Amodeo: Kings hold the key to their own playoff birth

Anze Kopitar is a key cog in the Kings' battle for the Pacific Division title. (Dinur/Flickr)

The Los Angeles Kings have gone 6-2 in the month of March and currently sit in a tie for ninth place in the Western Conference with the San Jose Sharks with 82 points. They are not only one point out of a playoff spot, but one point off the Pacific Division lead as well as both the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes have 83 points each.

With each game so critical going forward, the Kings have their faith in their own hands, as they play several teams that are very close to them in the standings.

The Kings have three games remaining against the Sharks, including tonight’s matchup at the Staples Center and a home-and-home to end the regular season, and a game remaining with the Flames, who trail them by just one point, as well, the Kings could jump over a few teams with some victories. Combine that with how the Kings play teams that are below them in the standings, including the Oilers, Wild, and Ducks, and they have a realistic shot of making the playoffs this season.

What also favors the Kings is how well they have been playing since the acquisition of Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since the trade, which sent defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round draft pick to the Blue Jackets, the Kings have won eight of their 11 games.

Carter has played extremely well since become a King, scoring five goals and adding three assists in 11 games played.  He has also gelled with his old Flyers teammate Mike Richards and Dwight King on the Kings second line. This allows coach Darryl Sutter the ability to run two solid scoring lines, considering how well Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams have played on the Kings top line. With two solid forward lines and quality energy and checking line forwards like Kyle Clifford, Trever Lewis, Jarret Stoll, Colin Fraser and Dustin Penner, offensively the Kings have the ability and the structure to make a deep run in the playoffs.

The Kings have played extremely well defensively as well, their goals-against average is 2.10, second only to the St. Louis Blues. The Kings’ defense has also given up an average of 27.9 shots against per game, fifth in the NHL in this category. While defensemen Drew Doughty, Rob Scuderi, and Matt Greene have led the way for the Kings defensively, Willie Mitchell’s leadership has been very value for their defensive core. The Kings have young defenseman in Doughty, Alec Martinez, and Slava Voynov, and Mitchell’s leadership has greatly helped the development of these young defensemen. The Kings’ confidence in their defensive core allowed Jack Johnson to become expendable in order to acquire Jeff Carter.

Combine all of this with the fact that goalie Jonathan Quick has played outstanding this year, posting a 30-19-11 record, with a 2.00 GAA, 7 shutouts and .928 save percentage, the Kings should be confident in the late season playoff push.

Watch the Kings not only attempt to get into the 8th playoff spot, but with the Pacific Division outright and clinch a top 3 position in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. If the Kings continue to play as well as they have been playing over the past 10 games, they have a legitimate shot at grabbing third place in the Western Conference and clinching home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

-Danny Amodeo, Contributing Writer

@DannyP29

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