LA Kings Edmonton Oilers

Photo Credit: Alex Cave // Hockey Royalty

It’s been tough sledding for the LA Kings over the last couple of weeks, going 4-4-2 in their last ten games. Until recently, Todd McLellan’s group was able to sustain second place in the Pacific Division, thanks mainly to a 19-9-3 surge starting from January 1. However, while the Kings have struggled, other playoff contenders have thrived.

Vegas, Edmonton, and Dallas have all won seven of their last ten games. Nashville, who occupies the first Wild Card spot with the same number of points as LA (86), has won six of their last ten contests.

With the regulation loss to Calgary on Monday and Edmonton’s overtime win against the Sharks on Tuesday, the Oilers leapfrogged the Kings in the standings. Los Angeles had a chance to return the favor on Thursday night, but they couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.

“Not enough, not quite enough,” McLellan said of his team’s overall effort on Thursday. “We had some really good performances and we had some average performances. We were just talking in the coaches’ room, after every game we quickly go through the lineup while there’s still a bit of emotion left in it, and when you describe an individual as ‘just okay’ that probably cuts it in November, December, but certainly not in April.”

The Kings tied their season-low with just four shots on goal during the first period, one that also saw Edmonton register only eight shots on net. But Connor McDavid‘s short-side wrister just over three minutes into the game gave the Oilers the early advantage. The Kings came out much quicker in the second period and were rewarded with Trevor Moore‘s league-leading fifth shorthanded goal of the season.

A goal late in the second period saw the Oilers re-take the lead for good. A defensive breakdown led to Warren Foegele being left all alone in the low slot, beating Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick. Evan Bouchard scored his 10th goal of the year at the 4:01 mark of the third period. Viktor Arvidsson got one back for the Kings, his 20th goal of the season, but it wasn’t enough as the Kings struggled to consistently keep up with the pace of the Oilers.

Specifically, their defensive breakouts.

“You can come out and look at the pace that we played with, it wasn’t about legs, it was about puck movement,” McLellan added. “You start throwing pucks into individual’s skates, even on the first power play, I think we passed the puck behind an individual twice, couple of breakouts where we did that, and we were slow.”

The Kings went 0-for-3 on the power-play and have gone one for their last nine on the man advantage after a stretch that saw them convert on 5-of-15 chances.

With just nine games left in the regular season, LA still has an 86.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to MoneyPuck’s latest Playoff Odds. And the schedule certainly favors the Kings, who have just two games remaining against teams holding a playoff spot.

Added, the Kings have been a much better road team this season, owning a 20-9-6 record away from Arena. With six of the final nine games on the road, the Kings will look to get back on track against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. That said, they have to tread carefully, only being four points from missing the playoffs entirely.

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