Los Angeles Kings: 5 Keys for Their Playoff Push

Daniel Mano HerberholzCorrespondent IApril 3, 2012

Los Angeles Kings: 5 Keys for Their Playoff Push

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    With the victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, the Los Angeles Kings climbed one step closer to a playoff berth. And they might even nab the Pacific Division crown.

    The Kings have two games remaining, with a home-and-home series with the Sharks on Thursday (home) and Saturday (away).

    As of now, Los Angeles sits in the division lead—and as the No. 3 seed if the playoff were to start today.

    A two-point lead over Phoenix, and three over San Jose, helps the Kings' cause, as the team controls its own destiny.

    Here are five aspects of the team's play that are of top importance in their push for and into the playoffs. 

Anze Has to Keep Up with His Frenzy

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    Kings center Anze Kopitar has been the man. More like, the man.

    In the last four games, Kopitar's notched eight points in three wins and a shutout loss.

    All but one of those points were assists, including a hat trick Saturday against the Wild. This comes after three straight point-less games, two of which were losses.

    For the Kings to win their final two games, the 24-year-old's got to keep it going.

    Kopitar tallied a goal and two assists in a huge 5-2 victory over the Sharks earlier this month. LA may need the Slovenian to match that at least once this week for the Kings to stay above San Jose.

Jonathan Quick Must Mind the Gaps

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    They say some goalies can stand on their heads...well, Jonathan Quick better hold a no-arms handstand for 120 minutes, and beyond.

    The netminder just can't let the Sharks get goals past him on Thursday and Saturday. 

    In his 34 wins, Quick allows just 1.36 goals on average. But in his 32 losses (including overtimes) he lets 2.55 goals past him.

    During a 9-3 month of March, Quick sat right between that mark (1.92). Fortunately for him, the Kings offense turned it up a few notches.

    However, Los Angeles can't rely on that—they need to be able to rely on Quick in the playoffs.

    This is where he makes that $1.8 million in salary.

Welcome Back Carter...Before It's Too Late

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    The Kings made a deadline deal with Columbus in an effort to spark the team's offense, acquiring forward Jeff Carter.

    Los Angeles gave up defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick in exchange for the two-time 30-goal scorer in Carter.

    Unfortunately, Carter had already been injured twice this season.

    The third time came last Wednesday in a 3-0 loss to Calgary. General manager Dean Lombardi stated there was no validity to the reports that Carter was out for the season.

    "Nobody knows yet," Lombardi told Lisa Dillman of the LA Times. "Not us. Not the doctors."

    The Kings do know, however, that Carter is an important cog to a playoff run.

Kill That Penalty Like It's out of Style

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    A major weakness of some NHL teams is their play in the man-down disadvantage. It doesn't hurt for a team to avert those situations, like the Kings have been able to do.

    Los Angeles has killed penalties at a clip of 87.9, good for third in the league.

    The rate certainly is a big factor as to why the Kings have the second-best defense in the NHL, allowing just 2.1 goals a game.

    Though the offense has surged in the past month, Los Angeles must keep a stringent defense—especially in the penalty kill. 

Scoring Defensemen, Young and Old

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    Both 22-year-old Slava Voynov and 34-year-old Willie Mitchell have come in the clutch for the LA Kings this season.

    And in a fantastic March, the two busted out with their best months.

    Voynov scored a quick third period go-ahead goal on Monday after a seven-point March. The youngster has turned it on since returning from the Manchester Monarchs on Feb. 24, the same day Mitchell signed a two-year contract extension.

    "I felt they wanted me to be a big part of (the team), which is an obligation I have to fill, with my performance," Mitchell told LA Kings writer Rich Hammond. "That hasn’t changed either."

    It certainly hasn't. The defenseman has eights points since signing the extension, including six in March. He also is tied with Dustin Brown for the team lead with a plus-18 plus/minus.

    Voynov and Mitchell have to keep the gears cranking in April—and perhaps May.