Previewing the Los Angeles Kings' 2013-14 season:
Game 59 vs. Columbus
February 6, 2014
7:30pm PST (10:30pm EST)
In seasons past, a date with the Columbus Blue Jackets would usually mean an easy two points. Not so this season as the Jackets have turned a corner in recent months – and the Los Angeles Kings know about that having lost in Columbus 5-3 back on January 21.
Fortunately, because the Blue Jackets moved to the Eastern Conference, the Kings only have to play their rivals from Ohio twice with Thursday’s game at Staples Center being the last of the season – barring a meeting in the Stanley Cup Final, of course.
While their 29-23-4 record doesn’t scream success, the Jackets have gone 7-3-0 in their last 10, sitting third in the Metropolitan Division. Plus, having won three-in-a-row, the newest arrivals in the East aren’t showing any signs of slowing down – and that might be bad news for a Kings squad who have lost four-straight and nine of their last 10.
The Jackets have had plenty of success balancing their four lines this season. Head coach Todd Richards has done an outstanding job giving everyone on his roster equal opportunities to produce. While Nathan Horton has been a force since entering the lineup, so has a virtual unknown in Corey Tropp, who Columbus claimed off waivers from Buffalo in late November.
While Tropp has just nine points in 29 games, his work on the fourth line with Mark Letestu and Derek MacKenzie has helped the Jackets immensely as the trio brings a plethora of energy to the table in addition to chipping in offensively.
Then there’s last year’s Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky who has won his last three starts, allowing five goals on 94 shots over that span. But given their offensive futility, the Kings did score three times against Chicago last game and maybe, just maybe, it is a positive sign of things to come.
Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, has been the hottest player to don the silver and black. No. 11 has three goals and two assists in his last three outings. However, while Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli also scored last game, the Kings still need offensive help from those not named Kopitar.
It is the last game before the much-needed Olympic break for the Kings and while they have been struggling lately, a win on Thursday should do wonders for the Kings’ confidence – even if it means heading into a two-week vacation for most of the players.
Enjoy the game!