Both players have helped their new teams return to contention, and each will face his former teammates for the first time Saturday night in Los Angeles as the Kings and Avs try to head into the Olympic break on a high note.
Colorado closed the 2008-09 season last in the West, while the Kings missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. With each team trying to retool its roster, the Avs dealt Smyth to Los Angeles on July 3 in exchange for Quincey, Tom Preissing(notes) and a draft pick.
Smyth, who tied for Colorado’s team lead with 59 points last season, has provided 38 points along with a veteran presence for the young Kings (36-20-4), who put themselves on strong footing in the postseason chase by winning nine straight for the first time in franchise history from Jan. 21-Feb. 6.
Quincey leads all Avalanche defensemen with 25 points, helping Colorado (35-19-6) equal Los Angeles in the West and Vancouver atop the Northwest Division with 76 points. The Avs have also been hot lately, beating Phoenix 2-1 on Friday night to extend their winning streak to four.
“He’s moving well, finishing his chances,” first-year Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. “He’s a guy we’re counting on for production. I’ve said this before - we’re into game 60 now. A lot of our young guys play a lot of minutes. They’ve been used in a lot of different situations throughout the year, so that rookie status, it’s really no longer.”
The most important player on each team may be its emerging American goalie. Kings netminder Jonathan Quick(notes) beat out Colorado’s Craig Anderson(notes) for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, but it’s unlikely either team would trade in the goalie that has helped spark its turnaround.
Anderson, signed by the Avs as a free agent from Florida last summer, made his 15th straight start against the Coyotes and stopped 33 shots. Colorado has gone 11-4-0 since backup Peter Budaj’s(notes) last appearance.
Quick missed the Kings’ 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton on Thursday night due to flu-like symptoms, but he had started the previous 13 games, including each contest during its nine-game winning streak.
The 24-year-old Quick is one victory shy of matching Mario Lessard’s single-season club record of 35, and he expects to return to the crease Saturday.
The loss to Edmonton was Los Angeles’ second in a row since its winning streak, as the team fell behind 2-0 before battling back to earn a point, with Smyth’s 19th goal serving as the equalizer with 4:48 left.
Even during their nine-game winning streak, the Kings had to erase 2-0 deficits three times.
“I don’t know what it is with our starts. Obviously, if we knew we would correct it, and do something about it,” leading scorer Anze Kopitar(notes) said. “I think it just comes down to the preparation for the game, and getting ready. When you fall behind it is tough to chase. We’ve pulled it off numerous times, but you can not win hockey games like that.”
The Avs have won their last four visits to Staples Center, but they haven’t played there since Nov. 22, 2008.