Kings tied for last, in hunt for playoff spot in Western Conference
Eight points separate bottom teams and second wild cardby Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Kings continue to dwell in a strange sort of limbo in the wild Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff race following a 6-4 loss to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Monday.
With that disappointing end to a six-game road trip when they went 3-2-1, the Kings (23-28-5) remained eight points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West. But they also are in last place in the conference, tied with the Anaheim Ducks with 51 points.
That's the odd state of affairs with nine teams separated by eight points; the St. Louis Blues hold the first wild card with 59 points.
"We're still hanging around, so it's important to be aware of that," Kings forward Dustin Brown said. "It's just so tight right now in the West."
Following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 15, the Kings were 11-20-3 and 13 points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild card in the West. They have gone 12-8-2 since then.
Video: LAK@PHI: Toffoli bags the shootout winner
That improvement combined with the inconsistency of the bottom 10 teams in the conference has helped them re-enter the periphery of the playoff picture.
There is a clear top five in the West with the San Jose Sharks (75 points), Calgary Flames (74 points), Winnipeg Jets (73), Nashville Predators (71) and Vegas (66), but it's a mishmash beyond that. Though the Dallas Stars are third in the Central Division with 61 points, they're only five points from falling out of a playoff spot.
"Usually there are like four teams maybe [in the race], but this year it's just everybody," Kings coach Willie Desjardins said. "The other thing that's really different is everybody's taking turns playing good and playing bad. You look and some teams are really on an upswing now, but there's other good teams that have been falling."
Here's a breakdown of the race for the West wild cards:
St. Louis Blues (27-22-5, 59 points)
Following a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 31, the Blues were in last place in the Western Conference with a 15-18-4 record and 34 points. Since then, they are 12-4-1, including wins in six straight. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has helped propel their resurgence. Including a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers in his first NHL start on Jan. 7, he is 9-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and two shutouts this season.
Video: STL@NSH: Tarasenko caps off hat trick with OT winner
Minnesota Wild (27-24-5, 59 points)
The Wild have won once in their past six games (1-3-2) but cling to the second wild card. Not having center Mikko Koivu for the remainder of the season after surgery Friday to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee might be their biggest obstacle.
Vancouver Canucks (25-25-7, 57 points)
Since a 3-2 overtime win against the Flames on Dec. 29, the Canucks are 6-7-3. That's kept them in the mix, two points behind the Blues and Wild. The future is bright with 20-year-old center Elias Pettersson, who leads NHL rookies with 25 goals, 26 assists and 51 points, but it remains to be seen if the Canucks have enough to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Colorado Avalanche (22-22-11, 55 points)
The Avalanche were tied with the Predators for most points in the conference with 39 following a 5-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 6. They are 5-15-6 since then, including three overtime losses on their recent three-game road trip. They are 1-10 in games decided in overtime.
Chicago Blackhawks (23-24-9, 55 points)
Chicago has catapulted from last in the West with 41 points on Jan. 18 to within four points of the second wild card with seven straight wins. Forward Patrick Kane, who is tied with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers for second in the NHL with 81 points (33 goals, 48 assists), is leading the way and has had at least one point in 14 consecutive games (31 points; 11 goals, 20 assists), the longest current point streak in the NHL.
Video: DET@CHI: Kane adds to point streak with wrister
Arizona Coyotes (24-26-5, 53 points)
The Coyotes snapped a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) with a 3-2 win against the Stars on Saturday but are 7-5-2 in their past 14. They somehow have remained in the wild-card race despite injuries to goalie Antti Raanta (lower body), forwards Christian Dvorak (upper body), Michael Grabner (upper body), Nick Schmaltz (lower body), Mario Kempe (upper body) and Brad Richardson (upper body), and defensemen Jason Demers (lower body) and Kyle Capobianco (lower body).
Edmonton Oilers (24-26-5, 53 points)
The Oilers have gone 1-5-2 in their past eight games and 6-14-2 in their past 22 to drop from the second wild card to six points out. Their struggles this season have already resulted in coach Todd McLellan (replaced by Ken Hitchcock on Nov. 20) and general manager Peter Chiarelli (fired on Jan. 22) being fired.
Los Angeles Kings (23-28-5, 51 points)
Complicating the Kings' situation is the approaching 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. ET. In the past two weeks, they've traded defenseman Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 28 and forward Nate Thompson to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
Forward Carl Hagelin, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, might also be moved before the deadline for assets for the future.
"The way we've performed and just where our organization is at, changes might be happening regardless of where we are," Brown said. "That's something we've all accepted in here and we just kind of go about our business and try to play to the best of our ability."
Anaheim Ducks (21-26-9, 51 points)
No team has had a steeper decline than the Ducks, who were 19-11-5 and three points out of first place in the Pacific Division following a 4-2 win against the Penguins on Dec. 17 and have gone 2-15-4 since then. A seven-game losing streak led to the firing of coach Randy Carlyle on Sunday, with GM Bob Murray taking over for him.