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Kings look to get back on winning track vs. Jackets

by Brian Hunter
BLUE JACKETS (25-29-11) at KINGS (38-22-4)

Last 10: Columbus 4-4-2; Los Angeles 6-3-1

Season series:
Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The home team has won all three matchups to this point. Anze Kopitar scored twice for the Kings in each of their victories. Antoine Vermette leads the Blue Jackets with two goals. Jonathan Quick and Steve Mason have been the goaltenders in all three games.

Big story:
There is little doubt Los Angeles is on its way to a postseason berth for the first time since 2002, but the Kings have a fight going with another resurgent team, Pacific Division neighbor Phoenix, for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home ice in the first round. The Coyotes lead by three points after they shut out the Ducks on Saturday and the Kings were dropped by the Canadiens.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets:
Mason has had his share of struggles in his sophomore season, but he was the last guy who could be blamed in a 2-1 Columbus loss to San Jose on Saturday. Mason was brilliant in stopping 42 shots and giving the Blue Jackets a fighting chance at two points. Andrew Murray staked them to a narrow lead after two periods, but the Sharks rallied in the third for the second game in a row, Joe Pavelski netting the winner with 4:40 remaining.

"A first-place team, they're there for a reason," Mason said. "They never gave up and it showed. Any time you lose a game when you have the lead going into the third, it's disappointing."

Kings: Few things deflate a team more than allowing a goal early or late in a period. Los Angeles was behind the eight ball right off the bat Saturday when Brian Gionta scored for Montreal just 22 seconds after the opening faceoff. Still trailing by a goal entering the third, the Kings fell behind 3-1 when Benoit Pouliot struck at 36 seconds. Those goals proved crucial in a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens.

"The start clearly wasn't good. Montreal scored on the first shift," said Kopitar, who scored his 30th goal of the season. "By the end of the first period we started to dictate play a bit more but in the second period we had some power-play opportunities that we didn't capitalize on. They also came back and scored a shorthanded goal, which was frustrating. I don't know what it is. We're not going to try to find excuses for this, but we need to get better."

Who's hot:
Murray has goals in consecutive games for the Blue Jackets after not having one in 29 games. … Kopitar has 11 goals and 10 assists in his last 15 games for the Kings. Michal Handzus has four goals and six assists in his last 11 games, while Ryan Smyth has four goals and five assists in his last 10 games.

Injury report:
Columbus forward Derick Brassard is day-to-day with a hand injury and defenseman Rostislav Klesla is on injured reserve with a torn groin. … Los Angeles has forwards Justin Williams (leg/ankle) and Andrei Lokitonov (shoulder) on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
The Blue Jackets' winning percentage of .655 when leading after two periods is by far the lowest in the League. Conversely, the Kings are one of only two teams not to have lost this season when leading after two. The Sabres are the other.

Puck drop:
Fredrik Modin, who scored his first goal with the Kings on Saturday, will face his former teammates on Monday. Injuries limited Modin to 176 games over parts of four seasons with the Blue Jackets. He scored 22 goals in the 2006-07 season but just 17 after that before he was dealt.

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