Kopitar needs surgery, is out indefinitely.

The Kings won’t have their leading scorer for this season’s playoffs, no matter how long they’re involved –assuming they’re involved at all.

Anze Kopitar is out “indefinitely” and will undergo corrective surgery on his high ankle sprain Wednesday, the team said. The best news is that a full recovery is expected.

That probably won’t happen until next season, and the Kings need him now.

They have the luxury of a five-point cushion (and two games in hand) on ninth-place Calgary, and a six-point cushion on 10th-place Dallas (which has played one fewer game).

The Kings also have a tough schedule ahead after playing 15th-place Edmonton tomorrow at Rexall Place. After that, it’s on to Vancouver (1st place in the Western Conference), at home against the Stars (10th), at San Jose (3rd), at home against Phoenix (4th) and a home-and-home series against Anaheim (7th) to finish the season.

They will play all of these games without their two leading scorers — Kopitar and Justin Williams, who is expected to be out until mid-April with a separated shoulder. No players have been summoned from Manchester (where top-six forwards Andrei Loktionov and Marc-Andre Cliche are also nursing injuries) sending a clear message that the help on offense must come from within.

The Kings scored a pair of goals after Kopitar left Saturday’s 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche. If there’s any good news for the short term, it’s that Kopitar’s injury came in the middle of a game against the 14th-place team in the conference, and the 15th-place team is up next.

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Kings win, but lose Kopitar (video).

The Kings’ top two scorers will not be healthy when the playoffs begin. That’s the grim reality facing the Kings after Anze Kopitar broke his ankle in the second period of a 4-1 win over the Avalanche on Saturday.

Head coach Terry Murray said that Kopitar will miss “a minimum of six weeks,” which certainly dampened the mood inside Staples Center.

Kopitar suffered the injury at 15:39 of the second period during a puck battle along the boards with Ryan O’Byrne (you can see the severity clearly at the 1:50 mark of this video):

The Kings are already without Justin Williams, who sustained a separated shoulder against the Calgary Flames earlier in the week. Now without Kopitar, “we have to find a way either way,” captain Dustin Brown said. “You don’t want have your best player go down but if that’s the case, we need to fill the responsibility collectively and find a way because no other team is going to feel sorry for us.”

“He’s your top player, your top forward, so there’s quite a hole that’s going to be there with him out of the lineup for this length of time,” Murray said. “I’ve dealt with this before with top guys being out with injuries and it’s an opportunity for other players to step up, the character of the team needs to step up and everyone needs to start doing the right things. You’ve got to trust your structure and your system and give it the best opportunity you can as a group to finish games off and play the right way.”

Kopitar could not finish his team-record 330th consecutive game after the injury. Willie Mitchell, Michal Handzus, Ryan Smyth and Trevor Lewis scored goals and Jonathan Quick stopped 20 of 21 shots against the rebuilding Avalanche.

The Kings are short on options at center. Everyone moved up a line after Kopitar’s injury -Handzus between Dustin Penner and Oscar Moller; Lewis between Brown and Smyth. But top prospects Andrei Loktionov (season-ending shoulder surgery) and Brayden Schenn (playing in junior) are not options. Cory Elkins (18 goals, 24 assists, 42 points) and Justin Azevedo (17+30=47) are the top two centers currently playing for AHL affiliate Manchester, but it’s unlikely that either player would be expected to fill a top-six role in the NHL today.

The Kings do not practice tomorrow and next play Tuesday in Edmonton.

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Kings 4, San Jose 3, shootout.

The short version: Puck dropped, Oscar Moller debuted, Kyle Clifford returned, the penalty-kill streak ended, the power-play streak ended, Willie Mitchell scored, Ryane Clowe chirped, Patrick Marleau fooled Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown answered, Antti Niemi exited, Marleau fooled the entire defense with 4.1 seconds left in regulation … overtime, shootout, Dan Boyle scored, controversy ensued, Jarret Stoll scored, Quick save, Quick save, Quick save, Brown goal, Quick save, game.

