National Hockey League
Jets-Kings Preview
National Hockey League

Jets-Kings Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 10:53 p.m. ET

Wayne Gretzky's 41 goals and 122 assists guided Los Angeles to a 102-point campaign and the Smythe Division title in his third season with the club. He never reached those numbers again, and the Kings haven't won their division since.

Two Stanley Cup championships help make the drought a little less significant, but the accomplishment of ending it isn't lost on this season's team.

Los Angeles has overcome a potentially damaging swoon and can clinch the Pacific with a win over the visiting Winnipeg Jets in Saturday night's regular-season finale.

Not since Gretzky won the ninth of his 10 Art Ross trophies in 1990-91 have the Kings (48-28-5) claimed a division crown, which marks the only one in franchise history. They won the Cup in 2012 and '14, but they got hot at playoff time after finishing third in the Pacific both seasons.


Los Angeles has won back-to-back games following a 2-6-0 stretch, including Thursday's 2-1 victory over Anaheim that broke a tie atop the division and put it in control of ending the Ducks' three-year Pacific reign. A regulation victory would give it 103 points, its most since setting a franchise record with 105 in 1974-75.

"You don't want to be relying on other teams to beat other teams, and other teams to lose," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We've relied on other teams before, and it didn't go so well for us. This year, we were really focused on determining our own destiny."

Anaheim has a game in hand, though, and still can win the division with two victories and a Kings loss of any kind. The Pacific champ will face Nashville in the first round, and the other will get to stay in California for the duration of a series with San Jose.

Finishing second could ease travel, but the Kings and Ducks could meet in the second round with the division winner getting home-ice advantage.

"We have a lot of work left to do, one massive game ahead of us, but home ice is very important," Doughty said. "The pride thing is important."

Los Angeles has held serve at home against Winnipeg, going 7-0-3 at Staples Center since the Jets entered the league as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999-2000. It won the first meeting Oct. 27, but the Jets scored three times in the third period for a 4-1 home victory in the last matchup March 24.

Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele had two assists apiece in that win, and they've helped last-place Winnipeg win a season-high three straight heading into this meeting.

Dustin Byfuglien scored with 9.9 seconds remaining to give the Jets (34-39-8) a 5-4 win at San Jose on Thursday after they trailed 3-1 in the second. Wheeler tied it with less than a minute left in the second, and Scheifele's second goal knotted it at 4-4 with 7:58 remaining in the third.

"It's too late in the year to do anything about (the standings) now, but it feels good," said Byfuglien, who also had three assists. "We can go into this last game on a high note and finish the year off right."

Wheeler has seven goals and seven assists during a 10-game point streak, and Scheifele has six goals and eight assists during a nine-game run.

"We have guys who love to compete and we get to do it one more time before next year," Wheeler said.

Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves to beat the Kings in the last meeting and could be in goal for this one. He has a 2.20 goals-against average in six starts and one relief appearance in his career against them.

Jonathan Quick has allowed at least three goals in three of his last four starts against the Jets.


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