Key injuries hampering Kings, Avalanche
The Los Angeles Kings are limping to the end of their five-game road trip, but they're not alone in injury woes.
The Colorado Avalanche are nursing some key injuries as well.
The Kings (7-8-1) are expected to be without Anze Kopitar due to an upper-body injury while the Avalanche's leading scorer, Matt Duchene, is still out with concussion-like symptoms. That means two of the most important players for both teams won't be on the ice when they meet at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.
Kopitar is not officially ruled out for the game but according to the team website, he is taking anti-inflammatories and is in "a holding pattern, and until the area improves he won't be able to do much."
That's a tough break for a team that is already without its No. 1 goaltender, Jonathan Quick, for a significant stretch. Backup Jeff Zatkoff left Friday's game with groin spasms so veteran and former Avalanche top goalie Peter Budaj, who started the season in the American Hockey League, will probably start against Colorado.
Budaj has been in net for all seven of the Kings' victories, and he's looking forward to playing against Colorado.
"It's great to come back," he told the team's website. "I think Montreal is definitely a special place. I'd been there three years but Colorado is more like my home -- I mean obviously I'm Slovakian so that's my home -- but I lived here, I started my professional NHL career here, so it's a very special place."
Budaj will face a team struggling in coach Jared Bednar's first season at the helm. The Avalanche (6-8-0) are coming off a 2-0 home loss to Boston on Sunday in which they were outshot 44-21. It was the fourth time this season Colorado has been shut out, and the second time at home.
The Avalanche have just 17 goals in their last 12 games and are 3-for-25 on the power play in the last five games.
Not having Duchene for the second straight game will hurt. He was scheduled to skate Monday but didn't feel well enough to get on the ice. The hope is he can be out for the morning skate Tuesday.
"He didn't feel he was ready to skate (Monday) morning with the group, so (the training staff) gave him the morning (off) to see what comes of it (Tuesday)," Bednar told HockeyBuzz.com Monday.
Colorado is going to have lineup changes for the game against Los Angeles. Forward Blake Comeau is back after missing four games with a groin injury and A.J. Greer, who made his NHL debut Sunday as an emergency call-up, will be back in San Antonio of the AHL.
In addition, defenseman Patrick Wiercioch is expected to replace Eric Gelinas in the lineup, but Colorado still has to fix its offensive woes.
"We're not getting enough shots through to the net is one issue from our blue line," Bednar told HockeyBuzz.com. "We can do a better job of finding some lanes and getting some playable pucks down to the net. A lot of it is some fancy plays, east-west plays, when we can be driving the net more. It's what teams are doing against us and having success."
After Sunday's shootout loss in Winnipeg, the Kings are 1-2-1 on their road trip and could finish .500 with a win Tuesday.
The Avalanche are trying to even their record on this four-game homestand before heading out for three games. Getting the offense going might be as simple as scoring a few goals to get the confidence back.
"Sometimes when you go through scoring slumps you start to maybe press a little more," Comeau told HockeyBuzz.com. "I think it's going to take one game where everything's clicking, where we get some greasy goals, get the confidence back and go from there."