After a long 9 days for Kings fans, the Los Angeles Kings (24-16-10) play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets (13-31-6) at Staples Center in Downtown LA. It is still a bitter pill to swallow that one of the 13 wins for Columbus on the season was 1-0 regulation stifle at Staples Center, recorded on Jan 7, 2012. The Kings have had only two regulation losses (10-2-6) in the past 18 games. They have scored at least three goals in five of eight games since, including a 4-1 win over Ottawa on Jan. 23 before entering the break.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the two teams. Both teams claim a win on the road in each other’s homes. The Kings find themselves 4 points behind division leading San Jose Sharks who won 6-0 last night against Columbus at HP Pavilion.
You can imagine the Blue Jackets to be a tired team after such a romping up north, but lets face it. This is the 2011-12 LA Kings team that has given up some key points to non-playoff teams. The optimist in me thinks that a 3-0 trumping of our own against Columbus tonight could be in the making, but scoring for the Kings is as consistent as a button on the dungarees of the Jackets former coach Ken Hitchcock- not very reliable. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as F. Anze Kopitar has had 3 points in the past 3 meetings with Columbus and has begun to heat up with 7 points in the past 6 games.
Also,, before the All- Star Break, F. Justin Williams was one of the hottest Kings posting 10 points in the past 8 games. The top line, including Captain Dustin Brown, is putting up points. Brown has 5 game winners (9th in the League) on the season as is third in the league in hits. Kyle Clifford in the last game got the Gordie Howe and is really benefiting from the grits coach Darryl Sutter is serving up. If two of our many physical presences can give the team energy, then we will see a different game than the one 3 weeks ago.
The Kings cannot afford to give up two crucial points to an exhausted Columbus club. Their leading goal scorer, Rick Nash, has only 1 goal in his last 6 games and is a minus -22. The Jackets may come out angry that they surrendered such an abysmal performance last night and the Kings should be prepared for that. Grant Clitsome was been a thorn in the Kings side last game scoring the only goal and goaltender Curtis Sanford feels confident in his last visit to the Stape with the shutout. Remember, there have been problems right out of the tunnel for the Kings, establishing themselves in the first period. It is their lowest scoring period in games. If the Kings can get a physical game going early against a team that looked exhausted and out of sync last night, than the Kings are more likely to gain scoring chances and get breaks.
I am going to call a 3-1 Kings victory tonight at the Stape.