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Montr?al Canadiens vs. Los Angeles Kings

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GAME: Montreal Canadiens (35-26-6-2) at Los Angeles Kings (25-18-16-7).

TIME: Saturday, 10 p.m. EST.

This is not the type of impact Alexei Kovalev was hoping to make with the Montreal Canadiens.

After suffering a shoulder injury in his Canadiens debut, Kovalev will likely be out of action when the surging Canadiens meet the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

Kovalev, sent to Montreal on Wednesday as part of the New York Rangers' roster overhaul, absorbed what he described as a mild shoulder separation during the Canadiens' 4-3 win at Phoenix on Friday.

The right wing, anxious to help Montreal's postseason push after a disappointing campaign with the Rangers, is listed as day-to-day.

"I feel like it's not going to take that long," said Kovalev, who was picked up in exchange for prospect Josef Balej and a second-round draft pick. "I had a separation in that left shoulder, it was separated a lot worse than I had now. You can see I'm moving my arm and everything, so it feels more like a bruise."

The Russian forward was hurt when he extended his right arm to reach for a puck along the boards, and Coyotes forward Shane Doan crashed into him in the second period.

The Canadiens picked up a point on sixth-place New Jersey in the Eastern Conference playoff race, moving within three points of the defending Stanley Cup champions. Montreal is five points in front of the eighth-place New York Islanders.

Kings coach Andy Murray knows his team has little room for error if it hopes to hold on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles, which holds the eighth and final postseason spot, has been inconsistent of late, winning just one of its last four (1-2-1-1).

The Kings have won consecutive games just once in the last month and a half, raising concern from Murray, who watched what he perceived to be a lackluster effort in Thursday's 1-1 tie with Minnesota.

"We played like a team that was looking at a team quite a bit below us in the standings. And as soon as you start doing that, you're in trouble," Murray said.

Luc Robitaille provided the only offense Thursday, scoring his 18th goal of the season and the 649th of his career in the first period.

Kings center Martin Straka returned to action after missing 23 games due to arthroscopic surgery on both knees.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 78 points, 4th place, 8 PB, Northeast Division. Kings - 73 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 22 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 37 assists and 55 points; Darren Langdon, 119 PIM. Kings - Alexander Frolov, 20 goals; Jozef Stumpel, 26 assists; Robitaille, 43 points; Sean Avery, 230 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 4): Canadiens - Power play: 17.9 percent (49 for 274), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (208 for 256), 26th. Kings - Power play: 13.8 percent (40 for 289), 26th. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (234 for 289), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Jose Theodore (28-24-5, 6 SO, 2.15 GAA); Mathieu Garon (7-4-1, 2.44). Kings - Cristobal Huet (7-8-10, 3, 2.47); Mathieu Chouinard (0-0-0, 0.00).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 8, 2003; Kings, 2-1. At Los Angeles, Ryan Flinn scored his first career goal and Jamie Storr made 27 saves as the Kings earned a split in the season series.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 16-15-2-2 on the road; Kings - 13-9-9-1 at home.


Associated Press
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