Blue Jackets-Kings Preview
Los Angeles and Columbus both started the season with losing streaks, the difference being one was of crippling length and leaves the Blue Jackets in the NHL cellar.
The Kings responded to theirs with a substantial win streak and can start another Thursday night as they open a five-game homestand against mostly questionable competition.
After Tuesday's 3-0 win in St. Louis, Los Angeles (8-4-0) has followed a season-opening three-game skid by winning eight of nine. The only slip came with a 4-2 loss in Chicago on Monday that ended the team's seven-game winning streak.
The Kings were outscored 12-2 in their first three but have since held an average scoring edge of 3.00-1.44. Jeff Carter has five goals and five assists in his last seven games, while Tyler Toffoli has eight goals and two assists in his previous nine.
"I thought we had really good purpose to our game right from the start and played the whole game, played a complete game," coach Darryl Sutter said.
The shutout came courtesy of backup Jhonas Enroth's 24 saves, so Jonathan Quick figures to be back in goal for this one.
Before getting the night off, Quick had allowed seven goals in two games, though he's won six straight and has a 1.62 goals-against average over a 7-1-0 span against Columbus.
He's also posted a 1.22 GAA on the team's four-game home winning streak, which has a good chance to grow with Florida, Arizona, the New York Islanders and Edmonton also passing through Staples Center during this stretch.
The Kings have won the last three meetings and five straight in Los Angeles against the Blue Jackets (3-10-0) with the visitors totaling seven goals.
Columbus began a three-game West Coast trip with a 5-2 win at San Jose on Tuesday, and progress under coach John Tortorella is beginning to show. After starting 0-8-0, they've gone 3-2-0 with Tortorella in charge.
The Blue Jackets have been acceptable defensively with 2.20 goals allowed per game over the last five after allowing 4.62 during the losing streak.
"It was our most complete game of the whole season," defenseman Fedor Tyutin told the team's official website after missing the previous two games.
Scott Hartnell scored for the third time in four games, Brandon Saad has scored in consecutive contests, and Boone Jenner has a team-high seven goals after scoring four times in five games.
After sacrificing two one-goal leads, Columbus scored twice in the last two minutes of the second to grab a two-goal lead.
"Everybody brought their 'A' game," said Saad, who had four goals and five assists in his last seven against the Kings, including the postseason while with Chicago. "Confidence was high and everybody did a good job of making good plays with the puck and not just throwing it. It was fun playing that way. We have to remember that and keep it going."
Confidence might slowly be growing in Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 41 saves a game after allowing three goals in a period and being replaced. Bobrovsky has a 2.55 GAA and .921 save percentage since posting 4.72 and .840 marks in six games on the losing streak.
"Our goaltender stood tall tonight," Tortorella said after the latest win. "Bob was outstanding."
Bobrovsky has never won in Los Angeles, going 0-3-1 with a 2.75 GAA and .880 save percentage.