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Kings start Eastern road trip by facing Sabres

by David Kalan

KINGS (11-6-0) at SABRES (3-15-1)


Last 10: Los Angeles 7-3-0; Buffalo 2-8-0

Season series: The Los Angeles Kings beat the Buffalo Sabres, 2-0, in their only previous game this season on Nov. 7 at Staples Center. Their meeting Tuesday night in Buffalo will be the final time the two teams face off in 2013-14.

Big story: After facing off just five days earlier, the Kings and Sabres will wrap up their season series on Tuesday as Los Angeles opens up a four-game road trip through the East.

Team scope:

Kings: With wins in 10 of their last 14 games, few teams in the NHL can claim to be playing as well as the Kings, but it just so happens those few teams might all be in Los Angeles' division. Despite a record that would have them either tied or near first place in either Eastern Conference division, the Kings are currently fifth in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division, with a nine-point gap separating themselves from the first-place Anaheim Ducks.

If the stiff competition in the Western Conference is a problem, the Kings have a ripe opportunity to pick up ground on their rivals. L.A. opens a four-game road trip Tuesday night that will pit it against the Sabres, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, four teams with a combined 23-39-9 record.

The Kings had as good a launching point for their impending road swing as one could hope for, beating the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1, Saturday night, courtesy of a three-point night by center Tyler Toffoli, who is only on the roster due to injuries.

"I'm trying to earn my spot on the team," Toffoli said. "I'm just trying to stay in the lineup, so we'll see how things keep going."

Sabres: The Sabres are returning home from a three-game road trip through California, which started with an impressive 5-4 shootout win against the San Jose Sharks, but ended with consecutive losses at Los Angeles and Anaheim. Despite the four-goal outburst in San Jose, however, Buffalo's struggles remain. That win was the first time all season the Sabres had scored four goals in a game, and they're averaging just 1.63 goals per outing, the second-lowest figure in the League.

While the Sabres remain in the League basement with just seven points in 19 games, they will be getting reinforcements Tuesday night, as John Scott is expected to return to the lineup following a seven-game suspension for an illegal hit on Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will be back after missing Buffalo's last game with a lower-body injury.

Defenseman Mike Weber, who has missed seven games with a thumb injury, practiced with the team Monday, but may not be in the lineup Tuesday night.

"He's close," coach Ron Rolston said Monday. "I doubt that [he'll be ready Tuesday]. Today was his first day of practice."

After hosting the Kings on Tuesday, the Sabres will have a home-and-home this weekend with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Who's hot: In his first two games back from injury, Kings center Mike Richards totaled two goals and three assists. … Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko has two goals and an assist in the past three games.

Injury report: Center Jarret Stoll (upper body) and defenseman Matt Greene (upper body) are both questionable for the Kings after missing two games, while center Jeff Carter (lower body) is on injured reserve. … Ehrhoff (lower body) told media on Monday afternoon that he is ready to return after missing Buffalo's game against the Anaheim Ducks this past Friday. Weber (thumb) skated with the team on Monday, but his return is uncertain.

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