NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 20th (All times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (33-27-10) at Los Angeles Kings (38-25-6), 10:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The suddenly-sliding Los Angeles Kings will try to return to the win column on Thursday when they host the streaking Washington Capitals at Staples Center.
The up-and-down Kings have gone 0-3-0 on the heels of a season-best eight-game winning streak. Prior to claiming eight consecutive victories, however, Los Angeles had gone through a 1-8-1 stretch from Jan. 18-Feb. 3.
Despite the inconsistency, L.A. is still holding onto the last of the Pacific Division's three automatic bids to the playoffs. The Phoenix Coyotes, however, are just five points behind the Kings in fourth place, and L.A. dropped a home test against the Coyotes in its most recent outing.
The Kings hope to end their slide on Thursday by continuing their recent success against the Capitals.
L.A. has won five straight and 10 of the past 14 meetings in this series, although the teams haven't faced each other since the Kings notched a 5-2 home win on Jan. 9, 2012. That was Washington's third straight setback in the City of Angels.
The Kings are 0-3 so far on a five-game homestand that ends Saturday against Florida. Los Angeles last played in Monday's game against Phoenix, which picked up a 4-3 regulation win at Staples Center thanks to Jeff Halpern's game-winning goal with 3:05 left in the third period.
With the game tied 3-3 late in the third, a Phoenix counterattack saw a blocked shot ricochet into the left circle, where Halpern was waiting all alone. With Jonathan Quick scrambling following the change of direction, Halpern threw a shot on net that the LA netminder appeared to stop from his back before making another incredible save on the rebound attempt to keep the game tied.
However, at the next stoppage, video review showed Halpern's shot fully cross the goal line before Quick's stick knocked it back into play.
Marian Gaborik, Alec Martinez and Tanner Pearson all lit the lamp, while Quick stopped 23 shots for the Kings, who entered the game 21-0-0 this season when leading after two periods.
"I don't think I played well enough," Quick admitted. "You give up four goals you are going to lose games. I got to be better."
Quick hopes to get back on track tonight. He is 2-0-0 with a 2.50 goals against average and .931 save percentage in two lifetime appearances against the Capitals.
Kings captain Dustin Brown has missed the last two games with an illness but expects to return for Thursday's tilt.
Washington, meanwhile, enters Thursday's clash on the strength of three consecutive wins. The first two victories came in D.C., but the Capitals kicked off a three-game tour of California with a Tuesday's 3-2 win at Anaheim.
The Capitals most likely will have to stay hot to make the postseason. Washington enters Thursday tied with Columbus for the last playoff spot in the East, but the Blue Jackets, who visit Montreal on Thursday, hold two games in hand over Washington.
The Detroit Red Wings, who host Pittsburgh on Thursday, are also just one point behind the Caps and Jackets. Detroit also has played two games less than Washington.
Washington began its California swing with Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Ducks. Alex Ovechkin netted the game-winner on the power play 2:44 into the third period to lift the Caps to victory.
Anaheim's Mathieu Perreault potted a power-play goal to tie the tilt at 1:32 of the third, but Ducks forward Matt Beleskey went off for slashing at 2:36 and Ovechkin buried a one-timer from the low left circle just eight seconds into the ensuing man-advantage to put Washington on top for good.
It was Ovechkin's 46th goal of the season, giving him eight more than Anaheim's Corey Perry for the NHL lead.
Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer registered a goal apiece, while Jaroslav Halak stopped 43 shots for the Capitals.
Halak is 4-2-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .931 save percentage in six games since coming over from Buffalo in a trade. He is 6-6-0 with a 2.38 GAA in 12 career games against the Kings.
Washington had lost three straight on the road before Tuesday's win in Orange County and is just 13-16-5 as the guest this season. The Caps are set to complete this swing Saturday night in San Jose.
03/20 10:52:50 ET