The Los Angeles Kings are running out of time in their effort to make the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight years, and they can’t afford to let more points slip away when they meet the Buffalo Sabres at Staples Center on Thursday night.
The Kings (33-29-7) are four points behind St. Louis for the second wild card out of the Western Conference after the Blues lost in Anaheim 2-1 on Wednesday.
Los Angeles missed a chance to move closer when it lost 3-1 to the visiting Blues on Monday and again Tuesday when it fell in an 11-round shootout against the visiting Arizona Coyotes, the second-to-last team in the West.
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The Kings have 13 games to make up ground.
“We need to win every game,” Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli said. “We need to get rolling here and find a way to bear down and get two points in all these games coming up.”
Toffoli was one of the few bright spots in recent games, totaling two goals and two assists in the last three.
“It’s good to see him break out,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Hopefully, that gets him going, gives him some confidence.”
The Sabres (28-30-12) lost nine of their last 11 (2-8-1), most recently the first of three straight games in California — a 4-1 defeat to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
Buffalo will also be without defenseman Justin Falk (calf) and forward Justin Bailey (foot), according to the Buffalo News. Tyler Fedun is expected to be called up from from Rochester of the American Hockey League to fill in for Falk, and coach Dan Bylsma said he’s leaning toward inserting Hudson Fasching in the lineup in place of Bailey.
Fasching missed three months with a groin injury and hasn’t played in an NHL game since Oct. 30.
“It will be an opportunity for him, very similar to last year, when he played seven games, to show what he can do,” Bylsma told the Buffalo News. “He’s a big guy, physical along the wall. That’s what we need to see him do.”
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is expected to start after backing up Ben Bishop on Tuesday. Quick, who missed 59 games this season with a groin injury, is 4-1-0 in his career against Buffalo with two shutouts. His 1.41 goal-against average against the Sabres is his lowest against any NHL team.
Quick hasn’t faced the Sabres since Dec. 9, 2014, however. He was injured when Buffalo beat the visiting Kings 6-3 in December and Jhonas Enroth played both games against Buffalo last season.
The Kings won’t have the luxury of playing their back-up goalie this time around, but Sutter didn’t seem overly concerned about his team’s place in the standings following Tuesday’s loss.
After all, the Kings clinched a playoff spot on the second-to-last game of the regular season five years ago, then went on to win their first Stanley Cup as the eighth seed out of the West.
“Every game’s a new game,” Sutter said. “I’m not going to let somebody in a basement somewhere decide where he thinks we’re going to finish.”