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FLAMES (27-22-9) at KINGS (27-20-11)
TV: CBC, FS-West (HD)
Last 10: Calgary 5-2-3; Los Angeles 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between these Western Conference rivals. They've split the first two, with the road team coming out on top each time. On Jan. 14 in Calgary, Jonathan Quick stopped 29 of 30 shots to lead the Kings to a 4-1 win. Five days later in Los Angeles, Olli Jokinen and Mike Cammalleri beat Quick in the tiebreaker, giving the Flames the extra point and a 2-1 shootout victory.
Big Story: Saturday night's contest at the Staples Center is about as big of a matchup two teams can play in mid-February. With a regulation win, the Flames, ninth place in the West with 63 points, can pull even with the Kings -- who entered the weekend holding the coveted eighth seed with 65 points. It will be the 59th game of the season for both teams, who are headed in different directions.
L.A., the League's lowest-scoring team with 2.07 goals per game, returned home from a 2-3-1 road trip and suffered a 1-0 loss to Phoenix on Thursday. The Kings have been blanked seven times, tied for the second-most in the NHL.
Meanwhile, the Flames have notched points in seven consecutive road games and in their last seven overall, posting a 4-0-3 record in that stretch. Miikka Kiprusoff has been excellent in goal recently, going 4-0-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average in his last six starts.
Flames: The Flames overcame two one-goal deficits Thursday night in Dallas, only to see Mike Ribeiro score an amazing goal 2:01 into overtime to send them to a 3-2 defeat. Kiprusoff made 29 saves for Calgary, whose top line continued to roll. Captain Jarome Iginla scored his team-leading 23rd goal, assisted by Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen. That trio has combined for 13 goals and 14 assists in the last seven games.
Despite the loss, coach Brent Sutter maintained a positive outlook as his club continues to climb the Western standings.
"We'll take the point," he said. "We need to be better. We're not a good enough hockey team to think we can have lapses in games. I thought we made some mistakes here tonight that we can learn from and be better at. But on the positive side, we found a way to get a point."
Kings: Thursday's shutout loss to Phoenix marked the eighth time Los Angeles was held to fewer than two goals in its last 13 games (5-5-3), and the fourth time this season that the Kings fell 1-0. Much like is expected on Saturday, the Kings' clash with the Coyotes featured playoff-like intensity -- which was reflected in the box score. The teams combined for four fights and 62 penalty minutes, with three scraps and 40 penalty minutes in the opening period alone. Anze Kopitar also tussled with Phoenix goalie Mike Smith in the first period, prompting Quick to skate all the way out to the Coyotes' blue line, though he never got involved. The ultimate result from 60 minutes of hard-fought hockey was Phoenix leapfrogging L.A. for seventh in the Western Conference.
"I've said it 100 times. This League is about having the lead and scoring the first goal. It's a big difference in the game," said coach Darryl Sutter, Brent's older brother. "They're no different than anyone else when they have the lead. I said this morning that it would be a close game, and it was. Both teams have that nature about them. If you want to say anything about a playoff atmosphere, that's what a playoff atmosphere is about."
Who's Hot: Iginla has goals in back-to-back games, while Jokinen has points in seven of his last eight, with six goals and five assists in that span. … Quick continues to singlehandedly keep the Kings in the playoff race despite their offensive woes. In his last 23 starts, the All-Star goalie has surrendered three goals or more just three times.
Injury Report: Calgary defenseman Derek Smith (ankle) and forwards Mikael Backlund (arm), David Moss (ankle), Curtis Glencross (knee), Lee Stempniak (ankle) and Blair Jones (ankle) are all on IR. … Los Angeles forward Jarret Stoll (lower body) is on IR but could be activated for Saturday's game. Simon Gagne remains sidelined with a concussion.
Stat Pack: The lone goal in the Kings' loss on Thursday was scored by Radim Vrbata with the man advantage, as Jack Johnson was serving a delay-of-game penalty for putting the puck over the glass. It was the first power-play goal allowed by Los Angeles in eight games.
Puck Drop: With the trade deadline approaching and rumors swirling, it is no secret the Kings need to greatly improve their offense if they want to be playing this spring. They have scored one or fewer goals 22 times this season and have managed just 16 goals in Quick's 15 regulation losses.
"In a game like tonight, we have to find a way to tie that game up and push it into overtime," said Quick, perhaps showing a bit of frustration after the loss to Phoenix. "We weren't able to do that … It just makes these next 20-24 games a little tougher. It's going to be a tough run and we have to find a way to win games."