Kings-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 23, 2013
The Los Angeles Kings have yet to find their offense in getting off to a slow start after hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. Having top center Anze Kopitar getting healthier by the day could help them break out of that funk sooner than later. Kopitar and the low-scoring Kings look to avoid losing their first three games for the first time since the 1985-86 season when they visit the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. Los Angeles began play without Kopitar, who has led the team in scoring in each of the last five seasons, and lost 5-2 at home to Chicago on Saturday. He returned Tuesday from a knee injury suffered shortly before the lockout ended while playing in Sweden, getting nearly 20 minutes of ice time but not having a shot on net in a 3-1 defeat at Colorado. "The knee feels good. I didn't have any problems with it," Kopitar, who had team bests of 25 goals and 51 assists in 2011-12, told the Kings' official website. "I pretty much forgot I was wearing (a brace) out there." That's good news for the Kings, who have seen Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Rob Scuderi score their goals. Those three players combined to score eight times last season, while Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams totaled 69 goals. Kopitar, Brown and Williams played on the same line Tuesday, and they combined to take only five shots. Brown and Williams have yet to register a point. "The line had a really tough night," coach Darryl Sutter said. "It was Kopie's first game, but the other two have had two tough games in a row." Kopitar, Brown and Williams were held in check last season against Edmonton, combining for two goals as the teams split four meetings. The Oilers are off to a 1-1-0 start, winning 3-2 in a shootout at Vancouver in their opener Sunday before coming out flat in a 6-3 home loss to San Jose on Tuesday. The Sharks scored twice in the first 4:30 of the game before Nail Yakupov got Edmonton on the board at the 8:25 mark. San Jose, though, scored four more goals in the first period to essentially put the game away. "That was as bad a first period as we could have had, even in your worst imagination," coach Ralph Krueger said. "If pain is going to make us a better team, that was a lot of pain right there. "It was just a complete meltdown through every single player. Sometimes it is better to lose like this than by one goal." Three of the six goals allowed in the opening period came with Edmonton short-handed. "Obviously the fans were so into it to start and it got us all excited and you let your emotions take hold and don't think about the system we're playing," forward Sam Gagner said. "We got caught running around a bit. In the second and third we settled in, but it was too late." It was the first NHL goal for the 19-year-old Yakupov, drafted first overall last summer by the Oilers.
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