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Poor goaltending has been an issue all season for the Los Angeles Kings. Rookie Barry Brust may be next in line to have a chance at earning the starting job.
Brust and the Kings look to win consecutive games for the first time in a month Thursday when they open a three-game road trip against the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kings (13-20-5) began this season with Mathieu Garon and Dan Cloutier battling for the starting job, but Garon has been sidelined since Nov. 27 with a groin injury and Cloutier has struggled to an ugly 3.98 goals-against average.
Cloutier is expected to be put on injured reserve shortly with what was called a hip injury, clearing the way for the Kings to activate Garon, who recently had his first full practice with the team since suffering the injury.
"The soreness in his hip is affecting his knee," Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said of Cloutier. "Hopefully by giving him a week off, will give him time to work through the issues he has and allow him to play at the level we need him to play."
The 23-year-old Brust, originally drafted by Minnesota in 2002, stopped 28 shots and all three he faced in the shootout Tuesday in his third NHL start as the Kings snapped a four-game skid with a 4-3 victory over visiting Phoenix.
"It's unfortunate we couldn't win it in regulation after we got that lead," Brust said. "But we were a resilient bunch tonight."
The Kings have earned at least a point in all three of Brust's starts, winning once in regulation, once in a shootout and losing in a shootout to Dallas.
Kings left wing Alexander Frolov has cooled off considerably, going eight straight games without a goal after scoring 11 times in his previous 11 contests. He leads the team with 17 goals.
Edmonton (18-15-2) should be happy to have four of its next five games at home, where it is 12-5-1. The Oilers will also welcome the return of left wing Ryan Smyth, who is expected to play after missing nearly four weeks with a broken left thumb.
Smyth participated in the morning skate with a plastic brace under a custom-made hockey glove and felt comfortable enough to play.
"I feel pretty confident with it (the brace)," said Smyth, who leads the team with 16 goals despite missing nearly a month. "I had a good chance to talk to the doc yesterday and he says (the thumb) is going to be achy and sore and painful, but as far as it displacing or anything like that he didn't feel that it would."
In their last game, the Oilers were unable to overcome a three-goal deficit Saturday at Dallas, losing 3-2 for their fifth defeat in seven games.
One positive to come out of the loss for Edmonton was a rare power-play goal scored by Marc-Andre Bergeron. That goal broke a drought of six games and 30 opportunities with the man advantage.
"We showed signs of life on our power play in our last game in Phoenix," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "Normally that's a sign that things are turning around."
The Oilers have won three straight and five of the last six meetings against the Kings.