Avalanche-Kings Preview

An injury to goaltender Jonathan Quick last month could have

been a blow to the Los Angeles Kings, but their backups have been

solid behind a potent offense during the team’s recent surge.

Los Angeles seeks its ninth victory in 10 games overall while

looking to avenge an earlier loss to the visiting Colorado

Avalanche on Saturday.

Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy while guiding the Kings to

the Stanley Cup title in 2012, suffered a groin injury in overtime

of a shootout loss to Buffalo on Nov. 12. Though he’s been skating

recently, there’s no timetable for his return.

Ben Scrivens and undrafted rookie Martin Jones have filled in

nicely for Los Angeles (24-8-4), which has gone 13-2-3 while

allowing a league-low 1.33 goals per game since Quick’s injury.

Colorado’s goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien

Giguere has also excelled this season, save for a stretch in which

Varlamov lost four of six starts following his arrest on domestic

violence charges stemming from an Oct. 30 incident with his

girlfriend. Denver prosecutors announced Friday that they are

dropping the case, saying they have new information leading them to

believe they couldn’t win a conviction.

Jones has been especially stellar for the Kings since his NHL

debut Dec. 3 against Anaheim, posting three shutouts while starting

seven of the Kings’ last eight games. Scrivens was in net for their

only loss this month, a 3-1 defeat at Chicago in which he made 37

saves.

Jones has a 0.85 goals-against average after stopping 31 shots

in Thursday’s 4-1 win over San Jose and will look to match Bob

Froese’s NHL-record 8-0-0 start to a career set in 1982-83 the next

time he’s in net.

“I’m happy with the way I’ve played thus far, but we’ve still

got two games until the (Christmas) break,” Jones said. “It’s fun,

but we want to make sure we finish out these games the right

way.”

Fellow rookie Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist against the

Sharks. Los Angeles has outscored opponents 30-11 over its last

nine, ranking near the top of the league in scoring with 3.33 goals

per game in that stretch.

“It’s not a real surprise to me,” Toffoli said of Jones’ play.

“He’s just a big goalie, and he’s always in the right spot.”

Scrivens was between the pipes the last time the Kings faced

Colorado, making 32 saves before Jamie McGinn scored in overtime to

give the Avalanche a 1-0 win Nov. 23.

Varlamov stopped 19 shots in that contest, and he made 27 saves

Thursday to help Colorado (23-10-1) earn a 4-2 win over Edmonton.

He’s won two straight starts following a stretch in which he went

1-2-1 with a 3.63 GAA.

“It was an important win for us,” coach Patrick Roy said. “You

don’t want to use words like ‘crucial’ or ‘must-win,’ but it was an

important two points for us.”

Matt Duchene had two assists and added an empty-netter, giving

him four goals and six assists over his last five games. He totaled

just one assist over his previous eight contests, missing three in

that stretch with an oblique injury.

“I just got back to doing what I was doing before I got hurt,”

Duchene said. “I was in a huge slump before this so you just stick

with it to try and get back to basics. You just want to keep it

going here.”

Maxime Talbot added a short-handed goal for the Avalanche, who

have killed off 10 of 11 penalties over the last four games.

“Every time you get a goal on a PK it’s always huge,” Talbot

said.

Though the Kings have been solid 5-on-5, they’ve gone just 3 for

43 (7.0 percent) on the power play over their last 14 games.

Colorado has won six of the last eight meetings.