Two of the hottest teams in the NHL collide tonight in Columbus, Ohio as the Blue Jackets host the Los Angeles Kings.
Columbus (28-23-5) has been on a roll lately, winning five of their last six games. LA (31-22-3) has a 9-game unbeaten streak, going 7-0-2 during that stretch. The Kings are on a brutal 10-game road swing but are finding success, going 4-0-2 in the first six games of their longest road trip of season.
The two Western Conference rivals have their goalies to thank for their recent winning streaks.
The Blue Jackets' Steve Mason has been outstanding during his team's recent winning streak, going 4-1 with .948 save percentage and a 1.61 goals against average.
The Kings goaltender, Jonathan Quick, has been just as good if not better than Mason, going 4-0-1 over his past five starts with a save percentage of .949 and a 1.53 goals against average.
Though Mason has been hot for Columbus, it looks like he won't be able to go tonight as he is battling a case of bronchitis. Look for backup and former LA King Mathieu Garon to play opposite Jonathan Quick tonight.
Leading the Kings in points with 53 on the season is the talented power forward Anze Kopitar. The All-Star center finally broke through in the goal department last Saturday after a 10-game drought. Columbus is a team Kopitar loves to play against, notching 17 points in his last 13 games against the Jackets.
Anze will be matched tonight by the hot hand of Rick Nash. The Columbus captain has four goals in two meetings, both in Los Angeles, against the Kings this season. Nash leads his team in points this season with 49.
This is a huge game for both teams as they continue their pushes for playoff spots in the West. LA sits in 10th place with 65 points and are within a point of the eighth spot, held by the red hot Calgary Flames (no pun intended). Columbus holds the 12th spot with 61 points and are within five points of Calgary.
I think this game will be won and lost on the power play. Columbus has struggled with a man advantage this season (28th) and particularly against the Kings, going zero for seven in the two games in LA. The Kings have been hot on the penalty kill lately and rank eighth overall with a 84.0 PK percentage. If the season's trends continue for both teams, the Kings have the advantage.
The Los Angeles Kings win 3-2.
Star of the game: Anze Kopitar, 2 goals