Perhaps it's a good thing that the Kings only play Columbus once more this season.
The NHL's cellar-dwellers, 11 points behind the 29th-ranked team, have given Los Angeles everything it can handle and then some in the clubs' three meetings this year. Ahead 2-1 in the season series, the Kings now lead the aggregate goal total 5-4 after a 3-2 win Wednesday evening at Staples Center, their NHL-leading 30th home game of the season.
"We were real average, quite honest," Darryl Sutter said.
Credit interim Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards for maintaining his composure after the game when replays showed that the clock had stuttered with 1.8 seconds remaining, perhaps allowing Drew Doughty to score the game-winning power play goal with under 0.4 seconds on the clock during a goalmouth scrum.
"Well, I don't have anything official, any official report. Watching the replay and talking with our producer who runs our show, the clock stopped at 1.8 seconds, and it stopped for 1.5 seconds, and they scored with 0.5 seconds," Richards said.
"Something happened and it's really disappointing because I thought our guys battled and worked hard."
We'll leave any lingering clock issues to the NHL. If there's anything Los Angeles can gain moving forward, it's how to live out of a suitcase for the next two months.
The Kings embark on their longest roadtrip of the season Thursday, a six-game, 10-day excursion that will take them to St. Louis, Carolina, Tampa Bay, South Florida, Long Island and Dallas. It's one of three roadtrips of at least four games remaining on Los Angeles' schedule.
Particularly unique about this trip is that it will force Los Angeles to play on the road against Atlantic and Pacific Division teams on back-to-back nights. After the Kings face the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, February 11, they're in action nearly 1,500 miles away one night later, taking on a gritty Dallas Stars team on Sunday, February 12.
The expanse of travel on consecutive nights isn't as difficult for Sutter to digest as is the change in time zones on back-to-back nights to begin the trip.
"The tough part is the start of it, right? St. Louis, Carolina, back to back. You look at the time zone problem, that's poor scheduling. You're getting there three in the morning, that's the tough part. And then you've got two days off again. And then you've got back-to-back again, but it's not bad because they're afternoons. I don't look at it as a six-game trip. I look at it more as a back-to-back to start, a back-to-back to finish, and then we've got time between them."
The road hasn't presented any particularly daunting challenges for the Kings as of yet. They've earned points in 16 of their 21 road games this season and have won in Chicago and Vancouver in the past five weeks. Along with Nashville and Chicago, they're one of three NHL teams to win in regulation in St. Louis, where the trip opens up Friday at the Scottrade Center.
"That's the first one we've got to focus on when we get on the airplane out there to St. Louis, but then every game after that is just as important, even more important," Doughty said.
Los Angeles' star defenseman articulated the particulars of what makes the club such ungracious visitors.
"I know that we're on the road, we really stick to that road mentality game. We make sure to keep things simple. We don't try to do too much, and I think that could be a big part of it. At the same time, when you're on the road, guys are away from their families and stuff like that, obviously, so you're going out for dinner together and you're spending a lot more time together outside of the rink."
It's all a part of the profession that Doughty savors the competition, the camaraderie, the lack of a margin for error.
"This is one of the best times of the year, of the regular season, anyway. The playoffs is no doubt the best time of the year, but right now it's gut check time."
"It's going to obviously be tough to do, but that's just how we've got to look at it. Every single point is so important. The race in this conference is just so tight that we can't be giving any points up."
NOTES: Justin Williams' first period goal extended his point streak to nine games. He spoke after the game about the chemistry he's been cultivating with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. "My linemates and I are kind of reading off each other pretty well. We're creating a lot of offense through turnovers, and I think that's where we're getting the multitude of our chances. When you're feeling good and pucks seem to go in, it's a good sign for us," Williams said. His career-high point streak is 11 games, set last season. Doughty's goal with 0.4 seconds remaining was the sixth time that the Kings have won the game at the final buzzer, and the first time in nearly 13 years. Josef Stumpel scored with 0.3 seconds remaining as Los Angeles edged Philadelphia 4-3 on February 11, 1999. Current Kings Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall was in net for the Flyers. Los Angeles is 14-0-1 when scoring three-plus goals in a game.