They are hockey's equivalent of a quick cleaning, a sure-fire way to spiff up the place before getting to the serious stuff later.
Yes, things often look a lot better after a game against the struggling Buffalo Sabres.
The Kings have been struggling on the penalty kill, dealing with injuries to forwards Jeff Carter and Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene and inconsistency. Those concerns eased Thursday night after the Kings beat Buffalo, 2-0, sparked by power-play goals from centers Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar at Staples Center.
For Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, his first shutout of the season and the 26th of his career came on a milestone night, marking his 300th regular-season game. This was the second shutout of the season for the Kings as Ben Scrivens had the other, on Oct. 13 at Florida.
The milestone caught Quick by surprise.
"I didn't know it was 300 until they announced it in the second period," he said. "We got two points out of it. It's what we were looking for.
"It was the first time in awhile that we didn't give up a power-play goal. So that's a positive, something to build on."
Typically, he wasn't basking in the glow of the shutout, saying: "6-5, 1-0, it's all the same. Two points."
Quick faced 19 shots and was tested early and often in the first period by the Sabres, who have won three of 18 games this season. Later, one of Quick's best saves seemed to take the fight out of the Sabres. With the Kings holding a 1-0 lead, Quick made a sliding stop on Buffalo forward Corey Tropp with 10:32 left in the second period.
Then came a series of penalties resulting in the Kings going on a four-on-three man advantage. They took advantage of the extra space, converting on a slick passing play with defenseman Drew Doughty finding Kopitar in the right circle.
Kopitar also spoke of not allowing a power-play goal for the first time in seven games as Buffalo went 0 for4. "Quickie definitely made a couple of good saves at the start of the game and kept us even," he said. "After that, we got our legs underneath us."
Richards, whose deflection of defenseman Jake Muzzin's shot led to the first goal at 19:24 of the first period, had the second assist on Kopitar's goal.
In the last seven games, Richards has eight points, including four goals.
In 2009, Richards had a career-high five points in a game against the Sabres when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Kings' injuries led to the NHL debut of rookie center Linden Vey, who was called up last week. Vey played 11:28. Getting back into the lineup for the first time since Oct. 17 was defenseman Alec Martinez because of the injury to Greene.
Quick had spoken earlier about the importance of getting in the extra work during the mini-break in the schedule. His game almost always benefits and it did again.
"Obviously, with the Olympic year, you kind of get running around a little bit," he said. "You miss some days here and there with practice and being able to work on the details and things like that. We had three good days of practice and were able to prepare for this game."
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