The LA Kings return home for a crucial matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Todd McLellan‘s group has just six games left in the regular season, and every game is against non-playoff teams. It’s time to take care of business.

Here’s how the Kings and Blue Jackets match up on paper:

LA Kings Columbus Blue Jackets
Credit: JFresh Hockey
LA Kings
Credit: NHL.com

Top scorers:

LAK: Anze Kopitar – 18 goals, 44 assists, 62 points

CBJ: Patrik Laine – 26 goals, 30 assists, 56 points

Betting Odds

The Kings come into this one as favorites, per our sponsors at DraftKings.

Use Promo Code: THPN

  • Kings Odds: -195
  • Blue Jackets Odds: +160 
  • Over/Under: 6.5
  • Time: 7:30 pm PT
  • Broadcast Info: BSW, BSOH, ESPN+

Projected Lineups

Here’s how the Kings aligned in practice on Friday, via LA Kings Insider:

Athanasiou – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Brown
Lemieux – Kaliyev – Kupari – Grundstrom
Vilardi – Byfield – Andersson

Edler – Roy
Moverare – Durzi
Maatta – Spence
Bjornfot – Stecher – Strand

Quick / Petersen

Of note, Quinton Byfield and Gabe Vilardi wore purple jerseys on Friday, setting them up to be healthy scratches on Saturday night.

Andreas Athanasiou ditched the red, non-contact jersey and was skating on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. When healthy, the 27-year-old has been a significant contributor on offense, with 14 points in only 22 games. Prior to his injury, Athanasiou had four goals in his last three games. The Kings could use someone to step up offensively – Athanasiou could be that guy if he draws back into the lineup.

The goaltender situation is tricky to predict. After Wednesday’s disaster in Colorado, where Jonathan Quick gave up the first three and Cal Petersen gave up the next six, there doesn’t appear to be clear direction of who might get the nod.

That said, Quick got the start in the last matchup, stopping 26-of-29 shots. Might McLellan lean on the old guard in these desperate times? He was first off the ice on Friday, which could point toward him starting.

“At this time of the year I would prefer that, around this time, somebody got really hot,” McLellan said to Zach Dooley. “That’s what I would prefer. I don’t think that, during training camp, you can sit there and say this guy is going to play this many games. Not where we started as an organization, either, we have to develop, but right now, get hot and play.”

Here’s how the Blue Jackets lined up in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Montreal:

Both Kent Johnson and Nick Blankenburg made their NHL debuts in the contest, with the latter collecting his first point on Cole Sillinger‘s 13th goal of the year.

Patrik Laine was involved in the first three goals, and he scored in the last matchup. Along with Laine, the Blue Jackets have Sillinger, who has impressed in his rookie campaign, along with Jack Roslovic, who has five goals and six points in his last two games.

The Kings are likely to see Elvis Merzlikins in this one. He made some big-time saves in the last matchup, stopping 39-of-43 shots in total.

This is a game that the Kings absolutely have to win. With Vegas playing in Edmonton on Saturday, an LA win and a Golden Knights regulation loss would create an ever-so-slight, three-point separation in the standings.

LA Kings and Jackets get underway at 7:30 pm PT.

(Main photo credit: NHL.com)