The Los Angeles Kings came out of the weekend still in first place, no small feat in the Pacific Division. Holding the slimmest of margins for a playoff spot, the Kings try to win for the ninth time in 12 games this evening as they battle the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kings went into Saturday night's meeting with the hosting Minnesota Wild with a one-point edge over the Stars and Coyotes for the top spot in the division. Los Angeles then lost for the first time in three games, but did earn a point with a 4-3 shootout setback.
That left both Los Angeles and Phoenix with 91 points on the season and 33 non-shootout wins, but the Kings hold the current tiebreaker having earned more points in the concluded six-game season series. LA is also only a point ahead of the eighth-seeded San Jose Sharks and two up on the Dallas Stars, who occupy the ninth spot in the West, with three games to play for all four clubs. The Kings are the only one of the four teams in action tonight.
The Kings wrapped a four-game road trip with Saturday's loss and will end their season with a home-and-home series against San Jose that begins on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Dustin Brown had a goal and two assists in the loss to the Wild, while Brad Richardson scored twice. Anze Kopitar assisted on three goals, giving him seven points in his past three games, while backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 20 saves as the Kings fell to 8-2-1 in their past 11.
"It was a disappointing outcome tonight without a doubt," said Brown. "But if you take a step back and look at what we've done lately, it's pretty good. Still every point is needed right now because you guys can see the standings."
Los Angeles, which has won six of its past seven at home, played a second game in a row without forward Jeff Carter due to a sprained ankle. Carter is expected to have an MRI today and has logged six goals and nine points in 16 games with the Kings since being acquired from the Blue Jackets.
The Kings' four-game road trip included a 4-1 victory at Edmonton on Friday, their first in three meetings with the Oilers this season. Los Angeles swept the four-game series last season, but has lost six of its past eight at home to the Oilers.
Edmonton also has three games left in its season that won't include a trip to the playoffs. Still, the Oilers are 6-2-2 in their past 10 as they look to build some momentum for next season and snapped a two-game slide with last night's 2-1 win at Anaheim.
Starting for the ninth time in 11 games, Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves, including one on Anaheim's Teemu Selanne in the closing seconds, and improved to 20-18-2 on the season with a 2.67 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in a career-high 44 appearances. The 14th overall pick of the 2004 draft said playing regularly has helped his game.
"There's finding that rhythm and at the same time I think you just learn. The only way to get better, especially as a goalie, is to play and learn," said Dubnyk. "Unfortunately, when you don't play games you don't play at all. It's a little different situation than a forward. So, the more games you get in, you figure out what works, how to find the puck, behind the net plays, you figure out what works for you. I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot right now."
Skating in his 26th NHL game, Teemu Hartikainen provided all the offense for the Oilers. The 21-year-old Finn scored his first goal of the season just 15 seconds in and added his second tally of the game at the 6:04 mark of the opening frame for his first career multi-goal effort.
"It's a great feeling and it will help me get my confidence up," he said. "I play to win this game and if I get the chance, I would want to score the third one."
Edmonton did lose forward Ales Hemsky to a shoulder injury during the game and was already playing without forward Taylor Hall and defensemen Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham due to injury.