(AP) — The Los Angeles Kings will begin moving forward without top scorer Anze Kopitar when they start a two-game trip by facing the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles (43-26-6) has won three straight overall and five in a row on the road entering its first game without Kopitar, who broke his right ankle in a 4-1 victory over Colorado on Saturday.
“It’s a broken ankle. He’ll be out a minimum of six weeks,” coach Terry Murray said. “He’s your top player, your top forward, so there’s quite a hole that’s going to be there now with him out of the lineup for this length of time. But you know what? I’ve been through these kinds of things before, with top guys being out with injuries, and it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up.”
Kopitar is 10th in the NHL with 73 points – eight shy of his career high from last season. He had keyed the Kings’ road success with six goals in his last five games away from Staples Center.
It’s unclear whether Michael Handzus or Jarret Stoll will be called upon to replace Kopitar and center the Kings’ top line.
“Not one guy can replace a guy like Kopitar, both offensively and defensively,” forward Ryan Smyth said. “Kopi plays a lot of minutes and in a lot of situations. So everybody has to collectively come together and regroup, and everybody has got to fill a role. But our defense is probably the staple of our game, and has been since Terry got here.”
Los Angeles has work left to do to clinch a playoff berth. The Kings are tied for fifth place in the Western Conference.
They haven’t suffered a regulation loss to Edmonton (23-41-11) in the last three seasons, beating the Oilers three times in 2010-11 to improve to 7-0-4 over that span. Los Angeles has won five straight at Rexall Place – all by one or two goals.
Left wing Dustin Penner will return to Edmonton for the first time since he was acquired by Los Angeles on Feb. 28. Penner has two goals and four assists in 12 games with the Kings, and still has the second-most goals for the Oilers this season with 21.
Jonathan Quick has won all four career starts at Rexall Place, posting a 1.25 goals-against average. Backup Jonathan Bernier won his lone career start against the Oilers 5-2 on Jan. 15.
Edmonton has gone 0-6-3 in its last nine for its longest winless stretch since an 0-9-1 skid Jan. 7-30, 2010. The Oilers blew a three-goal lead in the third period of a 5-4 shootout loss to Calgary on Saturday.
Edmonton is missing numerous injured players, including key forwards Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner.
“There’s lots to fight for,” coach Tom Renney said. “This is about securing your NHL opportunity and continuing to work on our identity as a team. This is about making sure that our opponents have respect for us in terms of how hard we play. That has to translate into winning at some point in time.”
The Oilers have gone 4 for 47 on the power play in their last 11 games against the Kings, and are last in the league this season at 12.9 percent. Los Angeles is among the league leaders in penalty killing at 85.8 percent.
Updated March 28, 2011
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