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Kings Welcome Lightning To Staples Center In Battle Of First-Place Teams

(Sports Network) - A pair of first-place teams will battle tonight in Los Angeles as the Kings welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Staples Center for an interconference clash.

The Kings have been consistent since the start of the 2010-11 campaign, having yet to lose consecutive games this season. LA, which leads Dallas by two points for the Pacific lead, has won two straight and has four victories in its last five trips to the ice.

Los Angeles should also be well rested tonight, having last played on Saturday when it posted a 3-1 victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils. The time off has also helped get the club's top defenseman back to health, as Drew Doughty is expected to be activated from injured reserve and play tonight.

Doughty, a finalist for the Norris Trophy last year, hasn't played since suffering a concussion against Carolina on Oct. 20. He was off to a slow start to the season, posting just one assist in five games.

Kings forward Scott Parse is also expected to make his season debut tonight after missing the entire season so far with a groin injury. Parse had 11 goals and 24 points in 69 games as a rookie last season.

Jonathan Quick stopped 39 shots in Saturday's win against the Devils to improve his record to 7-1-0 on the season. The 24-year-old is also sporting a 1.84 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

Jarret Stoll had a goal and two assists and Justin Williams added a goal and one helper for the Kings. Michal Handzus also notched a a power-play goal in the victory.

"The bottom line is winning games in the National Hockey League, and I'm very pleased by the fact that we came back [from the road trip] and got two points," said Kings head coach Terry Murray. "It was a very hard game for us and I like the way we dug in. I know they out-played and out-shot us in the third period, but in critical times we responded."

The Kings have won all four of their home games this year and are playing the second test of a five-game residency at the Staples Center tonight.

The Lightning, meanwhile, will try to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time this year after dropping an overtime decision Wednesday night in Anaheim. Tampa is tied with Washington for first place in the Southeast Division with 16 points apiece.

Ryan Getzlaf's goal with 2:07 remaining in OT lifted the Ducks past Tampa Bay, 3-2, at the Honda Center on Wednesday. Blair Jones and Steven Stamkos tallied for the Lightning, who had won three of four coming into the game in Anaheim. Dan Ellis made 27 saves in defeat.

"We expected a tough game," said Stamkos. "They're struggling as of late and they're coming back home. They want to come out strong and I think they did that. It just took us too long to wake up. Our goaltender played great, made some big saves and kept us in the game. We got a point, but it wasn't our best effort."

The loss was just the second road defeat for the Lightning this season. Tampa, which is 4-1-1 away from home this year, will complete a four-game swing Saturday in San Jose.

Lightning forward Dominic Moore is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a groin injury tonight, while defenseman Matt Smaby is questionable with a sprained ankle. Smaby has also missed Tampa's last three games.

LA notched a shootout win in Tampa last year in the only meeting between the clubs in 2009-10. That win snapped a three-game series losing streak for the Kings, who are still 0-5 with a pair of ties in their last seven home tests against the Lightning.

For more Kings news and information, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Jewels From the Crown.