The Los Angeles Kings hope the roll they were on heading into the All-Star break can continue as they try to stay in the mix for their first playoff berth in seven years.
Looking for their third straight win overall, the last-place Kings on Thursday night resume play after the midseason classic by looking to extend their home dominance over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Though Los Angeles is currently at the bottom of the Pacific Division, it's picked up 13 of a possible 16 points by going 5-0-3 in its last eight meetings with Chicago at Staples Center, including a 5-2 victory on Nov. 29. The Kings haven't lost in regulation on home ice to the Blackhawks since falling 3-2 on Oct. 25, 2003.
With 45 points, Los Angeles (19-20-7) is in 13th place in the Western Conference, but only six points behind the four teams that are tied for the final two playoff spots.
"I like what we've done in the first half of the year," first-year Los Angeles coach Terry Murray told the league's official Web site. "Our record, I feel, should be better than what it is, but it's a process."
After scoring a total of four goals in an 0-3-1 stretch from Jan. 10-17, Los Angeles exploded for 11 tallies in wins at Minnesota and Colorado before the break. That was the most goals put up by the Kings in a two-game span this season, but they're still second to last in the West with 117 total goals in 2008-09.
On Jan. 20, five different Los Angeles players scored en route to a 5-2 victory over the Wild. The next night, the Kings followed that effort with a 6-5 triumph over the Avalanche as Alexander Frolov scored twice in a five-goal second period.
Frolov, who reached the 20-goal mark for the fifth straight season, has three goals and six assists in a three-game point streak against Chicago.
Dustin Brown, the Kings' lone All-Star representative, scored the game-winning goal in both road wins. Named the NHL's first star of the week on Monday, Brown has notched three of his five game-winning goals this season at home.
Chicago (26-12-8) started an eight-game road swing - the second-longest in franchise history - with a 3-2 win over Anaheim on Wednesday thanks to its All-Stars - Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Kane, who had been dealing with an ankle injury for roughly a month, snapped a 12-game goal-scoring drought with his 17th of the season. Toews later added his 14th.
"We enjoyed ourselves and relaxed over the break," said Toews, the Blackhawks' 20-year-old captain. "Now there is a responsibility to come back and perform. We were excited to play and come back and redeem ourselves."
Nikolai Khabibulin made 36 saves to avoid a season-high third consecutive loss, but Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has been rotating goaltenders, meaning on Thursday Cristobal Huet will likely face his former team for the second time this season.
Huet is 4-1-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average in his last five road games. He played with the Kings from 2002-04, going 14-20-0 with 11 ties and a 2.41 GAA.
Huet faced Los Angeles for the first time in the November meeting, in which he took the loss after allowing four goals on 27 shots.