(SportsNetwork.com) - A key battle in the Western Conference playoff race takes place Thursday in Los Angeles, as the Kings welcome the Calgary Flames for a Pacific Division clash at Staples Center.
Although they are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have won two of the NHL's last three titles, the Kings are still outside of the playoff picture in the West. However, L.A. has a chance to gain ground tonight on the Flames, who are five points ahead of them in both the division and conference standings.
Calgary, however, is 3-0 against the Kings in the 2014-15 season series and has won four straight and six of eight overall against Los Angeles. The Kings, who are 16-6-6 at Staples Center, also have dropped four in a row and six of eight versus the Flames at home.
The Flames have won four of their last five games and currently sit four points ahead of Minnesota for the second wild card spot in the West. Calgary also is tied with idle Vancouver for the Pacific's third and final automatic postseason bid. The Canucks hold the current tiebreaker having played one fewer game than the Flames.
Calgary posted a 4-1 win in San Jose on Monday to help its postseason chances. Jonas Hiller stopped 33 shots to earn the victory, while Lance Bouma and David Jones each had a goal and an assist.
Mason Raymond and Jiri Hudler also scored for the Flames, who boast a 9-3-0 mark over their past 12 outings.
"Playoff atmosphere again," said Flames defenseman Mark Giordano. "It's been like that for the most part here the last little while."
Meanwhile, the Kings enter Thursday's contest with a chance at their first three-game winning streak since November.
After beginning a five-game road trip with three straight regulation losses, L.A. capped the swing on a positive note with consecutive wins over Tampa Bay and Columbus.
The Kings earned their first two-game win streak since Dec. 18-20 after edging the Blue Jackets, 4-3, on Monday. The club last won three in a row from Nov. 15-20.
Dwight King and Jeff Carter each had a goal and an assist to help L.A. post the close win in Ohio's capital city. Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli each scored a goal for the Kings, who enter tonight five points out of a playoff spot in the West.
"We need points because we haven't played well enough to sit back and see what happens," said Brown. "We have to go out there every night and do our best to get back into this race."
Jonathan Quick allowed three goals on 26 shots in Monday's win and is expected to start again tonight when the Kings kick off a three-game homestand.
Los Angeles will host Washington on Saturday before capping the stay at home with Monday's test against Tampa Bay.