Daily News After disappointing road trip, Kings need to hold off St. Louis for final playoff spot

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After returning from Canada with just two of a possible eight points on their road trip, the Kings will settle in for their final eight matches of the regular season, all of which will be played in California.

They will include six home games, beginning when they welcome the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday.

The stretch run should provide a soft landing given that it will pit the Kings against just one playoff-bound opponent, the Vancouver Canucks, and that half their remaining games will be played against the NHL’s three worst teams by record (two against the Ducks and one meeting apiece with the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks). They’ve gone 6-0-1 against those franchises so far with five of their victories coming by three goals or more.

Yet the Kings have lost three straight decisions and split their past 20 games evenly between wins and losses, while the team that could knock them out of the playoff picture, the St. Louis Blues, has gone 8-2-1 in its last 11 contests.

“We’ve got to be on our toes, it’s still every single night, two points for us,” defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov said. “On home ice, we’re going to have our crowd cheering for us; it’s huge that we’re going to be home for a while.”

Yet on the road trip they went from snapping point streaks –– they blacked out surges by the New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild and Tampa Bay Lightning at home in March –– to cushioning falls as they ended skids of five and six games, respectively, for Calgary and Winnipeg.

With their tepid performance north of the border, the Kings were all but welded to the second wild-card spot. In order to preserve their place in the postseason, they’ll have to hold off the Blues. They sit just three points behind the Kings but have played an additional game and in their remaining seven clashes will face three clubs sure to secure a playoff berth in Carolina, Dallas and Nashville.

While circumstances favored the Kings, they did themselves few favors with their showings against the West’s top teams. With their penultimate clash against a playoff team or hopeful in the West now completed, Monday’s 4-3 loss in Winnipeg, the Kings have now gone 7-12-3 against the other seven teams destined for spring hockey, and they also dropped two of three to St. Louis. Against the top five teams in the Central, they posted a 4-10-1 mark, with their likely opponent in the first round, the Dallas Stars, sweeping them by way of three decisive victories and a 13-3 aggregate score.

While vagaries and platitudes continued to dominate discourse after the Winnipeg game, some suspect goaltending from Laurent Brossoit early negated heavy advantages in both scoring chances and the quality thereof for the Jets. For the Kings’ part, they passed on some excellent looks offensively and continued to struggle finishing overall.

“We had a couple right between the hash marks that we didn’t shoot, so you wonder why you’re doing that,” Kings interim coach Jim Hiller said. “Overall, the effort is good, the result is bad.”

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One player who hasn’t struggled to finish has been Anze Kopitar, who scored eight goals and 13 points in his past nine outings. In the 60 days (and 26 games) between Dec. 30 and Feb. 28, Kopitar mustered just three goals as he battled through adverse conditions on both the individual and team levels.

A player who the Kings’ next opponent hopes can develop into the sort of 200-foot force that Kopitar has been for nearly two decades is Seattle’s rookie pivot Shane Wright.

After a campaign split between three levels similar to that of the Kings’ Brandt Clarke last season, Wright has spent most of this year in the minors. But 2022’s No. 4 overall draft selection had a brief stint with the big club in November before returning Monday to score his first goal of the season and the second of his NHL career. It came in a 4-2 win over San Jose that gave Seattle its third victory in four games, with the other two coming against the Ducks.

Seattle at Kings​


When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Crypto.com Arena

TV: Bally Sports West

Kings at San Jose​


When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: SAP Center, San Jose

TV: Bally Sports West

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