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The Los Angeles Kings had dropped three straight and seemed on the verge of fading from playoff contention when they began a difficult stretch of road games last month.
As they prepare to head back to the West Coast, they couldn't be feeling much better about themselves.
The red-hot Kings and goaltender Jon Quick look to win a fourth straight game to close their five-game trip when they visit the lowly New York Islanders on Tuesday.
After a 4-0 home loss to Detroit on Jan. 15, Los Angeles didn't seem likely to get much of a break with eight of its next nine games on the road. The Kings, however, have gone 6-1-1 since that shutout to move within three points of eighth place in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles (23-21-7), which hasn't reached the playoffs since the 2001-02 season, is among six teams within three points of each other that are battling for the West's final spot.
"We're a young group of guys and it's been a learning experience at times this year," forward Patrick O'Sullivan said. "Since Christmas, we have really picked up our game. We have to keep trying to push forward and make the playoffs. That's our goal."
A big key to their push has been the 23-year-old Quick, who had made two career starts before this season. He's 10-6-0 with a 2.38 goals-against average and three shutouts in 2008-09, winning six of his last seven starts.
In Saturday's 3-1 victory at New Jersey, he made 25 saves and came within 10 minutes of another shutout.
"He's grown very quickly in his time here," coach Terry Murray said. "It's a great opportunity for him and he's taking advantage. He's going to be better because of this group of games we're playing on this road trip."
After opening the trip with a 4-3 loss to Montreal, the Kings picked up wins over Ottawa and Washington before beating the Devils. The club, 5-9-0 on the road through Jan. 6, also won at Minnesota and Colorado just before the All-Star break and opened the second half with a 5-2 home win over Chicago.
Dustin Brown has been the Kings' offensive leader over the last eight games, with six goals and seven assists in that stretch.
A trip to Nassau Coliseum wouldn't seem to present a tough challenge for Los Angeles, as the Islanders (16-31-5) have a league-low 37 points.
New York has cooled off after a four-game winning streak, losing back-to-back games at Florida and Tampa Bay last week. Coach Scott Gordon's team fell 1-0 to the Lightning on Saturday night, allowing the winning goal with 6:26 to play.
"It's never fun to lose like that in the third," said New York's Yann Danis, who made 27 saves. "We played a good game. We battled hard. There's definitely some positives out of it."
Danis has been a bright spot lately, going 4-4-1 with a 1.92 GAA since the beginning of January. The Islanders, though, are 27th in the league with 2.42 goals scored per game and have managed two total goals in two losses without defenseman Mark Streit.
Streit, the Islanders' leading scorer with 38 points, has been out with an upper-body injury. Defensemen Freddy Meyer, Thomas Pock and Andy Sutton are also injured.
The Kings have won the last two matchups with the Islanders, the most recent a 3-1 victory Jan. 31, 2008.