Kings (37-25-5, 79 points) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-26-9, 71) at Nationwide Arena, 4 p.m. ET
Five storylines to track:
1. You snooze, you lose – Forget losing, teams can’t even step away from the Western Conference playoff race for a day without losing ground. The Kings won Wednesday in Detroit to move into seventh place, took a day to travel to Columbus and fell into eighth. The previous eighth-place team, the Phoenix Coyotes, won Thursday and jumped to fifth. Basically, the West just keeps getting tighter, with fourth through 11th place separated by four points.
2. Heads, it’s Bernier – You get the feeling Kings coach Terry Murray might just be flipping a coin when it comes to selecting his starting goalie. Just when it appeared Jonathan Quick had regained his confidence and full-time role in the 2-1 victory against the Red Wings, Murray announced he’s going back to Jonathan Bernier against the Blue Jackets. Bernier is coming off a 4-3 overtime loss against Dallas on Monday, but the Stars earned every point. One thing is for certain, coaches don't mind making these tough decisions.
3. Late-season slide? – The latest Kings forward to fall on hard times is veteran left wing Ryan Smyth, who has one goal in the last 17 games. That wouldn’t be such a concern if he didn’t have such a big drop off down the stretch last season. Smyth scored two goals in the last 20 regular-season games a year ago, and just one in the six-game playoff series against Vancouver. Smyth turned 35 last month and is the oldest member of the Kings.
4. Showing he belongs – Ever since Murray designated Alec Martinez as a healthy scratch Feb. 23 against Anaheim and Feb. 24 against Minnesota, the rookie defenseman has been playing at a higher level. He assisted on the winning goal against the Red Wings and is plus-3 in the six games since he returned to the lineup. Of course, Martinez didn’t waste any time making his presence known following his stay in the press box, scoring a goal in his first game back Feb. 26 in a 4-3 win against Colorado.
5. The monster Nash – Columbus forward Rick Nash hasn’t scored a goal in the last seven games. That’s not a good sign for the Kings. Nash has been a one-man demolition crew against Los Angeles in his career, owning 15 goals and 28 points in 29 career games. In his only appearance against the Kings this season, he had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 overtime loss Feb. 15 at Staples Center.