Like we've come accustomed to in recent years, the Los Angeles Kings are taking their postseason push into the final stages of the NHL's regular season. Not all hope is lost, however, especially with a roster that has continually proved to come up big in high-pressure situations.
With six games left on the regular season slate, the Kings find themselves on the outside looking in at the Western Conference’s playoff picture. As of Wednesday, as the Kings prepare to start a two-game home stand at STAPLES Center, they’re slated as having a 61.1 % chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
HOME COOKIN’: The Kings return to STAPLES Center Thursday night, where they’ve posted a 22-9-7 record this season, for two match ups (EDM Thursday, COL Saturday) where extremely earnable points are up for the taking. Edmonton is already eliminated, and Colorado is on the cusp of being such. These are four points the Kings are in dire need of.
PACIFIC PUSH: It’s very much in the Kings’ favor that they will see both of the teams they’re chasing in the Pacific Division, Calgary and Vancouver, one more time each respectively. These will be huge opportunities for the Kings to gain ground in four-point game scenarios. What’s also helpful to the Kings, is the fact that they have one game in hand on each of these division foes.
OILER SPOILER: The Kings will see the Edmonton Oilers twice in their final six games. The lowly Oilers, at this time of season, are extremely dangerous to teams on the fringe such as the Kings. Edmonton has recently pulled off a pair of victories against the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche – crushing blows to teams that are desperate for points such as the Kings.
BUT DON'T FORGET: The Kings didn't clinch a spot until their 80th regular season game during the 2011-'12 campaign, when they slipped into the playoffs as an eight seed - eventually winning the Stanley Cup. In 2012-'13, the Kings didn't clinch a playoff spot until there were four games remaining in the lockout-shortened season - they went on to lose in the Western Conference Final. Last season, the Kings didn't clinch a spot until there were five games left in the regular season - they went on to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Let’s take a look at the Kings’ final six match ups:
THE FINAL SIX
THURSDAY, APRIL 2 – VS EDMONTON
THE SKINNY: Thursday evening presents the first of two games against the Oilers during the Kings’ final six-game stretch. Although the Oilers are 28th in the NHL with a lowly 59 points, they’re a dangerous team this time of year, especially to ones on the fringe of the postseason such as the Kings. Edmonton has won four of its past five games; two of those wins have been crushing blows to the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche’s playoff hopes.
SEASON SERIES: The Kings are 2-0-1 against the Oilers this season, outscoring Edmonton in regulation 13-5, their only loss coming in a shootout on December 30.
SATURDAY, APRIL 4 – VS COLORADO
THE SKINNY: The Avalanche may be playing for their playoff lives when they visit STAPLES Center on Saturday evening. Colorado, with 82 points in the standings, sits six behind the Kings, and eight behind the closest playoff spot. The Avalanche were a victim of the ‘spoiler’ Oilers on Monday, falling to Edmonton 4-1.
SEASON SERIES: The Kings are 2-0-0 against Colorado this season, outscoring the Avalance 9-3 in their two wins at the Pepsi Center.
MONDAY, APRIL 6 – AT VANCOUVER
THE SKINNY: The Canucks have gained a rather comfortable lead in the Pacific Division standings, winning two straight to up their point-total to 95 – good for second in the division, four points ahead of the third place Calgary Flames. What happens between now and next Monday will play a big role on the implications of this matchup at Rogers Arena, but it is a four-point game for the Kings – who could gain some crucial last-minute growth in the standings with a head-to-head win against the Canucks.
SEASON SERIES: The Kings are 3-1-0 against the Canucks this season. Up until their 4-1 loss to Vancouver on March 21st, the Kings dominated the Canucks in three games – outscoring Vancouver 13-2.
TUESDAY, APRIL 7 – AT EDMONTON
Oh boy, Edmonton again. Who knows where the Kings will be, other than at Rexall Place.
THURDAY, APRIL 9 – AT CALGARY
THE SKINNY: This could prove to be the single-biggest game of the season. As of Wednesday, the Kings trail the Flames by three points for the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff spot – but with one game in hand. The Flames have given the Kings fits the past two seasons, especially late in games. Seven of the past seven games the Kings have played against Calgary have been decided by one goal - with the Kings dropping three of those in OT/SO.
SEASON SERIES: The Kings are 1-1-2 against the Flames this season, picking up their only win in a 5-3 victory over Calgary on February 12 at STAPLES Center.
SATURDAY, APRIL 11 – VS SAN JOSE
THE SKINNY: With the Sharks slowly fading from the playoff picture, the Kings may be the only team fighting for their playoff lives in the regular season finale. San Jose, with 83 points, just finished a six-game run against Eastern Conference opponents, going 3-2-1. San Jose will likely have to win-out their next five games for any hopes of not being eliminated before the regular season finale. The Sharks' final six games, including the season finale at STAPLES Center, are all against teams that are currently out of the playoffs.
SEASON SERIES: The Kings are 2-2-0 against the Sharks this season; their most recent meeting a 2-1 win on February 21 at Levi's Stadium during the NHL's 2015 Stadium Series.
Via long-time Kings blogger Quisp (@KingsKoolAid), here's a pie-chart representing team's playoff chances - ranging from March 17 to March 31.