Barring a drastic change, the Los Angeles Kings appear locked into the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Phoenix Coyotes’ postseason fate isn’t nearly as certain.
Los Angeles looks to end a two-game skid by winning a fourth straight home meeting with Phoenix on Monday night.
The Kings’ recent eight-game winning streak helped them take a seven-point advantage over the Coyotes (32-25-11) for third place in the Pacific Division and a guaranteed playoff spot.
Los Angeles (38-24-6) trails second-place San Jose by double digits and also will have a tough time catching the Central’s third-place team in order to move up to the fifth seed.
The Kings had their run end with a 3-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday before Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Anaheim, with both losses coming at Staples Center. Tyler Toffoli scored against the Ducks, but Marian Gaborik had the potential tying goal waved off in the third period by the officials due to incidental contact with the goaltender.
”I think we didn’t play the best that we could,” Toffoli said. ”But I think we know now that the rest of the season here we have to play hard and play the right way.”
Coach Daryl Sutter said the disallowed goal wasn’t the only reason for Los Angeles’ defeat.
"We played against a top team in the conference and only (scored) one goal and (gave) up two easy ones," Sutter said. "We got beat out of the corner and we got beat at the top of the circles."
Los Angeles will look to bounce back by beating Phoenix for the ninth time in the last 11 home matchups. The Kings won at Staples Center 7-4 on Oct. 24, but the Coyotes followed by winning the next two meetings at home.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored twice and Antoine Vermette had a goal and an assist in Phoenix’s 3-0 win in the last matchup Jan. 28. Phoenix has won five of seven overall after beating Calgary 3-2 on Saturday and is in a tight battle with Dallas for the West’s final wild-card spot.
Shane Doan scored his 350th career goal on one of Phoenix’s six third-period power plays, its only conversion on eight attempts with the man advantage. It also squandered a two-goal lead, but Mike Smith made 29 saves to help earn the victory.
"They say a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, and we’re proving it," Smith said. "We thought it was going to be an easy game after the first (period). We can’t just tip-toe around games and expect to win, even against teams that aren’t in the playoff hunt."
Smith has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last seven starts, going 5-2-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average in that stretch.
"He made some saves that really showed how athletic he is as a person," Doan said. "He gave us a chance to come back in the third and win."
Smith made 41 saves in the Coyotes’ 3-1 win over Los Angeles on Oct. 29, but he’s just 3-6-0 with a 2.88 GAA in his last 10 starts against the Kings, including the postseason.
Jonathan Quick won six straight starts with a 0.99 GAA before losing to Toronto. He’s 1-2-0 with a 3.35 GAA in his last three against Phoenix.