The New York Islanders are almost certainly a playoff team despite a recent slump, and Jonathan Quick thinks the Los Angeles Kings are as well.
Right now, the standings disagree with him.
Quick will try to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions continue their postseason push as they hit the midpoint of their five-game road trip Thursday night against the Islanders.
New York (44-25-5) is second in the Metropolitan Division, nine points ahead of the playoff cutoff in the Eastern Conference with eight games to play.
Los Angeles (36-23-14) isn’t anywhere close to being that comfortable, trailing Calgary by one point for third in the Pacific Division and Winnipeg by two for the West’s second wild-card spot. It has a game in hand on each.
Are the Kings even going to get the chance to defend their title?
"I believe we are," Quick said.
They’re doing their best to back up that claim, putting together a 15-5-2 stretch with Quick looking more like the goaltender that led them to two Stanley Cups in three years. He’s 15-4-2 with a 1.74 goals-against average and three shutouts in his last 21 games after going 1-6-3 with a 3.38 GAA over his previous 11.
A sense of urgency seems to have made a difference for Los Angeles.
"I think I’ve said it plenty of times, we definitely don’t want to be in this kind of position," center Anze Kopitar told the team’s official website. "But it does seem like we play good hockey when our backs are against the wall."
That’s certainly been true while winning the first two on this trip, following a victory at New Jersey on Monday by beating the New York Rangers 4-2 on Tuesday behind Quick’s 34 stops.
"It was a good performance by everyone," said right wing Marian Gaborik, who has four points in three games. "We need points. That’s the bottom line."
Turning to Quick again should help. He owns a 1.53 GAA while going 4-1-2 in his career against the Islanders, though his 25 saves weren’t enough in a 2-1 shootout loss Nov. 6.
Kopitar didn’t get a point in that matchup, but has 14 in his past 11 games – including a goal and four assists so far in the tri-state area.
The Islanders are trying to solve their offensive struggles during a 1-4-1 stretch. They’ve found the net just once in each of those defeats after Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Minnesota.
"We just have to find a way to get goals," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "We did some good things. We just have to bear down with our opportunities."
They at least may have gotten John Tavares going again. New York’s captain ended a five-game goal drought with his 34th of the season, but he has only four assists to show for eight career games against the Kings.
Kyle Okposo has been worse with just two assists in eight versus Los Angeles.
Jaroslav Halak is expected to be back in net for New York hoping for a little help. He has a .954 save percentage over his last four starts but is 1-2-1 thanks to the Islanders’ drought.
Halak has a 3.23 GAA in his last six games against the Kings, but has yet to face them with New York.