Inconsistent goaltending is among the reasons why the Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets haven't experienced much success the last few seasons. The way Jason LaBarbera and Pascal Leclaire are playing, that may not be a problem any longer.
LaBarbera and the Kings look to win five straight for the first time in almost two years while the Blue Jackets seek their fourth consecutive victory Wednesday night when the teams meet at Staples Center.
Starting this season with three goaltenders and no clear No. 1 didn't figure to last long for the Kings (6-6-0), who have missed the playoffs each of the past four seasons.
Jonathan Bernier and Jean-Sebastien Aubin both saw time early before the 19-year-old Bernier was returned to his junior team. LaBarbera, who spent last season with Manchester of the AHL, wasn't sharp in his first two starts but has been outstanding in his last four, going 4-0-0 with one shutout and a .964 save percentage.
LaBarbera was very good again, stopping 34 shots, and Patrick O'Sullivan had his first two-goal game as the Kings stayed hot Saturday with a 4-1 victory over visiting Edmonton.
Anze Kopitar and Ladislav Nagy also scored for Los Angeles, which has won five of six following a 1-5-0 start.
"We are doing a few more good things that are maybe going subtly unnoticed," Kings coach Marc Crawford told the team's official Web site. "It comes from how we support the puck out of the zone, the limited number of turnovers and the smart play offensively."
The Kings, who haven't won five straight since Feb. 11-March 7, 2006, have outscored opponents 14-3 during the win streak.
LaBarbera has allowed only four goals over the last four games while facing 109 shots.
"I feel really relaxed out there right now, and for me that's the biggest thing," LaBarbera said. "If I'm pressing and nervous and my head's spinning, I get in trouble. But I'm calm, and I'm not worrying about things. And if I just play my position and play big and let the puck hit me, then I'm usually all right."
Also playing major roles in the Kings' recent surge are Michael Cammalleri and Nagy.
Cammalleri ranks among the league leaders with 10 goals, scoring four in his last five games. Nagy, meanwhile, has two goals and three assists during the four-game run.
Columbus (6-3-1), which has never made the playoffs, is off to the best start in its seven-year history.
Although he fell short of another shutout, Leclaire stopped 16 of 17 shots Saturday in the Blue Jackets' 2-1 home victory over San Jose.
Sergei Fedorov scored the decisive goal late in the second period as Columbus won its third in a row.
"There's not one person, magazine, publisher, anything that has us making the playoffs this year," center Dan Fritsche said. "We have a lot of people to prove wrong and a lot of respect to gain. We're on our way."
Leclaire leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.29) and shutouts (4). He is one shutout shy of tying the club record of five set by Marc Denis in 2002-03 and matched in 2003-04.
Rick Nash scored a goal in five straight games before going pointless Saturday. He fell two games shy of the team record set by Geoff Sanderson in 2002-03.
The Kings have won five straight home games against the Blue Jackets since the teams skated to a 2-2 tie on Jan. 10, 2004.