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Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Los Angeles Kings (28-25-16-7) at Edmonton Oilers (33-27-12-5).

TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Edmonton Oilers are playing their way into a playoff spot. The Los Angeles Kings are doing just the opposite.

Two of the four teams battling for the final two postseason berths in the Western Conference meet when the Oilers host the fading Kings.

In a race that likely will go down to the final game of the regular season, Edmonton, Nashville, St. Louis and Los Angeles are vying for the final two playoffs spots in the West. The Oilers didn't seem to have much of a chance at the postseason just two weeks ago, but a 5-0-0-1 run has moved them into the thick of the crowded race.

The Kings opened a four-game trip Wednesday with a 1-0 loss to Vancouver, their season-high fifth straight defeat. Despite its struggles, Los Angeles would pull within two points of the Oilers with a victory Friday.

Though the Oilers' season-best five-game win streak came to an end, they did pick up a point with a 4-3 overtime loss to visiting Dallas on Wednesday.

The defeat was particularly frustrating for Edmonton - 8-0-2-4 in its last 14 games - because Dallas scored the tying goal with 54 seconds left in regulation.

"I wouldn't say it's demoralizing, but to give away points like that isn't something we want to be doing this late in the season," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "You try and sit on the fact that we got a point and we're making progress still. You just try to deal with that because if we worry too much about the negatives, we're not going to get anything done next week."

Center Mike York, limited to 56 games this season because of a finger injury, was scratched Wednesday after the finger swelled following back-to-back games against San Jose and Los Angeles. He is expected to play Friday.

Oilers defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron has three goals and three assists during a five-game point streak.

A matchup with struggling Vancouver didn't help the Kings, as they registered only 15 shots in a 1-0 loss Wednesday.

"We have to win every game now," Kings left wing Luc Robitaille said. "Ties don't cut it. We just have to win."

The Oilers and Kings both have difficult remaining schedules.

After hosting Phoenix on Sunday, Edmonton closes the regular season with road games against St. Louis, Dallas and Vancouver. Each of Los Angeles' final six games are against teams currently holding a playoff spot.

STANDINGS (through March 24): Kings - 79 points, 3rd place, 15 PB, Pacific Division. Oilers - 83 points, 4th place, 11 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Alexander Frolov, 24 goals; Robitaille and Jozef Stumpel, 29 assists; Robitaille, 51 points; Sean Avery, 240 PIM. Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 21 goals, 35 assists and 56 points; Georges Laraque, 97 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 24): Kings - Power play: 14.3 percent (48 for 335), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (258 for 318), 27th. Oilers - Power play: 12.5 percent (39 for 311), 29th. Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (268 for 332), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Kings - Cristobal Huet (10-14-10, 3 SO, 2.40 GAA); Roman Cechmanek (18-17-6, 5, 2.49). Oilers - Ty Conklin (15-13-4, 1, 2.43); Jussi Markkanen (9-13-3, 2, 2.44).

SEASON SERIES: Kings, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Monday; Oilers, 2-1. At Los Angeles, Smyth scored on a deflection with 6:22 left in regulation and Conklin made 25 saves, leading Edmonton to its fifth straight win.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 13-11-7-6 on the road; Oilers - 20-12-4-3 at home.

Associated Press
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