Though they’re outside the playoff picture, the Los Angeles Kings can still finish second in the Pacific Division.
Though the Vancouver Canucks stand in their way, Los Angeles’ superior goaltending could prove to be an advantage down the stretch.
Los Angeles seeks an eighth win in nine meetings over Vancouver on Saturday.
The Kings (34-22-14) are two points back of the second-place Canucks and one point behind third-place Calgary, with a game in hand on the Flames. They also trail Winnipeg by two points for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.
Vancouver (40-26-4) is trying to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season after five straight appearances.
Los Angeles has swept three meetings this season by a 12-3 margin, including a 4-0 road victory March 12. Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist and has eight points in his last eight meetings.
"I think we’ve just played well against them. We get up for games against Vancouver. They’re a good team," defenseman Drew Doughty said. " … It’s going to be a huge game for us. It’s a must win. We can’t give them any points, we can’t let it go to OT. We need to win it in regulation and get ahead."
Jonathan Quick, who has two shutouts in his last four starts, has gone 6-3-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last nine against Vancouver.
He’ll get some help in front of him in the form of defenseman Alec Martinez, activated Friday off injured reserve after an 18-game absence with an apparent concussion. Martinez has five goals, 12 assists and a plus-11 rating in 45 games.
The Canucks lost 6-2 to Columbus on Thursday despite a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Eddie Lack was pulled in the third period after giving up five goals on 30 shots.
Top goaltender Ryan Miller hasn’t played since Feb. 22 due to a sprained knee and won’t be back until the playoffs. Vancouver is 6-4-1 since he’s been out while allowing 3.2 non-shootout goals per game, ranking 26th in that span. The Canucks had been tied for 12th previously, giving up 2.6.
Los Angeles allows 2.4 goals per game, sixth in the NHL.
"I just feel at this time of year … what you should see is the team that we are," coach Willie Desjardins said. "The team that showed tonight, that’s got to be our team because there’s no reason on a game this big that we wouldn’t play our best."
The Kings lost 3-2 in overtime to Anaheim on Thursday, though Justin Williams helped them record a point for the seventh time in eighth games (5-1-2) when he forced the extra period with a goal at the 15:46 mark of the third period.
"That was huge for us," Doughty said. " … We got one point out of it so I guess that’s the only bright side."
Jeff Carter stayed hot with his 25th goal and seventh in nine games, but Los Angeles has been held to one or no goals in five of six at home.
Marian Gaborik has recorded 13 goals and eight assists in his last 21 meetings with the Canucks.
These teams play once more in Vancouver on April 6. Neither team has swept the season series since the Canucks won four meetings in 1994-95.