When you see “Los Angeles” on the upcoming schedule, there aren’t many secrets as to what to expect.
Teams know they will be getting a fast, physical game from the Kings, a veteran team that has gradually been sprinkling in talented youngsters over the last few years. Two Stanley Cup championships since 2012 have gone a long way toward establishing the Kings as one of the NHL’s elite teams, and they always seem to find a way to turn it up a notch once April rolls around.
This edition of the Kings stumbled out of the gate to an 0-3-0 start but has found another gear. They won their next eight games to climb right back into the race, and since then, they’ve been a steady bunch while leading the Pacific Division (17-8-1).
Entering Tuesday’s game at Nationwide Arena (which kicks off a six-game road trip that begins in Columbus and ends in Toronto), the Kings back on one of their hot streaks.
After dropping a 2-1 shootout decision in Tampa Bay on Nov. 25 – a game that capped off a five-game trip – the Kings returned home to STAPLES Center and swept a four-game home stand against four quality opponents.
The last was a convincing win over the Lightning on Sunday night in Los Angeles, a game marked by Jonathan Quick doing Jonathan Quick things between the pipes and the Kings making Tampa Bay pay for its mistakes with the puck.
The Blue Jackets and Kings have already met once this season: back on Nov. 5 at STAPLES Center in the second game of a three-game swing through California. Columbus had already picked up two points in the first leg thanks to a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, and went into Los Angeles looking for a rare road win (for any team) in that building.
Cam Atkinson opened the scoring with a power play goal and it was quickly answered by Kings defenseman Alec Martinez. Late in the first period, the Blue Jackets regained their lead thanks to a fortuitous deflection off the shin pad of Brandon Dubinsky.
Gregory Campbell added a crucial insurance marker midway through the third period to give the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead into the final minutes. They were nervy moments to close it out after Jeff Carter scored with under a minute to play, but the visitors staved off the Kings to get their second win of the road trip.
The former Blue Jackets center has found a nice home with the Kings, and no matter where coach Darryl Sutter puts him, he finds a way to contribute.
Whether it’s center, left wing or right wing, Carter is a dangerous player with the puck on his stick and it’s no surprise he’s leading the Kings in scoring, tallying 10 goals and 25 points in the first 26 games of the season.
Carter has recorded at least a point in six consecutive games and in eight of his last 10.