Budaj leads surging Kings into afternoon tilt vs. Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- In the absence of Jonathan Quick, fellow goaltender Peter Budaj has kept the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

Although Quick is back practicing with the Kings, Budaj is expected to get the call when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon.

Budaj, 34, has gone 24-14-3 this season with an impressive .922 save percentage and has won his last four starts.

Quick has been sidelined with a groin injury since mid-October and practiced for the second straight day on Friday under the supervision of former All-Star goaltender Bill Ranford. The Kings believe Quick's recovery is on target and could have him back in the lineup by mid-February, when the Kings complete their bye week.

"He's a 10-minute practice guy right now," coach Darryl Sutter told the Kings' website. "The plan was because we have the break, which was going to take him out of it again, so we wanted to get him in pads and full gear so that when we get back from the break, then we could determine how far away he was again."

Meanwhile, the Kings could get right wing Tyler Toffoli back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 20 when he suffered a lower-body injury. Toffoli, who has eight goals in 32 games, practiced on a second line with Jeff Carter (team-leading 26 goals) and Tanner Pearson (15) on Friday.

"He'll be game-time," Sutter said. "I'll talk to him tonight. I wanted him to practice with the line today and see, and then go from there."

The Flyers have won four of their last five and are coming off a solid 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth turned away 15 of 16 shots in the win and is slated for his first back-to-back starts since mid-November as the Flyers try to determine whether he or Steve Mason will carry them down the stretch.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol faces another lineup decision as well. Second-year defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was a healthy scratch for the fourth time on Thursday night and Nick Schultz played well in his place. Gostisbehere, who was a Calder Trophy runner-up last season, has gone 27 games without a goal and is team-worst minus-19.

Rookie forward Travis Konecny, who has seven goals and 22 assists in 50 games, also was a healthy scratch on Thursday in favor of veteran Dale Weise. Hakstol did not tip his hand on whether either player will return to the lineup on Saturday, but of the two, Gostisbehere appears the more likely.

"It's about winning hockey games," Hakstol told "We're in the middle of a playoff battle here. We hope it's going to be a long battle because we think it's going to go right down to the wire. It's just about a roster and a lineup that gives us the best opportunity to win."

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto is day-to-day with a lower body injury for the Flyers and is not likely to play.
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