Hurricanes-Kings Preview

The Associated Press

The Carolina Hurricanes' five-game trip hasn't started well, and the first two contests were supposed to be the manageable part.

After losses at Buffalo and Dallas, they now play three games on a four-day California swing that begins Saturday in Los Angeles before heading to Anaheim and San Jose.

The Kings (33-22-6), meanwhile, are back home and in high spirits after winning at both Colorado and Calgary since their return from a 19-day Olympic layoff.

Jonathan Quick got the night off in Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Avalanche before returning to NHL action in top form Thursday with a 2-0 victory against the Flames. Quick made 25 saves for his second straight win after dropping his previous four starts.

Dustin Brown gave Los Angeles the lead early in the first, and after a scoreless second, Dwight King padded the advantage early in the third with Brown assisting.

Quick and Brown came home from Sochi empty-handed after the U.S. failed to medal, but according to their coach, any shortcomings haven't followed them back to the NHL.

"They came back in a good frame of mind," Darryl Sutter said.

An 11-2 third-period shooting advantage gave Quick an easier time in preserving the lead, and he now has four shutouts in 33 starts after managing one in 36 a season ago.

"It was a great, great third period, exactly what we were looking for," Quick said. "It was a solid road period where you don't give up much and you make them work to gain zones. And scoring a goal at the beginning of the period was huge to give us a little bit more of a gap."

With a three-game winning streak straddling the Olympic break, the Kings seem revived from a 1-8-1 stretch that saw them fall toward the bottom of the top eight Western Conference playoff contenders.

They've still got plenty of ground to regain on the conference's top four teams, but four of their next five come against squads currently below the postseason cutoff.

Carolina (26-24-9) is one of them. Losers of three straight, the Hurricanes' recent offensive struggles will need to be corrected if they hope to jump the five teams ahead of them in the East with 23 games remaining.

The Hurricanes have just four goals and top scorer Jeff Skinner has gone without a point during the losing streak. Carolina has won six times in the 23 games in which Skinner has failed to register a point.

Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Stars was especially discouraging because fellow top forward Alexander Semin was lost to a lower-body injury in the second period. He was set to be evaluated Friday.

"It's tough because he's been our hottest forward in the last 15-20 games," Carolina coach Kirk Muller told the team's official website. "He's a big part of this team and we miss that firepower from him."

In 12 games prior to Thursday, Semin had nine goals - over a quarter of the team's scoring - and three assists.

Carolina also went 0 for 5 with the man advantage and hasn't scored a power-play goal in seven straight road games - an 0-for-22 span.

The Kings beat the Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout in Carolina on Oct. 11 and have won four of the last five meetings. Quick made 27 saves in his only career game against them.

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