The Colorado Avalanche are on an absolute roll, winning eight of their last 10 games -- including two road games in a row. They begin the 2012 year in the midst of a four game road trip fresh off a dominant 4-2 performance against the struggling Anaheim Ducks.
Colorado continues their California road trip with a game against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have not been the juggernaut many predicted earlier this season, but they have certainly responded under their new head coach Darryl Sutter, having won four of the first six games under his command. Los Angeles has a tenuous lead atop the Pacific Division, and could pull away from the rest of the pack with a January schedule that features eight home games.
But first, they need to score some goals. It's shocking that a team featuring Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne, and Drew Doughty could rank 29th in the league in goals scored -- only two goals ahead of the last place New York Islanders. Over the last 10 games, only Dustin Brown has scored more than two goals on the Kings roster. They aren't getting any help from special teams, as the Kings rank 25th in the league with a 14.4% success rate with the extra skater. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been special once again this year, keeping the Kings afloat with his 2.05 GAA for the season.
For Colorado, they will have to depend on depth rather than top talent. With Matt Duchene missing the next month due to a knee injury, players like Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk, and Ryan O 'Reilly will have to carry the offensive load. The return of winger David Jones could also help offset the lack of production the team will face with Duchene's extended absence. This past month, the team has found an identity of tight penalty kill, strong goaltending, and hustle plays from the third and fourth lines. These trends must continue for Colorado to continue success against a more difficult slate of competition.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in net against Los Angeles, as reported by the Denver Post. Jonathan Quick will start the game for Los Angeles.
Puck drops at 8:30 p.m. MDT
For more coverage, visit our Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey and our Kings blog Jewels From The Crown.