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Avalanche-Kings Preview

STATS Writer
Nearly one-quarter through this season, it's the Colorado Avalanche and not the Los Angeles Kings who sit last in their division.
While losing seven of 10 wouldn't be a surprise for the Kings - who had the most losses and tied for the fewest points in the league last season, it is for the Avalanche heading into Saturday's game at the Staples Center.
Colorado (8-10-0) has only missed the playoffs twice since moving to Denver in 1994-95. Without an offensive revival, the Avalanche might make it three times.
Colorado, which ranks near the bottom of the league in goals per game (2.33), has played particularly poorly during its 3-7-0 stretch. The Avalanche have scored 13 times in those 10 games and managed one goal in a recent home-and-home series with Calgary.
The Flames won 1-0 on Thursday by holding Colorado to a season-low 18 shots, and the Avalanche enter Saturday's contest on a 113-minute scoreless streak.
According to winger Ian Laperriere, the team is pressing offensively.
"We're squeezing our sticks," he said. "We had a couple of good chances, but that's what happens when you struggle. ... Everybody squeezes the stick a little more. It was a better effort, but the same result."
Milan Hejduk hasn't scored in his last six games but leads the team with eight goals, and Paul Stastny has two assists in the past seven contests but still has a team-best 15 points.
That hasn't helped goalie Peter Budaj (6-9-0), who has yielded seven goals in his last five starts but gone 1-2-2. Budaj is 2-0-1 in the last three trips to the Staples Center, but has surrendered 10 goals.
If the Avalanche can repeat recent history, they may break out against the Kings. In going 4-1-1 in the last six meetings, Colorado has scored four goals in five of those games, and won three straight in L.A., including a 4-3 victory on Oct. 20.
Stastny has a point in seven of nine meetings with Los Angeles, getting three goals and nine assists. In 34 games, the veteran Hejduk has scored 13 times with 28 assists.
The Kings (8-8-2) have scored at least three goals in six of their last eight games, including a 5-2 victory Thursday over Washington.
Dustin Brown had his team-leading seventh goal, and Michal Handzus scored on an empty netter for his third goal in four games. Handzus also assisted Anze Kopitar, the team's leader with 14 points, on another empty net goal with a second left.
Kopitar, who had a team-leading 77 points last season, has experienced the most recent success against Colorado with four goals and four assists in nine games.
Erik Ersberg has also played a pivotal role in Los Angeles' recent run since taking over for a struggling Jason LaBarbera on Nov. 4. The Kings goalie, who has made eight straight starts, is among the league leaders with a 1.96 goals-against average and has guided Los Angeles to a 5-2-1 run.
Against Washington, he stopped reigning league MVP Alexander Ovechkin's goal-scoring streak at five.
"He played well, and we needed him to play well against one of the premier scorers in the league," Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. "We won the game, and he was a big part of that."
Ersberg (5-3-1) has allowed more than two goals in a game once this season but has played less than 20 career minutes against the Avalanche, replacing LaBarbera in the third period Oct. 20 and stopping two shots.
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