LOS ANGELES -- There is light at the end of the wild, furious, lock-out induced NHL schedule.
Although for some teams it might be an oncoming train, their playoff hopes contingent on their ability to withstand the collision.
The Los Angeles Kings seem safe from the mayhem, their 2-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets strengthening their hold on the fourth spot in the Western Conference, two points in front of the San Jose Sharks and three ahead of the St. Louis Blues.
With four games remaining, the Kings appear in good shape.
The Blue Jackets, not so much.
The five-game win streak they brought with them to Los Angeles notwithstanding, they stand just two points ahead of Dallas and Detroit for the final spot in the playoffs. They've done right by themselves with the recent surge, but any sort of slip between now and the end of the season could be fatal to their playoff hopes.
Drew Doughty got the scoring started for the Kings with a goal on an assist from Anze Kopitar in the first period.
It was Doughty's seventh point in his past eight games, including his fifth goal.
The assist was Kopitar's 300th of his career. He now has assists in seven of the past eight games.
Columbus drew even 12 minutes into the second period when Dalton Prout beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, but satisfaction was short lived as Kyle Clifford beat Sergei Bobrovsky just over a minute later and the Kings were back on top, 2-1.
It was a wild second period, with both teams taking two turns on the power play. All four were killed off, and for the Kings that's standard business as they've gone unscathed on 12 consecutive power plays, including one more in the third period.
The game ended with a furious Columbus rush over the final two minutes, with both teams playing beyond the final horn as skirmishes broke out between a handful of players.
The ice was eventually cleared, both teams skating into potentially vastly different futures.
NOTES: The Kings got a huge boost with the addition of defenseman Matt Greene, who was activated from the injured list. He had missed all but one game this year after undergoing back surgery. Greene injured his back in the Kings' opener against Chicago and sat out 42 games after surgery. He resumed limited practice recently and his availability for the playoffs hinged on his return during the regular season, Kings coach Darryl Sutter hesitant to use Greene in the postseason until he could put together a string of four or five games and show he could stand up to the physical play. On Monday, Greene was cleared for his first full contact practice and by Thursday was back with the team. Assuming he's ready to go, Greene will provide the Kings a major boost. ... The Blue Jackets have a tenuous hold on the eighth seed in the Western Conference, with Detroit and Dallas still within striking distance with three games to play after Thursday's action. But Columbus is certainly hitting its stride at the right time, despite having its five-game win streak snapped on Thursday night. One key is Sergei Bobrovsky, who had 26 saves against the Kings and has compiled a 1.54 goals-against average during the streak.