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Stretch Could Trip Them Up

Times Staff Writer

And so the Kings continue onward, trying to squeeze another game out of a thin lineup, hoping to earn another point or two each time on the way to a possible playoff berth. The mountain ahead, plenty steep without four top forwards and a defenseman to boot, gets only harder from here.

The Kings’ next seven games are on the road, a string partly broken up by an All-Star break that provides a brief respite before more days at out-of-town hotels and nights on unfamiliar ice surfaces.

The upcoming road stretch is the longest for the Kings since an eight-game trip in November 2002, though they remain undaunted. It’s tough these days to throw a scare into a team careening toward the unofficial season record for man-games lost because of injury.

“We’ve had the marathon trip last year,” King Coach Andy Murray said. “We’ve had all kinds of long trips. The way we’re looking at it is it’s a two-game trip [Edmonton and Calgary] and then we’re back home.”

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With 30 regular-season games left, the Kings have lost 415 man-games to injury. The NHL does not officially track man-game injury records, but the Boston Bruins are believed to have the most with 573 lost in 1991-92.

With Ziggy Palffy out for the season, and Adam Deadmarsh and Jason Allison nowhere close to returning, the Kings would be within reach of the new standard with those three alone. Five other players are out with injuries that range from Aaron Miller’s pinched nerve to Martin Straka’s knees.

And yet, the Kings are tied with Dallas for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“I think we’re more than circling the wagons,” Murray said. “That [phrase] might indicate we’re protecting and what I like about our team is the players are expressing themselves. They’re making statements and challenging other teams.”

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The King penalty-killing unit came up with its biggest surge of the season Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche, stifling the league’s best power play midway through the second period during a 1:40 five-on-three advantage. The Kings trailed at the time, 3-1.

A Colorado goal would have all but secured a victory. Instead, the King penalty kill, the league’s third-worst entering the game, held the Avalanche and the Kings rallied to earn a 3-3 tie.

“We feel that we’ve had the personnel and [assistant coach] Mark Hardy is a tremendous tactician,” Murray said. “We should be good every night. We have the people that should do it.”

TONIGHT

at Edmonton, 7 PST, Fox Sports Net

Site -- Rexall Place.

Radio -- KSPN (710).

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Records -- Kings 20-15-12-5, Oilers 19-23-8-1.

Record vs. Oilers -- 1-0-0-0.

Update --The Oilers’ special teams have been horrid, giving up power-play goals in 14 consecutive games in December and January. Edmonton’s power play is the worst in the league and its penalty kill is 29th. The Kings beat the Oilers, 4-2, on Dec. 16 at Staples Center. King right wing Scott Barney has a point in six of nine games since being called up from Manchester (N.H.).


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