Kings (24-16-10, 58 points) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-31-6, 32 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Back to the grind: Eight days off can send a team in a lot of different directions. The Kings haven’t played since Jan. 23, a solid 4-1 victory against visiting Ottawa. Before this week, they hadn’t had three days between games since mid-November. The Kings came out of the All Star break last season with a 1-0 shootout loss in Minnesota, then proceeded to win eight of their next 11 to move into a playoff spot, which they held the remainder of the regular season.
2. Back on the hunt: The penalty-kill unit has been one of the bright spots during the first half of the season, at one point wiping out 42 consecutive power plays by the opponent. The unit was springing a few leaks heading into the break, however, as the Kings have allowed at least one power-play goal in the last seven games. It’s the second time this season the Kings have had some hiccups on the penalty kill. They allowed at least one man-advantage goal in eight straight games in early November.
3. Quick it is: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was the first player off the ice at Wednesday’s morning skate, a clear indicator he will make his 43rd start of the season. Columbus has the worst record in the NHL, Quick just returned from a long weekend in Ottawa for the All-Star Game and the Kings begin a seven-game road trip with back-to-back games Friday in St. Louis and Saturday in Carolina, but coach Darryl Sutter obviously doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead. After all, the Blue Jackets beat the Kings, 1-0, just 3 ½ weeks ago. Quick is 7-5 lifetime against Columbus with a 2.09 goals-against average.
4. Hometown blues: Counting overtime and shootout losses, the Kings have skated off on their home ice as losers more than any other team in the Western Conference except Columbus, owning a 13-10-4 record at Staples Center (the Kings went 1-1 as the "home" team in season-opening games in Europe). Don’t think their fans haven’t noticed. With 15 days between home games after tonight, the Kings would be wise to send their fans back to their cars on a happy note.
5. Wounded pride: The Blue Jackets will likely be hanging their heads and dragging their legs when they arrive at Staples Center. They were thoroughly dominated last night in San Jose, losing their fifth straight games, 6-0. Columbus was out-shot, 16-4, and out-scored, 2-0, before many fans could find their seats at HP Pavilion. The Blue Jackets are still professional and feature one of the league’s proudest players in Rick Nash, so don’t expect them to deliver a similar no-show against the Kings.