Though the Los Angeles Kings are headed to the postseason as the third seed in the Pacific Division, they’re in a somewhat difficult position as they close the regular season.
Looking to avoid further injuries and exhaustion while also keeping their play sharp, the Kings visit the surging Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles (45-28-6) gave up the go-ahead goal with 1:23 left in regulation en route to its second straight loss and third in four games, 2-1 to Vancouver on Saturday. The Kings were outshot 40-26 overall and 20-7 in the third period – when the Canucks outscored them 2-0 – as they managed one goal for the second consecutive contest.
"We have to bear down. We took three penalties and they scored on one of them," forward Marian Gaborik said. "We can’t have breakdowns in our zone. We have to get ready and make sure it doesn’t happen. We’re heading into playoffs.
"These game situations can cost us big so we have to figure it out and make sure we bear down and are strong on pucks in front of our net."
While their settled playoff situation may have caused some complacency to creep in, a bigger issue for Los Angeles is injuries – particularly on the blue line. Star defenseman Drew Doughty sat out what would have been his 200th consecutive game Saturday with an upper-body injury – thought to be a left shoulder ailment – and his status is uncertain.
The Kings then lost another defenseman against Vancouver, as Matt Greene suffered a cut to his right foot or leg in the third period and departed. He’s also uncertain to play in this game.
Coach Darryl Sutter’s team plays again Thursday at Edmonton, but the Kings will have had a much-needed three days off before facing Calgary.
"It’s not ‘rest.’ It’s the injury part," Sutter told the team’s official website. "There’s lots of guys playing with injuries. Hey, we were basically in an emergency situation the other night with Robyn (Regehr out) and Drew. That’s what’s more important in our sport. It’s not the rest part of it, because we’re going to get the three days."
Regehr should return after being rested Saturday and Jonathan Quick is likely to start after the layoff, though he’ll probably sit Thursday. Quick, who faced a season high in shots Saturday, beat Calgary 1-0 with 25 saves Feb. 27 at the Saddledome and has won four of his last five starts in the series with a 1.20 goals-against average.
Los Angeles has taken the last two meetings with the Flames – both on the road – but Calgary brings a three-game winning streak into Wednesday. The club closed a five-game road trip with a 1-0 victory over New Jersey on Monday.
Karri Ramo made 31 saves for his second career shutout, and he’s allowed one goal in his last two starts. He has bounced back from a rough four-game stretch in which he posted a 3.54 GAA.
The young Flames (34-38-7) won’t be going to the playoffs, but they’ve posted an 18-11-0 mark in their last 29.
"It’s just a hard-working group," coach Bob Hartley said. "We’re going to fight until the last second. I love this group."
Ramo has won both of his starts against Los Angeles this season with a 1.50 GAA.
"He reminds me of (former Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff)," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "His style is similar. They’re quick guys. We really have a lot of confidence in our goaltending."
The teams have split four meetings in regulation this season, but the Kings have taken six of the past eight matchups.