On the night of Tuesday, March 13, behind the strength of two goals by Forward Jeff Carter, the Los Angeles Kings were able to overcome a 3-0 defeat by the Arizona Coyotes, before ultimately losing 4-3 in a shootout. Although the Kings' gutsy comeback fell short, they did earn a crucial one point in the Western Conference standings, as they are in the midst of a playoff race which looks like it will come down to the wire.
One of the main reasons the Kings have been able to stay alive down the stretch is the return of star forward Jeff Carter. In the eight games since he returned from a leg injury which cost him most of the 2017-18 NHL season, Carter has tallied six goals in just nine games. Over that span, his team has a record of 4-0-1 in games in which he scored at least one goal.
Every cloud has a silver lining. The biggest upside to Carter having spent so much time on the mend is that if the Kings do make the playoffs, the fleet-footed 33-year old center should be a lot fresher, after not having gone through the 82-game regular season grind. At this point, having appeared in just 15 total regular season games, he certainly looks rejuvenated and ready to be a difference-maker down the stretch. This is the time of year when the best players need to be playing their best hockey.
There are just 12 games remaining in the Kings regular season. As of this moment, the team occupies third place in the Pacific division, sitting just one point behind the second place San Jose Sharks, while holding a two-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks. Under the current format, the top three teams in each division will make the playoffs, while wild card spots will be awarded to the two best teams not to finish in the top three in their respective divisions. The wild card race is a whole other animal and the Kings are the thick of that race as well.
The Kings currently have amassed 82 regular season points. In the chase for a playoff berth, Nashville and Vegas are the Central and Pacific division leaders, respectively. With 92 points, the Winnipeg Jets lead all playoff hopefuls, but beyond that, a brutal game of musical chairs is developing. Assuming Nashville, Vegas and Winnipeg to make the playoffs, there are then eight teams vying for the five remaining spots, with only six points separating the team with the most points (Minnesota with 85), from the team with the least (St Louis with 79). The other teams in the race are the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Calgary Flames.
Over the course of the Kings' remaining 12 games, eight are against teams which are firmly in the playoff race. In fact, the Kings will finish up the season, by playing in what should be one of the tensest three-game homestands in recent memory, as they will face the Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas, but first things, first. The Kings next game will be at home on Thursday, March 15 vs the Detroit Red Wings. They will then take on the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, March 167, before embarking on a crucial four-game road trip which will see stops in Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado and Edmonton. Fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be one heck of a ride.