PREVIEW: Actor Michael Vartan joins Hockey Night in LA as Bruins come to town (FOX Sports West, 7p)

February 16, 2019

The bottleneck at the bottom half of the NHL's Western Conference standings isn't budging heading into the stretch run of the season.

The Los Angeles Kings have pulled up from the rear in the past month, earning points in nine of 12 games to get within range of a playoff spot heading into their second consecutive Saturday game against the visiting Boston Bruins.

The Bruins defeated the visiting LA Kings 5-4 in overtime last Saturday, ending a three-game winning streak that had drawn Los Angeles within five points of the conference's second wild card spot.

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The loss to Boston has stretched into a three-game winless streak (0-1-2), dropping the LA Kings eight points back of the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card.

Los Angeles missed a chance for two points when it allowed a tying goal with 1:38 left in regulation against the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, and then lost 4-3 in a shootout. The Canucks had played the night before and lost 1-0 at the Anaheim Ducks.

"You've just got to learn from this stuff," LA Kings defenseman Alec Martinez told reporters after the loss. "We need points right now."

Boston also will be facing the LA Kings a night after a shutout win in Anaheim.

Tuukka Rask will start in goal after Jaroslav Halak made 30 saves against the Ducks in a 3-0 win.

Rask is 18-8-4 with a 2.38 goals-against average on the season.

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"They make key saves when we need them," Boston forward Chris Wagner said of his team's goaltenders. "Tuukka has been solid all year, so we have a lot of confidence in both of them."

The Bruins won't be the same team that beat the LA Kings last weekend, however.

David Pastrnak, who leads Boston with 31 goals, had surgery on his left thumb earlier this week after an off-ice fall on Sunday. He's expected to be out another week at the least.

Meanwhile, the LA Kings could be getting a key player back in center Jeff Carter, who missed the past five games with a lower-body injury.

Carter is having a below-average season with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 51 games, but he produced six points in seven games before the injury.

"I think Carter's looked good the last couple days," LA Kings coach Willie Desjardins told reporters after practice Friday. "I think there's a chance we'll see him."

Los Angeles defenseman Sean Walker also could play after getting struck in the face with the puck against the Canucks and sustaining a major laceration.

"Certainly, he's got to be really uncomfortable," Desjardins said. "It didn't get his eye. It didn't get any teeth, so it could be worse."

LA Kings rookie forward Austin Wagner has been the team's hottest player of late. He has four goals in the past four games and three in the past two. The LA Kings and No.1 goalie Jonathan Quick have surrendered 13 goals in regulation in the past three games, however, preventing them from climbing further up the standings.

"You know, we're a really good team this year," Wagner said. "We have a lot of key components that make us a really good team. We're able to play with leads, we're able to score goals, but we've got to help out Quickie."


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