|Avalanche slide into long home stay against Kings|
The Colorado Avalanche are back home for nearly three weeks, hoping the comfortable surroundings will help turn their season around.
The Avalanche (21-18-8) open a five-game homestand Saturday afternoon against the visiting Los Angeles Kings, a stretch that will include All Star weekend and Colorado's five-day bye.
The Avalanche are 2-8-2 since Dec. 21, causing their grip to loosen on third place in the Central Division. They wrapped up a five-game road trip with a 5-2 loss on Wednesday to the Ottawa Senators, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar told reporters after the loss that his team's effort, especially at the start of games, needs to improve.
"You can't be coaching effort. It's almost February," he said. "You can't look past that. That's a prerequisite to everything else."
The Kings (19-25-4) are coming off a 2-1 win at the Dallas Stars on Thursday. They will be trying to win two in a row for the first time since a season-long four-game win streak from Dec. 18-27.
Slow starts haven't been a problem for the Kings of late. It's been their deliberate finishes.
After getting blanked in the third period of the win against Dallas, Los Angeles remained the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL in the third period with 33 goals. The Avalanche are the second-highest scoring third-period team with 67 goals.
"We've got to fix that," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "You know when we get leads, in the past, we were able to always shut those leads out and never let teams back in the game. And this season, for whatever reason, in the third period they seem to always dominate."
The Kings were outscored 3-2 in the third period of a 7-3 loss to visiting Colorado on Nov. 21, and 2-0 in the third period of their second meeting on Dec. 31 in Denver, but Los Angeles scored in overtime to win it 3-2.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was on injured reserve during the first game against the Avalanche, but he made 22 saves in the second meeting to improve to 17-5-1 in his career against Colorado with a 2.15 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Special teams could play a big role in this game.
The Kings, after killing 85 percent of their opponents' power plays to lead the NHL last season, have killed 75 percent this season, which is 29th in the NHL.
The Avalanche have one of the top six most efficient power plays in the league, owning a success rate of 25.1 percent.
Los Angeles sits in the bottom six in the NHL at 14.8 percent. The Kings scored on their only power play Thursday night to end a five-game drought with the man-advantage.
"We've been working hard at the power play in practice every day, and you know the guys on the power play are usually obviously our top players, and we feel that we need to make a difference to win the hockey game," Doughty said.
"(Thursday) we decided to simplify it, try to get a puck at the net in the first five to 10 seconds of the power play."
--Field Level Media