The NHL playoffs are right around the corner and it’s no secret the situation the Los Angeles Kings are in. The Kings currently have 82 points and sit two points behind the Calgary Flames and third place in the Pacific Division and four points behind the Vancouver Canucks and second place in the Pacific Division.
It has started to look like the only way the Kings will get into the playoffs will be through the Pacific Division. The two wild card spots are currently occupied by the Winnipeg Jets with 86 points and the Minnesota Wild with 87 points. Both spots seem far away from where the Kings are right now.
The Kings have 11 games left in the regular season and their next five will take them away from Staples Center for games against the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. This road trip is not only big for the NHL but for the league because each game on this trip has playoff implications for both the Kings and the rest of the league.
Here is how, what could be the biggest road trip left in the NHL this season, looks and what it means for the playoff picture.
March 23rd, @ New Jersey Devils
The Kings start of their trip with what will probably be the least important game of the trip in the sense it only really affects the Kings’ chances at the playoffs. The Devils are the only team the Kings will face on this trip that is not currently in a playoff spot. But the game still has major effects on how the Kings start off the trip and where the Kings will be at season’s end.
This is one of only four games remaining for the Kings where they will play an opponent not in playoff position.
March 24th, @ New York Rangers
The back-end of a back-to-back to start off the road trip puts the Kings up against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers currently sit atop the Metropolitan Division and have a chance at the top spot in the Eastern Conference and President’s Trophy.
Henrik Lundqvist has missed playing time since he popped a blood vessel in a game on January 31st. It was announced a few days ago that Lundqvist was about a week away from his return. A Lunqvist return could add more drama to an already monumental game between last season’s Conference Champions.
March 26th, @ New York Islanders
The Islanders are one of the surprise stories of the NHL this season sitting in second in Metropolitan Division with 92 points and are chasing the Rangers who have 97 points. The middle game of the trip will help the Metropolitan Division playoff picture develop quite dramatically.
If the Kings win or lose both games between the Rangers and Islanders two things will happen, the Kings’ playoff picture will get much more grim and the Islanders and Rangers will stay pretty much the same. However, if the Kings win one of the two, things will change drastically. A Kings win over the Rangers and loss to the Islanders will close the gap for the Islanders, but a Kings loss to the Rangers and win over the Islanders will widen the gap between the two New York rivals.
March 28th, @ Minnesota Wild
Every game on this road trip is important. But this game needs to be bolded, highlighted, starred and pointed at with big neon arrows on everyone’s calendars. The Wild are also in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and like I mentioned earlier, they are in one of the wild card spots the Kings are chasing.
The Wild have been on a run of late, and on the back of goalie Devan Dubnyk and 11-4-0 record in their last 15 games, have breathed new life into their season.
A four point swing could put a team out of reach or give a team life at this time of the season. Depending on how things play out between now and the start of this game, this game could make or break the Kings’ or Wild’s season.
March 30th, @ Chicago Blackhawks
The final stop of the roadie brings the Kings through Chicago for their last meeting with the Blackhawks this season. Like most of the teams on this trip, the Blackhawks are in a playoff race of their own and trying to fend off the Wild and chase down the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division.
The Kings’ pair of games against the Wild, who have 87 points and sit five points behind the Blackhawks, is very much like the Kings’ games against the Islanders and Rangers. Depending on how these two games shake out, it will decide which way the Kings trend and whether the gap widens or closes between these two Central Division opponents.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.