After a sizzling start to the season, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in if the season ended this weekend.
Fortunately, the Kings have 21 games remaining to climb into the top eight and qualify for the postseason. They’ll try to make up ground Saturday night against the visiting Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center.
Los Angeles (33-23-5) is one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card from the Western Conference, and two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division.
The Kings started a franchise-best 9-1-1, but couldn’t maintain that pace after losing last season’s leading point scorer to injury.
Jeff Carter, who had 32 goals and 34 assists last season, sustained a deep cut to a tendon in his ankle on Oct. 18 against the Montreal Canadiens and needed surgery.
The Kings have shown resilience in Carter’s absence, such as during an eight-game winning streak from Nov. 25 to Dec. 9, but have also displayed a glaring lack of offense in a six-game losing streak from Jan. 4-19.
The good news is the Kings are close to having Carter back, but coach John Stevens called him “doubtful” to play against the Oilers.
“He looked like he was flying out there today. Hopefully he feels well, and well enough to play,” forward Tyler Toffoli told reporters after practice on Friday. “I wish I could move like he does. I think a lot of people do.”
Added defenseman Jake Muzzin, “It’s nice to see him out there. He looks pretty good during the drills, his speed and that looks there. It’s nice having him back in the room with the guys and on the ice with us as well.”
The Kings have already defeated the Oilers handily in both meetings this season.
Jonathan Quick made 32 saves in a 5-0 victory in Edmonton on Jan. 2, and Darcy Kuemper was the winning goalie with 25 saves in a 5-2 win in Los Angeles on Feb. 7.
Edmonton (25-31-4) has seen its playoffs hopes fade as losses such as those have mounted. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to be the bright spots for the Oilers, however.
McDavid has 27 goals and 44 assists, leaving him well within reach of last season’s career-high 30-goal total.