The Los Angeles Kings are 27 games into the 2016-17 season and have been clicking on all cylinders of late. In their last ten games, they have gone 7-2-1 and sit just outside a playoff spot in the crowded Pacific Division with 30 points, just three points behind the first-place Anaheim Ducks.
Jeff Carter has led the way during the Kings’ most recent surge. He has scored seven goals, four of them game-winners, and has 11 points over his last ten games. Over the course of those 10 games, Peter Budaj has been just as hot between the pipes. The goalie has gone 6-1-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage over that time.
The Kings have to be grateful with the state of their team as they have moved past the quarter mark and towards the halfway point of the season. A season riddled with injury problems has not kept them from keeping pace in their division and as December moves along, it must be a happy locker room when they look at how the standings are shaking out.
During the month of December, the Kings have managed to go 2-1-1 and have improved their overall record to 14-11-2. A respectable start to the month that has helped them in the standings. But where Los Angeles sits in the standings come the end of December, and at the end of the season for that matter, will hinge primarily on how they fare during their next stretch of games.
Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush
The Kings will play their next nine games away from their home rink, a tall task for any team, but the nine-game road trip will take place over just 17 days and features not one, not two, but three sets of back-to-back games.
It’s going to be a tough task for a Kings team that has struggled when away from Staples Center this season and has a 4-7-1 road record to prove it. Compared to their 10-4-1 record at home, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Among the nine games are tilts against NHL powerhouses like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars. Also sprinkled in are stops in Buffalo and Columbus, where two young teams will stand in the way of two points. And it all comes to an end with a back-to-back set against Pacific Division foes in Vancouver and Edmonton.
To recap, that’s games against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, P.K. Subban, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, the Sedin Twins and Connor McDavid all while not having slept in your own bed for three weeks.
If that trip won’t test your road legs then nothing will.
The next game at Staples Center will be played on the last day of 2016, a New Year’s Eve game against the San Jose Sharks. When the puck drops for that game, will the Kings have returned to Los Angeles as a group of triumphant road warriors who may have created a little distance in the Pacific Division, or will they have limped back to California having made an already-bleak road record even worse?
That is all yet to be decided and will come to light one game at a time, but one thing is certain: the Kings will never be farther away from their next home game than they are right now.