Just another night in the NHL.

“I’m not disappointed and I’m not surprised that stuff like that happens,” Terry Murray said after another gut-wrenching, 65-plus minutes of hockey. “I’m watching games in this league right now and it is incredible what’s happening late in games, overtimes, shootouts.”

My early story, which some of you will find in your newspaper tomorrow, has plenty of details on Moller’s first NHL game in more than three months. “For the first game in a long time here, he was really good,” said Murray, who went on to compliment Moller’s composure and puck-moving skill on the power play.

Some of you will find my late story, which has plenty of game details — in complete sentences, no less.

The Sharks were happy to get the point, which allowed them to match Detroit at 95 points (though the Wings have a game in hand). The Kings sit five points back with 90 points, three points behind second-place Phoenix and three points ahead of the final Western Conference playoff berth.

Some additional notes, courtesy of the Kings’ PR staff:
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Prospects Update.

It’s that time of year when the junior hockey and NCAA regular seasons have concluded, and prospects around North America take the next step. For some in the Kings’ system, that means playoffs; for others, it means a possible look at the AHL or ECHL levels.

Here’s how they stand:

Linden Vey led the WHL with 116 points (46-70=116)
Tyler Toffoli led the OHL with 108 points (57-51=108)

Participating in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs:

WHL

Brayden Schenn -Saskatoon Blades (1st Eastern Conference, 1st overall in WHL)
Vey – Medicine Hat (3rd Eastern Conference)

OHL

Robert Czarnik – Plymouth (6th Western Conference)
Tyler Toffoli – Ottawa (2nd Eastern Conference)
Maxim Kitsyn – Mississauga (1st Eastern Conference, Mississauga will also host the Memorial Cup)

QMJHL

Nicolas Deslauriers – Gatineau (3rd West Division)
Jean Francois Berube – Montreal (1st West Division)

Won’t be in CHL playoffs:

Jordan Weal – Regina (WHL)

Participating in the NCAA playoffs:

Derek Forbort – University of North Dakota

Won’t be in NCAA playoffs:

Nic Dowd – St Cloud State
Kevin Gravel – St Cloud State
Garret Roe – St. Cloud State
Joshua Turnbull – University of Wisconsin

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Kings 2, Calgary 1, shootout.

What a difference the shootout can make.

Minus the extra point against the Calgary Flames tonight, the Kings’ deficiencies are glaring: Another 0-for on the power play; another goal allowed on the shift after they score; another point lost in the standings.

With the extra point, the glass is half full. Jonathan Quick is masterful and makes one of his best saves of the season count; Jarret Stoll is the most clutch shootout man in the game; the penalty kill looks invincible, having killed 34 straight.

All of these things are true of course, except for the lost point, and such is life for Kings fans at the moment: You must take the good with the bad.

The Kings don’t score much, but there might not be another goalie/blue line unit you’d rather have killing a 4-on-3 penalty in the final minute of overtime. There isn’t another player you’d rather have with the puck on his stick in a shootout than Stoll, and there isn’t another goalie you’d rather have in the shootout than Quick (though we can debate the merits of Johan Hedberg, whose .750 winning percentage is slightly better than Quick’s .741 as the highest among active goalies with at least 10 shootout decisions).

What all that means for the playoffs — which is where all of this has been pointing since Day 1 — remains to be seen.

Some more notes and observations:
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Terry Murray: ‘I overreacted, probably’

One day after blasting fans for booing the Kings off the ice after the second period of an eventual 4-0 loss to St. Louis, Kings head coach Terry Murray said he didn’t know how to soften his position.

He tried anyway.

“I overreacted probably, in saying … you don’t want to drag (the fans) into the reason why, but I did,” Murray said. “There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget.”
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St. Louis 4, Kings 0.

The announced crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center didn’t get a chance to welcome back the Kings squad that had just swept a four-game road trip for the first time in franchise history.

That team bore little resemblance to the one that played the Blues on Thursday.

