Kings-Avalanche Preview

The Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings are sputtering in

the Western Conference playoff race.

The Avalanche have made the first move to begin trying to change

that, and another meeting with the Kings may prove beneficial.

With Steve Downie expected to make his team debut, the Avalanche

look to complete their first season sweep of Los Angeles in 19

years Wednesday night at Pepsi Center.

Colorado (29-27-4) is 11th in the West, four points back of the

Kings (27-21-12) for the eighth and final postseason position. Both

clubs, however, are enduring rough stretches to improve their

respective positions.

The Avalanche are 3-6-2 since a 3-1 victory at Los Angeles on

Jan. 21.

The Kings followed that meeting with a pair of victories, but

then went on to drop seven of the next nine (2-5-2) after blowing a

three-goal, first-period lead to fall 5-4 in a shootout at Phoenix

on Tuesday.

Colorado, though, feels it’s made a move to improve its

postseason chances, acquiring Downie from Tampa Bay in a deal that

sent defenseman Kyle Quincey to Detroit.

Downie had 12 goals and 16 assists while compiling a minus-15

rating for the Lightning. The right wing is also known for his

toughness, collecting 500 penalty minutes over the past three

seasons to rank second to only Ottawa’s Zenon Konopka (740) in that

span.

“Our organization believes that Steve Downie will add grit and

skill to our lineup offensively,” general manager Greg Sherman said

in a statement. “He plays the game with an edge, and we look

forward to seeing the immediate and future impact he can bring to

our team.”

Colorado is returning home after enduring a 1-2-1 road trip,

capped by Sunday’s 5-1 loss at Winnipeg.

“It’s a big loss this time of the year,” said center Matt

Duchene, who didn’t get a point in his return to the lineup after

missing 20 games because of a knee injury.

Having Duchene continue to move past his injury may also provide

a spark. He has 12 goals and 12 assists after setting career highs

with 27 and 40, respectively, last season.

Duchene scored the eventual winner early in the third period of

a 3-2 victory over the Kings in Denver on Oct. 30.

Colorado has won both meetings since, putting the club on the

brink of sweeping the season series for the first time since it won

both matchups in 1992-93 as the Quebec Nordiques.

Los Angeles is trying to avoid a four-game slide for the first

time since a season-high five-game skid from Dec. 3-13.

Re-establishing its success on the penalty kill could go a long way

in doing that.

The Kings allowed the Coyotes to go 3 for 7 with the

man-advantage Tuesday after giving up one power-play goal over the

previous nine games.

Despite those struggles, Los Angeles ranks among the best in the

NHL at killing penalties with an 86.5 percent success rate.

“If you give up three power-play goals on the road, you’re going

to have a tough time winning,” coach Darryl Sutter said.

Dustin Brown is looking to build on his two points from Tuesday,

matching his total from his previous 10 contests since the most

recent meeting with Colorado.

The right wing’s 14 goals this season after a far cry from his

team-leading 28 tallies from 2010-11. However, he has five goals

and five assists in his last six visits to Pepsi Center, including

an assist Oct. 30.