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Quick has Kings resembling familiar playoff model

by Brian Compton

The Los Angeles Kings are rolling four lines and getting sensational goaltending from Jonathan Quick.

They're essentially playing like the Kings we've become accustomed to watching in the spring. Yet we're only a few days into 2016.

The Kings (25-11-2), who sit atop the Pacific Division, go for their sixth straight win when they face the Colorado Avalanche (18-18-3) at Pepsi Center on Monday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012, has a 1.40 goals-against average, a .954 save percentage and one shutout during the win streak. And they've played this well without forward Jeff Carter, who sustained an upper-body injury Dec. 26. Carter was leading the Kings with 28 points in 34 games.

''We're just a determined team here," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty told The Orange County Register. ''We want to win every single game. We want to be first place in our division and first place in the conference too. It feels good winning. When you come to the rink on a winning streak everything is just so much more fun."

Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla still is pursuing his 600th NHL goal; Monday will provide him his fourth chance to do so. Iginla has two goals in the past 15 games.

Here are other games that should garner plenty of attention:

Tuesday, Jan. 5: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG-B, BELL TV) -- The Panthers bring their franchise-record nine-game winning streak to Buffalo, which has lost four in a row. They extended their streak with a 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. "It's fun to be around the rink,"???Panthers captain Willie Mitchell said. "Guys should be enjoying it but also learning from it and kind of knowing what we're doing to make ourselves successful and continue with that."

Tuesday, Jan. 5: Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; SN1, SNO, SNP, CSN-CH, ROOT) -- The Blackhawks made it three in a row and 10 of their past 14 (10-4-0) with a 3-0 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford got the shutout, his fourth in the past 10 games. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has scored in three straight games and four of the past five since returning from a lower-body injury.

Thursday, Jan. 7: Washington Capitals at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN360, CSN-DC, MSG+) -- It's the first game between the Capitals and Islanders since their physical, seven-game series in the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders could be without defenseman Johnny Boychuk for an extended period of time because of an upper-body injury. The Capitals have a 10-point lead on the Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division.

Saturday, Jan. 9: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, FS-SW) -- It's a Central Division showdown at American Airlines Center, where the Stars are 16-4-0 this season. Wild coach Mike Yeo moved Jason Zucker to the top line Sunday alongside Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu and it paid off; Zucker scored the Wild's only goal in a loss at Florida. Neither Tyler Seguin nor Jamie Benn had a point in the Stars' 6-5 loss at the Islanders on Sunday.


James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Toronto's leading scorer extended his point streak to six games Saturday; he has seven goals since Dec. 8, a span of 10 games.

"I think he's skating better," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "He's more physical, he's more physical with the puck. He's going to the net harder. I just think he's playing a better game. He's been better defensively and he's back-checking better.

"I really like what's going on with him. He's been getting better in five-game segments and doing more things than just scoring. With each and every player you have a development plan for them to get better and you try to help get them better. He's been great."

Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Remember when Saad went 11 games without a goal? He leads the Blue Jackets with 16 goals and is tied with Scott Hartnell for the lead with 29 points. He extended his point streak to seven games Saturday with two goals against the Capitals; he has six goals and five assists during his streak. The Blue Jackets are 5-1-0 when Saad has a multipoint game.

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks -- The Sharks are having trouble winning games at home (5-11-0), but Thornton is putting up points regardless of venue. He had an assist on the Sharks' goal in a 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at SAP Center on Saturday, extending his point streak to eight games; he has three goals and eight assists during that span.


Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers -- Expected to build on his terrific rookie season when he had 17 goals and 28 assists in 79 games, Hayes has struggled and was a healthy scratch for a second straight game Saturday, a 3-0 loss at Florida. He has gone 16 games without a goal and has three assists during that stretch.

"I think it has to be clear that Kevin Hayes the person I think is a great kid," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the New York Post. "I really enjoy him. The hockey player right now is not totally doing it for me. Two different things. But the hockey player the last little while has been focusing on his game, trying to improve. I'm confident that he's going to do that. And we need him. He's a good player. He needs to find his game."

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers -- Couturier has found his offensive game since being placed on a line with Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. After going five straight games without a point, Couturier has three goals and four assists in his past seven.

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning -- "The Triplets" have had issues staying on the ice this season but they're healthy and Kucherov is flourishing. Back with linemates Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, Kucherov has an eight-game point streak during which he has three goals and nine assists. Palat returned Saturday after missing eight games because of a lower-body injury.


St. Louis Blues forward Patrik Berglund played his first game in nearly eight months Saturday at Toronto. Berglund, who had 12 goals and 15 assists last season and four points in six Stanley Cup Playoff games, had shoulder surgery in late August. "The goal is to keep playing games and get ready for the playoffs," Berglund told the Blues website. "It's time for us to find a way in the playoffs. That's going to be the main focus, getting us all ready to compete on a high-level. This team is really, really good and I'm really excited to come in and help." … Capitals forward Jay Beagle had hand surgery Saturday and is expected to miss six weeks. … Panthers goalie Al Montoya doesn't get to play much but he's sure making the most of his time. Montoya made 39 saves Sunday and in nine games is 6-1-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage. … After going 2-0-1 despite scoring three goals during a three-game road trip, the Anaheim Ducks returned home and beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 on Sunday. Anaheim is 4-0-2 in its past six games and has moved into third place in the Pacific Division. "We're not out of the woods yet but we're certainly playing better," coach Bruce Boudreau told the Ducks website. "We're not satisfied. Sure we've put together a little run. But we need to stay above the graph, as I like to say."


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