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, Colorado 3, plus more Sturm.

First, the game:

The Kings dominated for 50 minutes before taking a string of penalties that allowed Colorado to score three goals — on its final three shots — to make the final score look closer than the game actually was.

“We definitely can’t be taking penalties that late in the game,” Drew Doughty said. “You see what happens, they almost caught up and took it to OT and that’s not something we want to be doing. We’ve got to learn from it, but [we’re] happy with the game.”

The Avs were outshot 42-17 en route to losing for the 14th time in their last 16 games.

Anze Kopitar scored for the third time in his last three games, officially ending his drought. Alec Martinez, Doughty and Jarret Stoll all connected on long shots, the latter two coming on the power play.

Jonathan Quick made 14 saves for the victory. He got burned when he mishandled the puck behind the net — or miscommunicated with his defense, or both — which led to a Paul Stastny goal in the final minute.

The Kings’ 42 shots on goal set a new season high, and the 17 shots against were two off a season low. Considering the Kings spent 13:36 on the power play — almost a quarter of the game — it’s no surprise.

“We made it interesting at the end just through getting too casual, a little careless with some plays at critical times at the game,” head coach Terry Murray said. “You go into the third period with that kind of scenario you want to make sure you’re able to lock it down. Good teams do. You don’t get reckless or careless and start taking some penalties, especially the high sticking penalties. … We have to clean that part of it up right away.”

Now, about Sturm getting claimed off waivers by Washington and its implications:

Continue reading “Kings 4, Colorado 3, plus more Sturm.” »

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