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Kings make rare trip to Pittsburgh

by Sergei J. Feldman /
KINGS (29-22-2) at PENGUINS (34-17-4)

TV — NHLN-US (HD), FS-W (HD), FS-P (HD).

Last 10 — Los Angeles 6-3-1; Pittsburgh 7-3-0.

Season series — The two cross-conference opponents don't see one another frequently and will go at it for the first time this season. The Kings got the better of the Pens last season at, 5-2, in what was one of their signature wins, while the Pens bested the Kings two seasons ago, 4-1.

Big story — There's been plenty of news surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins of late, including Sidney Crosby’s ongoing absence while recovering from a concussion, Evgeni Malkin’s recent knee injury which will require surgery and keep him out the rest of the season and Matt Cooke's four-game suspension after a hit-from-behind on Columbus Blue Jackets' defenseman Fedor Tyutin. All the while, the Kings have quietly recovered from a recent stretch of poor hockey.

Team scope:

Kings — After going 2-8-0 stretch to start the month of January, the Kings have come on strong of late and resembled the kind of team many people expected them to be while going 5-0-1 thereafter. Still, staring the Kings in the face is a grueling 10-game road trip which could be a defining stretch in the 2010-11 campaign. So far, so good for the Kings as they've collected five out of a possible six points to begin the grind and will skate into Consol Energy Center well rested, with four days off since their last outing in Calgary. Despite the recent success, the Kings are feeling the pain from their mid-season slump and sit just outside the Western Conference playoff race. Forward Justin Williams praised the team's effort after an important 4-3 win over the Flames.

"We have to make that next step," he said. "[The Flames game] was a statement game. We won. We weren't at our best at times, but we need to keep pushing forward. Hopefully this is something big for us to start."

Penguins — The Penguins were able to weather the storm without Jordan Staal for much of the year, then did so without Sidney Crosby and then again for a bit without "The Big Three." That success has been put to a halt the past two games after a 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals and 4-1 loss to Columbus at home. Still, despite the losses, the Penguins bring a formidable defensive unit to the ice night in and night out. Led by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, the Pens are second in the League behind Boston in goals allowed per game and first in the League in penalty killing. Those strengths figure to come in to play against the Kings and their potent lineup. Regardless, injuries won’t be an excuse.

"I'm not going to play any different just because [Crosby and Malkin] are out and I don't think anybody else should either," forward Tyler Kennedy said after the Penguins' recent loss to the Blue Jackets.
Who's hot — The Pens have had to rely on secondary scoring and have been led by Kennedy's points in three of his past five games, while the Kings have leaned on goalie Jonathan Quick, who has wins in five consecutive starts.

Injury report — The Kings bring a healthy lineup against the Penguins save for Marco Sturm who remains day-to-day with a knee injury, while in addition to the losses of Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins’ Chris Kunitz, Arron Asham and Mark Letestu remain sidelined.

Stat pack — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma seeks his 100th win behind the bench. He currently sits one shy with 99 wins.

Puck drop — Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi will make his first return to Pittsburgh since winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2008-09.

"It's been a while," he said. "But it should still be fun to go back to Pittsburgh. I spent five years there, so I'm sure a lot of memories will come back once we get there."

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