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Kings hope Phaneuf sparks playoff push vs. Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Los Angeles Kings are hoping that a blockbuster trade will propel them back into the thick of the wild-card playoff race in the Western Conference.

They'll have a good shot at picking up two points this weekend with a Saturday matinee game on the road against the struggling Buffalo Sabres.

On Tuesday, the Kings (30-22-5) acquired defenseman Dion Phaneuf and center Nate Thompson from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forwards Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore.

"Dion brings to our club a great deal of experience and leadership. He also plays with a physical edge, which complements our lineup well," Kings vice president and general manager Rob Blake told the team's website. "Nate has a good reputation of being a high-energy player on the ice. Both guys are also high character guys."

"We also wish Marian and Nick well. Marian has enjoyed a tremendous career to date and has played an integral role with our team over the years, including a Stanley Cup Championship. Nick is a hard worker who came up through our system and has developed into a solid NHL player."

The Kings lost their first game with Phaneuf in the lineup on Thursday in a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh, but Phaneuf kicked off his fresh start with the Kings on a positive note. He had Los Angeles' lone goal, which evened the score at 1 on the power play.

Phaneuf, 32, is a three-time All-Star and is nearing 1,000 games played in his career. He has also played for the Calgary Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs, serving as captain of the Maple Leafs for six seasons.

"I'm honored to be going there," Phaneuf said, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. "I'm excited about the team they have, where they're at in the standings and I'm going to go there and do my best to do whatever I can to help their team."

Heading into Friday night's action around the league, the Kings sat three points behind the Minnesota Wild for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They've endured a difficult stretch, losing three straight games on the road after picking up three wins in a row.

It has been that kind of season overall for the Kings, going back and forth between winning and losing streaks.

After a rare stretch of positive play in the past seven days, the Sabres (17-30-11) fell 3-2 in overtime to the Senators on Thursday. The Sabres have shown some signs of life without top center Jack Eichel, who might miss the rest of the season because of a high ankle sprain.

But Buffalo has have struggled for most of the season.

"I think the guys have done a terrific job rallying around it," Sabres coach Phil Housley said, according to the team's website. "Obviously, when you miss your best player, it's tough to fill that void. But our guys have done a really good job. It's been leadership by committee. It's been production by committee. And we need more of it."

Updated February 16, 2018

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