Kings-Blue Jackets Preview
The Los Angeles Kings have built plenty of momentum in time for a stretch which keeps them away from home for just about the rest of 2015.
They'll try for a fifth consecutive victory to open a six-game trip Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Los Angeles (17-8-1) concluded a perfect four-game homestand with Sunday's 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay.
"We're finding ways to win," said Jonathan Quick, who has a 1.46 goals-against average during the club's current 5-0-1 run.
The Kings have won 11 of 13 at home but need to carry over that success to the road, where they'll play 10 of their 11 remaining December games. They've lost three of four away from home ice.
"I know coming back and looking at this homestand, it was four really good hockey teams (Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh and the Lightning)," Quick said. "We're moving on. We've got a big trip ahead of us. We've got to leave this in the past and get ready for the next one."
A respectable 6-3-1 on the road, Los Angeles is poised to remain focused on its own play and not the extended travel.
"We're working on our game, we're trying to get better every game," Quick said. "We need to stay on par with (this) type of winning percentage if we expect to be a playoff team."
Teammate Anze Kopitar is doing his part, recording three goals and six assists in the last eight games with a plus-6 rating. He earned his 400th assist on Brayden McNabb's tiebreaking score early in the second period Sunday.
"He's probably going to get 400 more," coach Darryl Sutter said. "Remember I said that too, because it'll happen."
Teammate Jeff Carter is riding a six-game point streak, and the ex-Blue Jacket has a five-gamer against his former team with four goals and five assists.
Kopitar assisted on Carter's late goal in the clubs' only matchup this season, but Columbus (11-16-1) ended a three-game losing streak in the series with a 3-2 win Nov. 5. Quick had a personal six-game win streak against the Blue Jackets snapped, but he's won his last five starts in Columbus behind a 1.97 GAA.
Sergei Bobrovsky beat him in the first meeting by stopping 31 shots. He has a 1.44 GAA in his last 10 starts after making 27 saves Saturday and helping Columbus snap an 0-2-1 slide with a 4-1 victory at Philadelphia.
The win came one day after coach John Tortorella benched veteran Scott Hartnell for Friday's 2-1 shootout loss to Florida and questioned his team's overall effort following the contest. Hartnell responded by recording a goal and two assists as the Blue Jackets improved to 11-9-1 since Tortorella replaced the fired Todd Richards in October.
''That has to be the standard and it will be the standard," said forward Nick Foligno, who had two goals with an assist.
"(Tortorella) is very serious about the standard he is setting here, and Hartnell handled it like a pro. When you sit him out, it sends a shock wave through the room. Message received.''
Hartnell is tied for the team lead with 19 points but had gone without one in his previous four games. His power-play goal Saturday ended Columbus' 0-for-23, nine-game drought.