Unless the Los Angeles Kings reach the Stanley Cup Finals, they won’t face another Eastern Conference team this season.
The way the Kings are playing lately, a championship run doesn’t seem like a long shot.
Los Angeles (40-20-9, 89 points) begins its final stretch of 13 straight games against Western Conference opponents when it hosts the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, the first of three meetings between the teams over the next 24 days.
After a 4-1 win against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan was only looking ahead to the next day’s practice.
“The race to the end, for us, is just the next game, (Friday’s) practice,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about Vancouver until we get (to Crypto.com arena), but (Friday’s) practice will be important.”
The win against the Blue Jackets extended their point streak to eight games (7-0-1), gave the Kings 40 wins in the third-fastest time in franchise history, and pulled them within a point of the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles has not allowed more than two goals in its past seven games.
“It’s hard to keep teams to two goals against or less consistently, and we’ve been able to do it for a while,” McLellan said. “It means you’re getting great goaltending, the penalty kill is probably doing its thing, and four lines and three pairs of defensemen are committed to doing things right.”
Drew Doughty has scored goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Viktor Arvidsson also scored against Columbus to move within one goal of his goal total from last season (20). Anze Kopitar notched his 26th goal on the season against the Blue Jackets, moving within reach of the fourth 30-goal season of 17-year NHL career.
Trevor Moore set up Arvidsson with a slick pass, showing the playmaking ability that helped him produce career highs of 17 goals and 31 assists last season.
Moore had been slowed this season by an upper-body injury that sidelined him from the Christmas break until after the All-Star break. He returned for five games, but then went down for another seven games.
Playing on a line with Phillip Danault and Arvidsson, Moore has three points (one goal, two assists) in the four games since his latest return.
“He looks more like he did earlier in the year and last year,” McLellan said. “His energy with that line matches now. It didn’t match the first time back, but it does match now.”
The Canucks (29-33-5, 63 points) won a season-high five in a row before losing 3-2 at the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night to kick off a three-game road trip.
“We’ve got to get back to our work boots,” Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet said.
The Los Angeles power play — which is ranked sixth in the NHL at 24.2 percent but has struggled since forward Kevin Fiala (lower-body) and defenseman Sean Durzi (upper-body) went down with injuries earlier this month — should welcome the opportunity to face the Vancouver penalty kill.
The Canucks are last in the league at killing power plays, sitting at a 68.2 percent success rate. Only four NHL teams have ever finished with a penalty-kill percentage below 70 percent and the last was the Kings in 1982-83 (68.6).
The Coyotes, who are ranked 22nd in the NHL on the power play, went 2-for-3 against the Canucks in their win on Thursday night.
–Field Level Media