night," coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. "He did go to the hospital for precautionary measures and stayed overnight. He was discharged (Saturday) morning.

"He's got some time to rest up and get better. If we're playing Wednesday or Thursday, hopefully he'll be ready to go."

Sacco rested several regulars against the Hawks, including goalie Craig Anderson, but plans on going with a full lineup Sunday.

Who's hot --
Brown has been hot just about every other game lately. After scoring a hat trick last Thursday, he's alternated two-point and scoreless outings for a total of eight points in his last five. Anze Kopitar leads both teams head-to-head this season with five points in three games. … Paul Stastny has a five-game points streak going, picking up two goals and four assists in that span.

Injury report --
While Duchene appears likely to sit out just the season finale, the status of Peter Mueller (concussion), the Avs' hottest scorer down the stretch, appears less clear. Sacco said the forward was "feeling much better" Friday and may be ready to go when the playoffs begin. Forward T.J. Galiardi (torso) sat out Friday's game and is questionable for Sunday.

Stat pack -- At 2-0-1, the Kings are on their way to their first series win against the Avs since 2006-07, when they went 3-1-0. Their 55 shots on Edmonton eclipsed their previous season high of 52.

Puck drop -- Kings goalie Jonathan Quick may or may not have one last chance to get his 40th win.

"It does mean something, so that's something I need to think about," coach Terry Murray said. "The 40 (wins) number, it doesn't have meaning to me and I hope (it doesn't) to him. It's important that we get a win under our belt, going in the right way."

Quick, asked whether he would request to play in the game, said: "It doesn't bother you. There's no reason it should. As a team, and me personally, we've won plenty of games and we're going to win more, so it doesn't affect you at all. If I were to play, that wouldn't be the reason. I'll discuss it with Terry and go from there."

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