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Now They Must Rely on Defense

Now what?

The Kings have lost leading scorer Ziggy Palffy for the rest of the season because of a dislocated shoulder, placing a premium on playing sound defensive hockey.

The Kings also have slid from having one of the best goals-against averages in the league to one of the worst, a trend that needs to stop if they expect to keep alive their playoff hopes.

“Our goalies need to stop a few more pucks,” Coach Andy Murray said. “Our defense has to move a few more pucks effectively out of our zone.”

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Goaltender Roman Cechmanek was erratic Thursday in his first start since aggravating a bruised hip Dec. 20. Cechmanek had 25 saves in the Kings’ 3-1 loss to Vancouver.

Cechmanek, 12-11-2 with a .905 save percentage, has struggled at times with soft goals, a byproduct of his unorthodox, flopping style.

“I think his style has added about 10 years to my life, which I don’t need right now,” Murray said jokingly.

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TONIGHT

vs. Columbus, 7:30, Fox Sports Net

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- KSPN (710).

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Records -- Kings 16-14-7-4, Blue Jackets 11-23-4-3.

Record vs. Blue Jackets (2002-03) -- 0-3-0-1.

Update -- The Blue Jackets have the fewest points in the Western Conference but defeated one of the league’s hottest teams, San Jose, in overtime Thursday, 3-2. Columbus left wing Rick Nash has a league-high 24 goals.

-- Mike Bresnahan

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