Coming out of the Olympic break, the Los Angeles Kings seemed primed to contend for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Now, they may have to scramble to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.
The struggling Kings look to avoid a third consecutive loss and pick up two key points as the New York Islanders visit Staples Center on Saturday night.
After a 5-1 win at Dallas on March 2 in the first game after the Vancouver Olympics, the Kings held fourth place in the West.
But Los Angeles (40-24-5) has gone 2-4-1 since, slipping into a sixth-place tie with Nashville. Although the Kings have at least one game in hand on every other team in the conference, they have only a four-point edge on Detroit and Calgary, which are tied for the final postseason spot.
"I think ultimately, everyone could be better here," captain Dustin Brown said. "... I think it's important for this team, at this time of year, to hit the reset button and get back to basics. I think we need to take a look in the mirror individually and collectively."
Brown's comments came after a 3-0 loss to Chicago on Thursday, as the Kings were outshot 37-17 and blanked for the first time since a 7-0 defeat at Atlanta on Nov. 13.
Los Angeles has put an average of 18.5 shots on goal while losing its last two games.
"There have been several games here now, in a row, that our shot total has dropped off," coach Terry Murray told the Kings' official Web site. "We've fallen off that attitude that is about getting to the net."
Murray shuffled Los Angeles' lines ahead of Saturday's game, which he hopes will also lead to an improved effort on the defensive end. Goalie Jonathan Quick has already set the single-season franchise record for victories with 37, but he has lost five of his last six starts, allowing three goals in each of the defeats.
One area where the Kings have not slipped is special teams. Los Angeles' penalty kill has snuffed out 20 straight chances, while the team's power play is 9 for 22 since the break. Against the Blackhawks, however, Los Angeles did not have a power play chance for the first time all season.
That's unlikely to happen again Saturday, but the Islanders could provide a difficult challenge as they seek to earn at least a point for a sixth straight game. New York's John Tavares, the top overall pick in last summer's draft, has three goals and four assists in his last two contests.
The Islanders (29-32-10) were closing in on their fourth straight victory Friday at Anaheim, but the Ducks tied the game with 32 seconds left and won 5-4 in overtime as Martin Biron allowed Saku Koivu's breakaway goal at the 14-second mark.
"We played pretty well, and it's unfortunate, but (Saturday) we've got a big game," New York defenseman Mark Streit told the NHL's official Web site.
The loss put a dent in the Islanders' slim playoff chances. They are tied with Tampa Bay for 11th in the East, six points behind eighth-place Boston.
New York will try to beat the Kings for the first time since a 3-2 win at Los Angeles on Feb. 15, 2003. The Islanders are 0-3-1 with a tie in the last five meetings, including a 2-1 home defeat Oct. 12.
They haven't visited Staples Center since Oct. 10, 2006.