Kings: No more excuses vs. Ducks

Kings (8-6-3, 19 points) vs. Ducks (6-8-3, 15 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. European post-vacation – Both teams seemed to pay the price for their season-opening trips to Europe. They caught fire once they crossed back over the Atlantic but the adrenaline seemed to wear off overnight and their offenses have spiraled in the last eight to 12 games. The Kings showed signs of getting off the mat in a 5-2 victory Saturday night against visiting Minnesota, the best defensive team in the league. Anaheim looked good for a period Friday night against visiting Vancouver before holding on to win, 4-3, its only victory in the last eight games.

2. Russian relief – The Kings have placed three players on injured reserve in the last week and filled two of those roster spots with forward Andrei Loktionov and defenseman Slava Voynov, both 21-year-old Russians who have plenty of skill but not a lot of NHL experience. Loktionov, a natural center who will play left wing on the second line with Mike Richards and Dustin Brown, has played 19 career games over the previous two seasons. Voynov made his NHL debut earlier this season and looked like a seasoned pro while scoring three points in five games, helping the Kings go 4-1 in that span.

3. Fourth-line repeat – Kings coach Terry Murray liked what he saw from the fourth line Saturday night against the Wild and said he’ll let it ride against the Ducks. Colin Fraser, who was added to the roster last week when Scott Parse went down with a lower-body injury, scored a goal in his second game with the club and seemed to click with Trevor Lewis and Ethan Moreau, both of whom earned assists on the play. Secondary scoring has been the Achilles heel for both teams, and anything they can get from a checking line is a huge lift.

4. Ground Hog’s Day – For the third time in the last five years, the Ducks are 6-8-3 after 17 games. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. Unless you compare it with the 9-7-1 start the Ducks had the two other seasons. What’s clear from these numbers is the Ducks haven’t exactly sprung from the gate like they did in 2006-07, when they started 12-0-4 and went on to win the Stanley Cup. What the Ducks have failed to learn is, a good start makes for a more comfortable finish. Burning all that energy trying to rally in the second half of the season doesn’t help come playoff time, and the Ducks haven’t been past the second round since winning the title.

5. Captain slump – Ducks top-line center Ryan Getzlaf can no longer get away with being a slow starter, he’s officially in a slump. Getzlaf has nine points in 17 games this season. He started slow the last four seasons as well, but still had at least 18 points through 17 games in each of those years. As the captain and No.1 playmaker, Getzlaf needs to take charge of the Anaheim offense, ranked last in the league in scoring.