Los Angeles Kings

Goalie Nods: Howard returns for Detroit

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Howard returns from groin injury

Jimmy Howard will make his first start since Jan. 10 tonight when the Detroit Red Wings play host to the Winnipeg Jets. Howard missed 10 games with a groin injury. He made four saves in relief of Petr Mrazec on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Howard is 16-7-7 with a 2.09 G.A.A. and a .920 save percentage this season.

Michael Hutchinson is expected to start for the Jets.

Elsewhere…

Maple Leafs at Canadiens: Jonathan Bernier vs. Carey Price

Blue Jackets at Islanders: Anton Forsberg vs. Jaroslav Halak

Rangers at Coyotes: Cam Talbot vs. Mike Smith

Hurricanes at Wild: Anton Khudobin vs. Devan Dubnyk

Devils at Predators: Cory Schneider vs. Pekka Rinne

Stars at Avalanche: Jhonas Enroth vs. Semyon Varlamov

Canucks at Flames: Ryan Miller vs. Karri Ramo

Capitals at Kings: Braden Holtby vs. Jonathan Quick

Look out: Carter, Toffoli power impressive Kings win

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Tonight is Jonas Hiller’s 33rd birthday, so the Calgary Flames gave him the gift of not having to face the Los Angeles Kings’ hot offense for a full 60 minutes.

After managing a 2-2 tie through two periods despite being heavily out-played, Hiller and the Flames caved in during the final frame.

Los Angeles scored three unanswered goals to chase Hiller about eight minutes into the third period, and while the Flames scored later on to make the score more presentable, there was no question which team owned the play on Thursday.

Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli’s impressive nights stood out the most among some dominant Kings performances.

Carter collected three assists, pushing his career points total to 501 by the end of the night. Toffoli scored an absolutely sublime goal to get a hat trick:

Yeah, not sure exactly what Hiller could have done there. He ultimately gave way to Karri Ramo after stopping 35 out of 40 shots.

Sure, there were moments when the Kings’ frustrating times still showed through, even while wearing their flashy throwback duds and as they carried much of the play. Jonathan Quick’s frustrations surfaced here and there, as you can see after this goal:

Overall, the Kings looked familiar even in their unusual uniforms, as they stand as the team many top West teams hope to avoid. They’ve won three games in a row and now find themselves just three points behind the Flames (with a game in hand) in the race to lock up a wild card spot.

(The Minnesota Wild are even hotter and have one more point than the Kings in one more game played, so it’s obvious that Los Angeles has to overcome more than Calgary’s Cinderella run …)

Anyway, the Kings have a long way to go to secure a playoff spot, but they’re starting to look like that world-beating bunch yet again. It’s one sequel that few outside of Hollywood look forward to seeing …

Goalie nods: Ducks start Gibson for first time in three months

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Gibson back for Anaheim

John Gibson will make his first start since Oct. 30 when the Ducks take on the ‘Canes in Carolina tonight.

Gibson, who burst onto the scene last year and appeared in four playoff games, started this season with Anaheim but has spent much of the last three months in AHL Norfolk (though he was shelved for a while with injury.)

A recent injury to Frederik Andersen — he’ll miss the next three games while on IR with an upper-body injury — and Ilya Bryzgalov’s spotty play in relief paved the way for the 21-year-old Gibson to make his return; it’ll be interesting to see if he can improve on his numbers from limited work earlier in the season (Gibson is 2-2-0 on the year, with a 2.65 GAA and .915 save percentage.)

For the ‘Canes, Cam Ward gets the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Leafs at Isles: Jonathan Bernier vs. Jaroslav Halak

Oilers at Habs: Viktor Fasth vs. Dustin Tokarski

Pens at Sens: Thomas Greiss vs. Robin Lehner

Blues at Bolts: Brian Elliott for St. Louis, Ben Bishop likely for Tampa Bay.

Jets at Preds: Pekka Rinne likely for Nashville, no word yet on a Winnipeg starter.

Panthers at Wild: Roberto Luongo vs. Devan Dubyk

Rangers at Avs: Cam Talbot for New York, no word yet on a Colorado starter.

Flames at Kings: Jonas Hiller for Calgary, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Kings’ Muzzin: Game vs. Flames is a ‘must win’

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The Los Angeles Kings have managed to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since December, but that’s not nearly enough to dig out of the sizable hole they’ve created for themselves.

After dropping three contests against Calgary this season, Los Angeles will face the Flames for a fourth and final time tonight. Given that Calgary holds the second Wild Card spot and the Kings are trailing them by five points, this is a critical opportunity for the defending Stanley Cup champions to gain some ground.

“Game 7, must win,” Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin told LA Kings Insider.

While there’s obviously still too much time left in the season for that to be literally true, Muzzin isn’t overstating the stakes by a lot. The Kings have a 38.9% chance of making the playoffs per Sports Club Stats. A loss in regulation time would cause a 8.8% swing in the wrong direction while a regulation win would see their odds improve by 6.6%.

“We better wake up to the fact that it’s a challenge and they’re a great team and we have to bring our best to beat them,” Justin Williams noted.

The Kings haven’t beaten Calgary this season, but at the same time they haven’t been dominated by them either. All three contests were decided by a single goal and two went to overtime. Los Angeles just needs to do a bit better tonight to have a chance at the all-important two points.

Related:

Here’s a chart showing why the Flames are such a great story

Ducks GM shoots down Myers trade rumors

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If the Ducks are primed to make a move for Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers, it’s news to their general manager.

“The last time I talked to [Sabres GM] Tim Murray was at the GMs meeting in November,” Anaheim GM Bob Murray told ESPN Tuesday. “I have not had a discussion with him since.”

So…that’s that, then?

To be fair, there was good reason to suspect the Ducks were in on Myers. Earlier this month, a report from TVA’s Renaud Lavoie claimed Myers talks between Buffalo and Anaheim had “intensified.”

There’s also Anaheim’s well-known desire to add a physically imposing, shutdown defenseman that’s been missing since the Chris Pronger-led Cup team of ’07. This past offseason, Murray acknowledged a standout blueliner was the big difference between his team and the reigning champion Kings.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray explained, per the Ducks’ website. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had Scotty and Chris [Pronger]. That’s in the back of my mind all the time.

“Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

Related: Video: ‘Keep an eye’ on Ducks, Predators at trade deadline, says McKenzie