Kings (34-23-4, 72 points) vs. Colorado Avalanche (26-28-7, 59) at Staples Center, 1 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Bad break – Andrei Loktionov is still only a phone call away. He just won't be playing hockey for a while, according to his coach in Manchester. Loktionov, the 20-year-old rookie forward who was returned to the minors earlier in the week but was expected back with the Kings when rosters can be expanded after Monday’s trade deadline, suffered an apparent upper-body injury in an AHL game Friday night, according to the Union-Leader. Manchester coach Mark Morris told a reporter he suspects Loktionov will be done for the year. Expect this latest news to have an impact on the Kings' search for another forward before Monday's deadline.
2. A benefactor? – Loktionov’s loss could be Marco Sturm's gain. The 32-year-old left wing was on thin ice, too slow to bounce back after offseason knee surgery and too few when it came to scoring goals. He woke up Friday morning and learned he had been waived. Unclaimed as of late Friday night, Sturm is expected to be back on the top line if he's not scooped up by the 9 a.m. expiration date, re-joining Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds. If another Western Conference team really wanted to short-hand the Kings, they’d claim Sturm before then. His $3.5-million salary this season might still be too steep to pay.
3. Fear the fourth line – That wasn't a slip of the tongue during coach Terry Murray's postgame news conference, he really did credit the fourth line with the 4-2 victory Thursday night against Minnesota. Murray noted that Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Alexei Ponikarovsky changed the momentum of the game in the second period with their stiff fore-checking and high energy. Another player that seems to be adjusting to his role is right wing Dustin Brown. Relegated from the top line to the third line, he had two assists against the Wild and wore them down with relentless checking.
4. Alec’s back – Alec Martinez will be back on the blue line for the Kings. After playing 39 straight games since his call up from Manchester in November, the rookie defenseman was a healthy scratch the last two games in place of Davis Drewiske. Sometimes it’s nice just to get a different view of the game from above. Still, it will be interesting to watch how Martinez reacts. One of his best assets is his confidence with the puck. If he starts playing hot potato, you can bet he’s worried about making a mistake.
5. New addition – After losing 11 of their last 12 games to fall off the Western Conference playoff map, the Avalanche have been busy heading into the trade deadline line and don’t appear to be quite finished. Talk about skating lightly. They plan to start one of their newest acquisitions, goalie Brian Elliott, who didn’t fare so well in his debut with Colorado, a 5-1 loss Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers. The Avalanche will be without defenseman Ryan O’Byrne, who took a skate blade to the face against Edmonton and needed more than 100 stitches.