December 19, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) celebrates the goal scored by left wing Dwight King (74) against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Avalanche - Kings

Who: Los Angeles Kings (24-8-4)

When: Today, 4:00PM EST/2:00PM MDT

Your (unconfirmed) Starting Goalies: COL – Semyon Varlamov (16-8-1), LA – Martin Jones (7-0-0)

The Dangermen: The last time these two met, there weren’t a whole lot of goals to account for. Okay, there was only one: a Jamie McGinn overtime tally that gave the Avalanche the victory.

A difference between this time and back then? Jeff Carter is back for the Kings. He is one of four Kings with double-digit goals and has been back working with Anze Kopitar (11-18-29) on the top line.

The Kings won’t necessarily blow you away offensively, but they have a ton of tough, physical, smart two-way players littering the forward ranks. Carter is the true sniper of the group while Kopitar may be the most talented player on the roster.

Colorado will have its hands full with a fully healthy group like this.

The Defenders: While the Kings have been merely okay scoring, they’ve been lights out keeping the puck out of their own net. And by that, I mean they’re actually the best team in the league in terms of goals against (just 1.86 per game).

Part of that is aided by the fifth-ranked penalty killing unit, but the Kings have a deep, talented defense. Perennial Norris Trophy contender Drew Doughty leads the way. Not only is he tremendous in his own zone, but with six goals and 18 points, he’s equally dangerous at the other end of the ice.

Slava Voynov is a budding star. Matt Greene, Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell provide a veteran, calming presence. They are all smart, they are all disciplined and anyone who beats them will does so through hard work and a little luck.

Puck Stoppers Inc.: Normally, this is where we talk about how Jonathan Quick is one of the best in the game and all that. But he’s out due to injury.

The Kings have not missed a beat in his absence thanks to the duo of Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones. The last time these two played, Scrivens was outstanding, nearly stealing the game for the Kings before surrendering a goal in overtime. He’s cooled off a smidge, but at 7-3-4 with a 1.66 GAA and .941 save percentage, he hasn’t cooled off much.

December 19, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Martin Jones (31) defends the goal against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If it’s not Scrivens on Saturday, it will be Jones. The 23-year-old rookie has had himself quite the start, winning his first seven decisions. Not only that, but he’s given up just six goals in that span, posting a 0.85 GAA and .971 save percentage.

Whoever the Kings start, they’ll be getting quality goaltending.

How the Avs match up: While the Avalanche have been a little up and down of late, the Kings remain scorching hot, going 8-2-0 over their last ten. They have a top-flight penalty kill and overall, the best team defense in the game. The Avalanche have come around on offense of late, but they’ll likely hit a huge road block in this Kings group.

Against teams like this, you need to create space. Using their speed, getting their transition game going and trying to get the Kings defense back on their heels a little bit will help create that space. They’ll need to get bodies in front and try to get a few dirty goals against some really hot goaltending.

Key Matchup: Offense vs Suffocating Defense

Cower in fear if: The Kings continue to get ridiculous goaltending.

The forwards can’t create any space and get suffocated by the defense.

Carter or Kopitar manage to get free and cause some havoc.

Laugh maniacally if: Colorado gets on the board first and early.

Speed causes penalties. Power plays for us are good even if we kind of suck at them.

Matt Duchene keeps doing ridiculous things.

Silly predictions: Varly is on top of his game yet again; So is whoever ends up starting for the Kings; for all of the vaunted Kings forwards, it’ll be someone like Dwight King who scores; special teams could win the day in what should be a tight game.

Final:  2-1 Kings

Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Anze Kopitar Colorado Avalanche Drew Doughty Jeff Carter Los Angeles Kings Matt Duchene NHL Semyon Varlamov

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