Considering that the Kings got a well-earned day off practice upon returning home Wednesday, and were playing a struggling Blues squad that was all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, maybe a letdown wasn’t completely out of the blue (pun intended).

But head coach Terry Murray wasn’t ready for the crowd’s reaction after the second period. The Kings were booed off the ice shortly after Jonathan Quick allowed a bad-angle goal by Matt D’Agostini with 6.9 seconds left before intermission.

“You know what the most disappointing, frustrating thing was? At the end of the second period we were booed off the ice by our fans,” Murray said. “That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That’s the worst I have ever been through in all the years I’ve been coaching. I’ve been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL and booed off the ice by your own fans — at the end of the second period after we’ve been through here, after this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places — very disappointing.”

Murray then left the lectern, the five-question postgame press conference only slightly exceeding the two-question low set on March 5.

The debate over whether or not the boos were warranted ought to generate some buzz in Hockeywood (comments welcome here), at least until the Kings’ next game Saturday against the Ducks.

As with all of the 11 remaining games, that one will have big implications on the Western Conference standings, which currently see the Kings trailing the Phoenix Coyotes by two points for fourth place. The Kings have one game in hand already, and they’ll have two in hand after Phoenix visits Vancouver tomorrow when the Kings get a day off.

Some more notes/observations that won’t make tomorrow’s editions:
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Rob Blake is a busier man.

Add Team Canada executive to Rob Blake’s list of post-”retirement” duties.

On Thursday, the former Kings captain was named an assistant to general manager Dave Nonis for the Canadian entry in the IIHF World Championships, which will take place April 29-May 15 in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia.

Blake joined the NHL in January as an assistant to Colin Campbell, the league’s vice president of hockey operations. On Tuesday, Blake was one of four former players named to a committee tasked with studying “all the possible ways of creating a safer environment for the players and ultimately bringing their findings to the Board of Governors for approval,” according to NHL.com.

This will be the first management position for Blake, who captured an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2002 and a World Championship gold medal in 1997. He was also named top defenseman at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, where Canada finished fourth.

Blake, a King from 1990-2001 and from 2006-08, retired as a player in June of last year.

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Kings 4, Nashville 2.

The Kings had never swept a four-game road trip before Tuesday, but managed to seal the deal against another Western Conference opponent in Nashville.

Jonathan Bernier made 30 saves on a night when the Predators outshot the Kings 32-18. Bernier improved to 4-1-0 against the Predators. He’s never faced another team more often in his young career, and Terry Murray will keep calling his number against Nashville so long as this continues.

“He worked hard to find the puck,” Murray said of Bernier. “He was really on top of the crease square, and absorbed a lot of those pucks. Strong game.”

“I think it’s just the type of team that gives me a lot of action, keeps me in the game,” Bernier said, and that was certainly true Tuesday. The Kings made more mistakes than Nashville — Murray couldn’t be happy with his team’s 17 giveaways — but also took advantage of their opponents’ miscues.

Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez, Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Brown scored goals, the latter coming into an empty net with 1:02 left in the game.

Long Beach native Jonathon Blum scored the Preds’ only goal, a long blast that deflected off a Kings player (it looked on TV like Jack Johnson) in front of the net and tied the game 1-1. It was the second goal of Blum’s 12-game career.

Some notes and observations:
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Kings 4, Columbus 2.

Anze Kopitar’s second career hat trick paced the Kings to a needed win in Columbus.

Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 of 34 shots in a game that saw the Kings (38-25-5, 81 points) get outshot by the fading Blue Jackets (31-27-9) 34-22. He allowed only goals to Scottie Upshall and Derrick Brassard in a game the Kings never trailed.

Brassard’s goal at 11:30 of the third period brought the Jackets within 3-2, before Justin Williams scored his 22nd goal of the season at 18:26 off a give-and-go with Dustin Penner. The line of Kopitar (three goals, plus-2), Williams (goal, two assists, plus-1) and Penner (assist, plus-1) combined for four goals, three assists and a plus-4 rating.

A few more notes:
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