When the Kings meet the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at Staples Center, it will be the team's sixth look at a Pacific Division opponent in eight games. And so far Coach Darryl Sutter isn't sure he likes what he sees.
"The division's tough, and every team's good," he said. "And we're trying to hang in there."
The Kings are fifth in the division, but with 20 points they have a better record than all but four teams in the Eastern Conference.
"It is what it is," he said. "We're not even in a playoff spot today and our record is a tad above any time since I've been here. There's good teams that aren't going to make the playoffs. And there's good teams that are going to be bubble teams that could win the Stanley Cup."
The Kings have done well in the Pacific so far, losing just twice in five games. But after Saturday they won't see another division opponent for 15 days.
Thursday's win over a weak Buffalo team followed a blueprint the Kings had hoped they would see a lot of this season: a perfect penalty kill, two power-play goals and flawless goaltending from Jonathan Quick.
But the challenge now is to do that again.
"If we'd repeat [that], we'd go 82-0," Sutter deadpanned after Friday's morning skate.
Captain Dustin Brown was a little more hopeful.
"Maybe that's the jump start we needed," he said. "It's about habits, especially with the" penalty kill.
The Kings' penalty kill had given up a score in six consecutive games before Thursday, but they've been solid with the man advantage, scoring six of their last 10 goals on the power play.
"You don't score every game on the power play. It's not about the percentages," Sutter said. "The power play is about scoring big goals."
Forward Jarret Stoll, out a week with an upper-body injury, skated hard by himself on a side rink Friday, but the Kings say they won't play him until he's able to practice with the full team. Sutter said defenseman Matt Greene, who is out for undisclosed reasons, and forward Jeff Carter (lower body injury) are not close to returning.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 1150.
Record vs. Canucks (2012-13): 1-2.
Etc.: Vancouver comes into Staples Center leading the NHL with seven road wins. But the Kings, who head out on a four-game trip after Saturday's contest, have won four of their last five at home. With Thursday's 4-2 victory at San Jose, the Canucks have won six of their last eight games.
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