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Kings hoping to finish strong before Olympic break

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. --  The Los Angeles Kings are down to one game before the hiatus for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and going out on a high note won't be easy.

The Kings on Thursday play the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have won 11 of 14 games and vaulted back into contention for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Los Angeles is 1-8-1 in its past 10 games and finally saw the consequences when the Minnesota Wild leapfrogged them for sixth place in the Western Conference.

"It's points that we need and we haven't been getting enough of them lately," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "Against a good team at home that's playing well, I think the main thing is we need the points."

The Kings are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks that represented their first three-goal game since a Jan. 21 loss to Columbus. Los Angeles turned in a dominating second period, and coach Darryl Sutter has said he’s happy with the direction his team has gone.

"I haven't had a problem for quite a while," Sutter said after an up-tempo morning skate Thursday.

Sutter, a slave to routine and schedule, pointed out that this week saw the Kings have their first two-day break between games since Jan. 14-15. Whether they can use that energy remains to be seen, but they don't seem flustered by the past three weeks.

"We've got a good veteran group in here," forward Trevor Lewis said. "We know how to pull ourselves out and we know we need to start [doing that]. I think teams are gaining on us a little bit. If we step it up now it's kind of like playoff hockey. We need to get into that mindset."

Jonathan Quick will be in goal for the Kings for the 16th time in 17 games since returning from a groin injury.

Here are the projected lineups:


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nathan Horton

Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - RJ Umberger

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski

Nikita Nikitin - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Tim Erixon, Blake Comeau

Injured: Marian Gaborik (collarbone), Jared Boll (ankle surgery)


Tyler Toffoli - Anze Kopitar - Jeff Carter

Dustin Brown - Mike Richards - Justin Williams

Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Matt Frattin

Willie Mitchell - Drew Doughty

Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov

Jake Muzzin - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Jordan Nolan

Injured: Alec Martinez (elbow)

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