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Kings face Blackhawks with playoff spot in view

Sportsnaut
Mar 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) scores a goal against Seattle Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) during the second period at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Kings can move closer to securing their first playoff appearance since 2018 when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

The Kings (41-27-10, 92 points) enter the game in third place in the Pacific Division, just three points clear of the fourth-place Vegas Golden Knights, who earned a 4-3 overtime victory Wednesday over the Washington Capitals.

Los Angeles also is four points behind second-place Edmonton, but the Oilers have a game in hand. Edmonton handled the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Wednesday.

The Kings have just four regular-season games remaining, and none are against teams currently in a playoff spot. Along with the matchup vs. the Blackhawks (26-40-11, 63 points), the Kings have games against the Anaheim Ducks, Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks remaining.

Since 2014, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup title in three seasons, the franchise has made the playoffs just twice and lost in the first round each time (2016, 2018).

The road back to respectability for Los Angeles has been led by a pair of players who have been to the top before. Veteran Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 63 points (18 goals), his most since a career-best 92 points in 2017-18, when he was the Selke Award winner.

And in goal, two-time champion Jonathan Quick has seen most of the ice time for the Kings, but he has shared the load this season with Cal Petersen, with both recording 20 wins.

“Unfortunately, it’s been a few years for us,” Quick said about the team’s playoff drought. “Try and enjoy it and take advantage of the opportunity we have here.”

Kopitar had an assist Tuesday, his 45th, while Adrian Kempe scored his 34th goal and Phillip Danault scored his 25th as the Kings defeated the rival Ducks 2-1. Quick made 29 saves.

“If we expect to play in a couple weeks from now, we have to be comfortable (in close games),” Quick said. “Especially this time of year, those games are more frequent.”

The Blackhawks will head to Los Angeles after Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Arizona Coyotes.

Thursday’s game represents Chicago’s last back-to-back of the season, and the game will come after playing an extra 4:23 against the Coyotes, with Alex DeBrincat scoring the game winner in overtime on his 40th goal.

DeBrincat, who has four game-winning goals in overtime this season, had gone seven games without putting one in the net. He is now one goal off his career best of 41 set in 2018-19, which was his second season in the NHL.

“I don’t think you cherish (40 goals) as much in your second season, and then you realize how hard it is to get back,” DeBrincat said.

Jake McCabe, Dominik Kubalik and Alex Vlasic also scored goals, but Chicago blew a pair of two-goal leads and saw Arizona tie it with a two-goal third period. DeBrincat had a career-high 25:36 of ice time.

Goalie Kevin Lankinen had 32 saves against the Coyotes, winning for just the sixth time in 26 starts this season.

–Field Level Media