The Los Angeles Kings are closing in on their first playoff appearance in seven seasons, but a recent rough stretch has them determined to improve their play. A visit from the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets could help.
The Kings look to avoid a third consecutive loss while trying to hand the visiting Blue Jackets their fifth straight defeat Monday night.
Absent from the postseason since 2001-02, Los Angeles (38-22-4) is fifth in the Western Conference. However, the Kings are coming off consecutive 4-2 defeats to Nashville and Montreal, giving them four losses in six games since winning a season-high nine in a row.
Los Angeles has not suffered three straight regulation losses since Jan. 7-11.
"We're not going to try to find excuses for this, but we need to get better. That's the bottom line," said forward Anze Kopitar, who scored his team-leading 30th goal and third in four games Saturday against the Canadiens.
Improving the power play could help Los Angeles, which went 0 of 4 and allowed a short-handed goal Saturday. The Kings, whose 19.3 power-play percentage is among the best in the NHL, went 4 for 26 over the last seven contests.
"In today's game you need to capitalize on special teams," said Kings forward Ryan Smyth, who had four goals and five assists in his last 10 games. "We need to get back to the basics -- pressing and getting the puck to the net. We just needed to simplify the game a bit. We need to play more desperate."
The Kings can get back on track while trying for a third straight win over Columbus (25-29-11). The Blue Jackets, who lost in two of their last three visits to Los Angeles, are 0-2-2 since winning three in a row.
Kopitar had two goals in each of the Kings' last two games against Columbus, including a 6-2 victory in the most recent Staples Center matchup Oct. 25.
After scoring his first goal in two games with the Kings on Saturday, Fredrik Modin makes his first appearance against the Blue Jackets since they traded him to Los Angeles just before Wednesday's deadline.
Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick made 21 saves Saturday but lost for the second straight start. He has beaten Columbus two straight times and is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets this season.
Andrew Murray scored for the second straight game in Columbus' 2-1 loss to San Jose on Saturday that opened a three-game California swing.
Steve Mason made 42 saves, but the Sharks scored twice in the third period.
"Any time you lose a game when you have the lead going into the third, it's disappointing," said Mason, who has posted a 3.34 GAA while losing his last three starts.
Though Mason allowed 10 goals in losing the last two games against Los Angeles, he made 27 saves in a 4-1 win over the Kings on Oct. 17.
Los Angeles last won the season series with Columbus in 2006-07.