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Kings-Canadiens Preview

GAME: Los Angeles Kings (16-10-1) at Montreal Canadiens (14-7-5).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Montreal Canadiens, losers of a season-high four straight games, will again be without several key regulars when they host the Los Angeles Kings.

The Canadiens failed to hold a third-period lead and lost their fourth straight, 3-2 to visiting Buffalo in overtime on Thursday. Michael Ryder had a goal and assist for Montreal, which has lost six of its last seven games (1-4-2).

Missing from Montreal's lineup Thursday were captain Saku Koivu, right wing Alexei Kovalev and defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov.

"The guys know that when guys are injured, we have to step it up," Ryder said. "We never really got the breaks tonight and they managed to get a late goal there."

Koivu missed his first game of the season with a groin injury, suffered during practice Wednesday. He is listed as day-to-day.

Markov served the second of a three-game suspension for allegedly shoving a linesman following Saturday's 4-3 loss in Toronto. Kovalev has been sidelined three weeks following knee surgery, and Komisarek is with his family in New York following the death of his mother.

One player that did return to the lineup Thursday for the Canadiens was defenseman Sheldon Souray, who missed the previous four games with a groin injury.

Without Koivu, Kovalev and Markov, Montreal needs struggling forwards Radek Bonk and Mike Ribeiro to contribute offensively.

Bonk hasn't scored a goal in his last 34 regular-season games, including 19 this season, while Ribeiro has one goal in his last 16 contests.

Facing the Kings at home should help the Canadiens, who are 45-8-11 all-time at home against Los Angeles, including 14-2-2 over the past 18 seasons.

The Kings lost their season-high third straight, 5-1 at league-leading Ottawa on Friday.

It was the fourth defeat in five games for Los Angeles, which is 0-2 on a four-game road trip that concludes Tuesday at Toronto.

With Jason LaBarbera starting in goal Friday, Mathieu Garon is expected to start against his former team Saturday.

Garon, who had a personal four-game win streak snapped Wednesday against Chicago, spent parts of four seasons as Jose Theodore's backup in Montreal before he was traded to Los Angeles in June 2004.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 2): Kings - 33 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Pacific Division. Canadiens - 33 points, 2nd place (tied), 7 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Pavol Demitra, 14 goals, 22 assists and 36 points; Sean Avery, 106 PIM. Canadiens - Ryder, 11 goals; Koivu, 18 assists and 26 points; Markov, 44 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 2): Kings - Power play: 15.1 percent (27 for 178), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (135 for 164), 16th. Canadiens - Power play: 18.2 percent (30 for 164), 12th. Penalty killing: 80.3 percent (139 for 173), 23rd (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Kings - Garon (8-5-0, 0 SO, 2.97 GAA); LaBarbera (8-5-1, 2.89). Canadiens - Theodore (11-5-5, 3.02); Cristobal Huet (no appearances).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: March 6, 2004; Canadiens, 4-2. At Los Angeles, Garon made a career-high 46 saves, and Richard Zednik had two goals and an assist to lead Montreal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 6-6-1 on the road; Canadiens - 8-4-2 at home.

Associated Press
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