LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings continue their pursuit of a playoff spot against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at Staples Center.
Los Angeles (31-27-6) is looking to build on a 3-2 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs that broke a two-game losing streak.
Anze Kopitar, in the midst of a season-long goal scoring slump, potted his seventh goal of the season and scored the lone shootout goal in Los Angeles’ first game of a seven-game homestand. The next two weeks are a decisive stretch for the Kings’ postseason hopes.
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Newly acquired Jarome Iginla, who arrived via a trade with Colorado on Wednesday’s trade deadline day, is finally playing significant games after the past two poor seasons registered by the Avalanche.
General Manager Dean Lombardi added the 39-year-old veteran to the roster to give Darryl Sutter another offensive option for the Kings, who ranked in the bottom third of the league in goals per game and power-play execution. Though Iginla did not hit the scoresheet against Toronto, he welcomes the challenge of assisting his new team postseason chase.
“Each point is so important, and the desperation,” said Iginla. “It is fun to be a part of that and every shift is so important, the battles both ways and the intensity. It’s been a while for me to play in those type of games and it’s fun to be a part of them again.”
Los Angeles’ playoff fate will likely go down to the season final days, and while the schedule is primarily home games (12 of 18 at Staples Center), the competition will be tough. Nine of the Kings’ final 13 games are against current playoff qualifiers so earning two points against a weaker Vancouver squad is of greater importance.
“We’ve got six more games at home,” Kopitar said. “This is a big homestand, and we’ve got to keep getting wins and keep racking up the two points. We all know it’s going to be tight in the end.”
The Canucks (26-30-7) find themselves in a spoiler’s role for the second consecutive season, on track for a similar campaign that produced 75 points — good for sixth place in the Pacific Division. Vancouver dropped a 3-1 decision in San Jose on Thursday, its fourth straight loss and the 11th in the last 14 games.
“I thought we had a pretty good start but our second and third periods were flat,” said Bo Horvat. “(Ryan) Miller was great in goal for us, we just weren’t good enough in front of him.”
Christopher Tanev agreed with Horvat’s assessment but was more pointed in critiquing the quality of the effort in the San Jose game.
“Our second period was terrible, it cost us the game,” Tanev said. “We were in our end the entire time and I wasn’t very good myself. We have to play better and do all the little things you need to win.”
As with any Canadian hockey market, when teams do not succeed the pressure elevates around the coach and it is no different with Vancouver’s Willie Desjardins.
While his team’s play may not be consequential to extending the season, the Canucks’ performance in the last 19 games will impact his tenure behind the bench. As general manager Jim Benning continues to retool his roster using young players, their progress under Desjardins will factor into whether he continues to lead them.
“We have to get playing better,” said Desjardins after the loss in San Jose. “I think our group is getting back to the point where they are healthier and playing better. Our upcoming games like the one against the Kings are going to be tough, they are great competition.
“I think we’ve had a great year for development for our younger players and a lot of guys are prepared to make the next step in their career. We have a good group of young guys but we have to continue to build on their development.”