Oilers-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 02, 2012
The Los Angeles Kings head into the final three games of the regular season in search of both their first division title in 21 years, and one of the two remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference. With a vital home-and-home set with a division rival looming, the Kings can help themselves Monday night at Staples Center by beating the last-place Edmonton Oilers for the second time in less than a week. Los Angeles (39-27-13) hasn't won a division title since capturing the Smythe Division in 1990-91, but is now tied with Phoenix atop the Pacific with 91 points. However, they're also only one point ahead of San Jose - which currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot - and two in front of Dallas for fourth in the division. Colorado is also a factor in the playoff race, sitting two points behind the Sharks. With all of the other teams in the race idle Monday, the Kings are looking to move closer to claiming one of those spots before hosting San Jose on Thursday before making a visit there in the season finale Saturday. "For us, right now where we are in the standings, we need the points bad. It doesn't matter whether we're playing a team that's in it or out of it," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. Los Angeles now gets its fourth straight crack at a team out of the race. Two nights after a victory at Calgary, the Kings beat the Oilers 4-1 on Friday, as Anze Kopitar, Matt Greene and Dwight King had two points each. The Kings, though, followed that up Saturday by falling 4-3 in a shootout at Minnesota. "Five out of six (points) in less than four days. I think if you'd have said that any other time other than right now, you'd say it was great," coach Darryl Sutter said. Kopitar may help provide the difference against Edmonton (32-38-9) again since he has six points in his last three games including three assists against the Wild. The All-Star center has seven goals and 13 assists in 21 career meetings with the Oilers, but was minus-2 during a 3-0 defeat Nov. 3, the most recent matchup at Staples. Jonathan Quick will likely be back in net for Los Angeles after Jonathan Bernier made 20 saves Sunday. Quick won the previous two games while allowing one goal on 33 shots. He's a Vezina Trophy contender thanks to a 1.92 goals-against average and a franchise-record nine shutouts, tied with St. Louis' Brian Elliott for the most in the league. Quick is 6-1-3 with a 1.76 GAA in 10 career meetings with the Oilers, but just 1-1-2 in four home encounters - including a 24-save performance Nov. 3. Edmonton may be out of playoff contention for a sixth consecutive season, but the club is 4-0-2 in its last six road games including a 2-1 victory at Anaheim on Sunday behind Teemu Hartikainen's first two goals of the season. A sixth-round draft pick in 2008, Hartikainen needs just one goal to match his total from last season when he appeared in 12 games. He's appeared in 14 in 2011-12. Meanwhile, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is making a case to become the first Oiler to win the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. The top overall selection in last summer's NHL Entry Draft, is tied with Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog for the rookie scoring lead at 51 points, despite playing 21 fewer games. Nugent-Hopkins had an assist against the Kings on Friday.
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