The Kings entered the season as prime contenders to win the Pacific Division, but a lackluster offense has the club struggling to even stay in the playoff picture. General manager Dean Lombardi is hoping that a bold trade can help bolster his struggling offense.
Thanks in part to a core that contains goaltender Jonathan Quick, defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Anze Kopitar, the Kings were elevated to contenders this past offseason after trading for former Flyers center Mike Richards. However, Los Angeles sits two points behind Dallas for the eighth spot in the West thanks to an offense that ranks last in the NHL with 125 goals.
Lombardi attempted to rectify that situation on Thursday, dealing defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick in either 2012 or 2013 to the Blue Jackets for Carter. The deal also reunites Carter with former Flyers teammate Richards after the two played six seasons together in Philadelphia before getting dealt in separate trades this summer.
Carter has battled injuries this season and had 15 goals and 10 assists over 39 games with Columbus, but the 11th overall pick of the 2003 draft has totaled three 30-plus goal seasons in his career. That includes a career-high 46 goals in 2008-09.
While Lombardi would love for Carter to return to his 40-goal form, he'll be happy with any production the center can add.
"Right now, I'd take 20 [goals]," Lombardi said of Carter, who is signed through 2021-22. "The one thing about it, it's not easy to go out on the marketplace and find a guy who has the potential to score 40 goals, who is 27 years old and, like I said the other day, has a cap number that is very favorable in terms of me keeping this nucleus together."
The Kings look to snap a four-game slide in Carter's debut and they have been held to five goals over their current slide following Wednesday's 4-1 defeat in Colorado. Los Angeles has lost eight of its past 10 and has been held to one goal or less in 10 of its past 11 losses.
Dustin Brown had the lone goal for the Kings on Wednesday and Los Angeles trailed by three goals at the end of the first due to a rare shaky outing by Quick. The All-Star yielded the three scores on 11 shots, while Jonathan Bernier made 15 saves over the final two periods.
"It's 3-0 and something had to change. They were moving the puck so well and created a lot of chances early," Quick noted. "We have to be prepared and ready to play every night from now on. They seemed to want it more than we did."
Los Angeles recalled Slava Voynov from the minors to replace Johnson and snapped a seven-game slide to the Blackhawks with a 2-0 win at Chicago on Dec. 28. Quick had 38 saves in the shutout.
Chicago has still won its last four trips to Los Angeles and will look to avoid a second straight defeat this evening after dropping a 3-1 decision to visiting Dallas on Thursday.
The Blackhawks had a four-game win streak broken and had allowed just five goals over that span, but saw the Stars scored three times in the final frame. Marian Hossa had put Chicago ahead with a second-period tally and Corey Crawford ended with 22 saves.
"This was tough because we felt like we had things going pretty good," said Hossa. "But the puck wasn't bouncing our way in the third period and they took advantage of their chances."
Chicago had lost nine straight before its recent win streak and has played two straight without captain Jonathan Toews due to an upper-body injury that has the forward day-to-day.
The Blackhawks sit sixth overall in the West, four back of the Predators, and will play two straight and five of their next six on the road. They have dropped 11 of their past 13 as the guest.