Jeff Carter will return to Columbus for the first time since being traded to Los Angeles, as the streaking Kings visit the Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena.
Carter spent several tumultuous months as part of the Columbus franchise before he was dealt to the Kings on Feb. 23 in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick. The trade reunited Carter with his former Flyers teammate Mike Richards after the two played six seasons together in Philadelphia before getting dealt in separate trades last summer.
Carter should not expect a warm reception from the Columbus crowd tonight, since the Blue Jackets franchise got very little out of the 27-year-old forward after acquiring him over the summer for talented winger Jakub Voracek and the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Despite that hefty price, the Blue Jackets decided to cut their losses after getting 15 goals and 10 assists in 39 games from a disgruntled Carter.
The Kings, however, are happy with what Carter has brought to the table so far, as LA is 4-1 since the trade and the club has scored 18 goals over that stretch. Prior to adding Carter, the Kings ranked dead last in the NHL with 125 goals, but they have since moved past Minnesota into 29th place.
Carter has two goals in his first five games with the Kings.
"I only had a short time [in Columbus], but there are great guys over there," Carter told lakingsinsider.com "They're a good team, a team that kind of underachieved when I was here. They've started to play some pretty good hockey here, as of late. It's going to be fun to get out there and play against them, but it's going to be a tough game."
Unlike Carter's previous team, the Kings are still fighting for a playoff spot out West and enter today's action tied with Colorado and San Jose for the conference's last postseason berth. Meanwhile, Columbus is last in the NHL with just 49 points on the year.
The Kings have won three straight and opened a four-game homestand on Tuesday with a win in Nashville. Matt Greene and Trevor Lewis scored early in the third period to give LA a two-goal lead and the Kings held on for the 5-4 win at Bridgestone Arena.
Justin Williams scored twice for the Kings, Drew Doughty had one goal and Willie Mitchell added two assists. Jonathan Quick made 22 saves to out-duel Nashville's Pekka Rinne, who was pulled in the third period after giving up five goals on 24 shots.
"For us to make the playoffs, it's pretty simple," said Los Angeles head coach Darryl Sutter. "Your best players have to be your best players. It's not that hard to figure out. It's not about singling anybody out, or anything like that."
Los Angeles, which is also just three points behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead, is 14-10-8 as the visiting team this season.
After losing their first three games following the Carter trade, the Blue Jackets have recorded three straight victories for the first time this season. The last two wins came against Phoenix, as the Blue Jackets posted a 5-3 win Saturday in the desert before beating a visiting Coyotes club on Tuesday.
Johnson scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket and added an assist to help Columbus edge the Coyotes, 3-2. The 25-year-old defenseman has one goal and two assists in five games since coming over from the Kings.
R.J. Umberger and Derek MacKenzie also scored for the Blue Jackets, while Steve Mason was spectacular in net, stopping 38-of-40 shots in the victory.
"I thought we competed and battled hard," Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said. "It was a good hard-fought win against a really good and desperate hockey team."
The Blue Jackets haven't won four in a row since a five-game win streak from Nov. 17-24 of last season.
The Kings have taken two of three from Columbus this year and have won five of six and eight of 10 in this series overall. LA has also won four straight on the road against the Blue Jackets.