Blue Jackets-Kings Preview
The Los Angeles Kings became the first eighth seed to win the Stanley Cup last year.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are currently eighth in the Western Conference, and are hoping to pad their slight lead in their quest for the Cup.
The Blue Jackets try to match the longest winning streak in franchise history Thursday night when they visit the Kings.
Los Angeles (24-14-5) is tied with San Jose for fourth in the conference while holding the tiebreaker for home-ice advantage for a first-round playoff series. Both teams are a relatively comfy, sitting six points clear of the postseason cutoff with five games to play.
Columbus (21-16-7), which has four games left, isn't nearly as comfortable in eighth place, two points ahead of Detroit and four in front of Dallas. However, the Red Wings have a game in-hand while the Stars have two as they host Vancouver.
The Blue Jackets also trail seventh-place St. Louis by one point and sixth-place Minnesota by two.
Columbus is looking to improve its position in the standings by equaling its team record winning streak of six games set from March 24-April 3, 2006.
The Jackets got closer to that mark Wednesday, when Fedor Tyutin scored in overtime in a 3-2 win over Pacific Division-leading Anaheim. It was their third game in a row decided after regulation.
"We are extremely committed. That's all we talk about," left wing R.J. Umberger said. "We want to make the playoffs and we want to win the Stanley Cup. That's our goal from Day One."
Sergei Bobrovsky, who had 26 saves against the Ducks, has started every game of the winning streak, compiling a 1.54 goals-against average and one shutout.
Bobrovsky is among the league leaders with a 2.03 GAA and four shutouts, as he continues to build his case to become the first Russian to win the Vezina Trophy.
He's lost both of his career games against Los Angeles, despite a 1.53 GAA. That includes a 20-save performance in a 2-1 road defeat on Feb. 15, as the Blue Jackets lost for the second time in as many meetings this season.
This time, Columbus will have Marian Gaborik, who was acquired earlier this month in a trade from the New York Rangers. He has three goals and four assists in eight games since the deal, but hasn't found the net in the first three of this six-game road trip.
A meeting with the Kings may get the star right wing going again. He has 20 goals and 10 assists in 28 career meetings, totaling 17 points over the past 13 and scoring one goal in each of the last seven. He hasn't faced them since Oct. 7, 2011.
Los Angeles is 2-1-2 in its last five after a 3-2 shootout loss on the road to the Sharks on Tuesday.
"We need to not turn so many pucks over. We assisted on both their goals," coach Darryl Sutter said.
Anze Kopitar has one goal and nine assists in 12 games. He would seem to be in ideal position to continue scoring as he has 13 goals and 12 assists in 24 career meetings with the Jackets.
The Kings could get a boost from the season debut of defenseman Matt Greene, who has been activated after getting injured in the opener Jan. 19. The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Greene was a major part of the Kings' sturdy defense during the title run, recording 15 points and a plus-4 rating on the season.