Approaching the final 19 games as if they each were postseason contests is the only option for the Los Angeles Kings, whose playoff fate remains uncomfortably uncertain.
They shouldn’t have much trouble getting in if they put together the same effort that resulted in a victory to end their road trip.
Los Angeles seeks a sixth home win in seven tries as it faces the East-leading Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
The Kings (30-21-12) are tied with third-place Calgary for the Pacific Division’s final guaranteed playoff spot, but they’re behind by two in non-shootout victories – a category that counts as the first tiebreaker.
Los Angeles, hoping to avoid becoming the first defending champion since Carolina in 2006-07 to miss the postseason, lost three straight following an eight-game winning streak, then concluded a three-game trip with a 5-2 win at Edmonton on Tuesday.
Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis had a goal and two assists apiece, while Jeff Carter scored his third goal in two games.
"It was one of the more complete games we have played lately,” Kopitar said. ”We were on a bit of a skid, so we definitely needed that one. At this time of the year and in the position we are in, we need the two points every night. A lot is going to depend on us. We don’t want to put our fate in any other team’s hands.”
Lewis has two goals and two assists in his last three, and he credits that success to playing on a line with Kopitar and Marian Gaborik lately.
”Those are two awesome players,” Lewis said. ”They are always open and there to support you. I just try to get them the puck and get to the net and good things are happening. Playing with those two almost makes the game a little easier.”
Nothing came easy in the first meeting with the Canadiens, as P.K. Subban had a goal and two assists to lead Montreal to a 6-2 victory Dec. 12. Los Angeles hopes for a different result in Staples Center, where it has won five of six.
Subban had a goal and five assists during a three-game point streak before having it snapped in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Anaheim. The Canadiens (41-18-5) had their four-game winning streak end with Monday’s 4-0 loss to San Jose that began a four-game trip.
Montreal, which hasn’t lost three in a row since Dec. 3-6, leads the New York Rangers and Islanders by two points atop the East. It has a three-point edge on Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division lead with a game in hand.
”I don’t think we’re losing momentum,” Subban said. ”We did enough to win this hockey game. It just didn’t bounce our way today.”
Carey Price made 30 saves in his seventh straight start. He’s lost back-to-back outings after having a 1.18 goals-against average during a 9-0-1 stretch.
It’s unclear if he or Dustin Tokarski, who is 1-3-1 with a 3.43 GAA in his last five starts, will get the nod in the second of a back-to-back set. Price has a 1.69 GAA on the three occasions he’s started on a second consecutive night.
Jonathan Quick didn’t start for the Kings in the first meeting, but he’s likely to be in net for this contest. Quick made 21 saves Tuesday and is 9-2-0 with a 1.88 GAA in his last 11.