(SportsNetwork.com) - The red-hot Los Angeles Kings will try to match the longest winning streak in franchise history when they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs for Thursday's battle at Staples Center.
The Kings have won eight games in a row and seven of those victories have come after the Olympic break. The time off in February apparently was productive for Los Angeles, which had dropped nine of 11 games before the league went on hiatus for the Sochi Olympics.
Another victory tonight would give L.A. its first nine-game winning streak since setting a club record from Jan. 21-Feb. 6, 2010, but a former teammate could prevent that from happening as Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier gets set to make his return to the Staples Center.
Bernier, who served primarily as Jonathan Quick's backup during his time with the Kings, was dealt to Toronto last summer in exchange for forward Matt Frattin, goaltender Ben Scrivens and a second-round draft pick. Frattin and Scrivens have since been traded by L.A., while Bernier is having a terrific debut season with the Leafs, going 25-16-7 with a 2.59 goals against average and .926 save percentage in 49 games.
Originally a first-round pick of Los Angeles in the 2006 draft, Bernier had a 29-20-6 career record with six shutouts and a 2.36 GAA in 62 games with the Kings.
He expects to get the start tonight and has a chance to end the Kings' recent hot streak.
Thanks to the recent surge, the Kings are sitting comfortably in third place in the Pacific Division, nine points ahead of Phoenix for the last of the division's three automatic bids to the playoffs. L.A. is still nine points behind San Jose for second place and 11 points behind Anaheim for the top spot.
The Kings are back home on Thursday after a perfect three-game road trip. Los Angeles is beginning a five-game homestand tonight and is 19-10-3 at Staples Center this season.
The club capped its recent swing with Monday's 3-2 regulation win at Calgary. Anze Kopitar scored the eventual winner in the third period as Los Angeles survived a late push from the Flames to pick up the win at the Saddledome.
Trevor Lewis and Justin Williams scored for the Kings, while Martin Jones made 24 saves in the win.
"Good way to finish off the trip. We did what we wanted," said Los Angeles head coach Darryl Sutter. "If you score three on the road you should win the hockey game."
Quick expects to get the start for L.A. on Thursday. The Kings' No. 1 backstop is 2-1-0 with a 2.62 goals against average and .910 save percentage in three career games against the Maple Leafs.
Kings forward Jordan Nolan is eligible to return tonight after sitting out the last game due to a suspension. Nolan earned the one-game ban for a sucker punch on Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu on Sunday.
Toronto hopes to rebound after having a three-game winning streak halted in its last outing. The Maple Leafs were pounded 6-2 by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, losing one night after beginning a five-game road trip with a 3-1 win in Anaheim.
Jake Gardiner registered both Toronto tallies in Tuesday's loss, while James Reimer allowed all six goals on 48 shots for the Leafs.
"I thought we did a lot of things that gave them a lot of opportunities, specifically turning the puck over," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle.
Toronto, which fell to 13-13-7 as the road club this season, is still in second place in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs are one point ahead of Montreal and three in front of fourth-place Tampa Bay.
L.A. has won two straight and three of the last four meetings against the Maple Leafs overall, but Toronto has claimed the past two encounters at Staples Center.