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.
"There's some room for improvement but I think our game is coming along and you want to be in these types of games," Anze Kopitar said. " Last year we were battling for a playoff position, this year we're battling for home ice advantage so it's almost like a similar type of situation and it gets you in the mood and gets you prepared for playoffs.
"It's always nice to stay at home and not have to travel and we all know in the West if it's not on the West Coast, it's usually about an two-and-a-half hour flight so anytime we can save a few of those, it helps."
The Blue Jackets future isn't as secure.
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.
The leave Los Angeles impressed with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"They are a tough team. They are a committed group as how they play the game; they are big; they skate well," Blue Jackets' coach Todd Richards said. "Everyone is committed from their most skilled player to their least skilled player. They dump the puck. They forecheck you. The one thing they all do is defend.
"They are committed to defending and blocking shots, taking hits through the middle. They make things extremely difficult. Us playing five to seven games in different time zones and different cities it wasn't a good recipe."
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 for his first goal of the year.
"It's always nice. It was overshadowed by the loss," Prout said. "There's a short memory in hockey. All I am focused on is playing better for this team and against San Jose."
The satisfaction was short lived as Kyle Clifford beat Sergei Bobrovsky just over a minute later and the Kings were back on top, 2-1.
"Anytime you score it's nice but it's not our main game in our line so it's an added bonus," Clifford said.
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 Blue Jackets Brandon Dubinsky got it started by shoving Doughty, and Clifford did not appreciate it.
"Just a cheap shot, and that's his personality, and we got guys out there and he goes after Doughty whose not our toughest player," Clifford said. "Not the smartest thing but it's good to get the win."
Said Columbus forward Jared Boll: "You have to expect it. Everyone is fighting for their lives right now. Emotions are running high and you try to keep them in check, but this is playoff mode. This is playoff hockey and every game from here on out is going to be like that."
The ice was eventually cleared, both teams skating into potentially vastly different futures.
NOTES: Columbus lost Matt Calvert during the game to a hand injury. "He's got a broken finger," Richards said after the game. "He'll probably be out for a while. It was a big blow losing him." ... 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 with 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 Bobrovsky, who had 26 saves against the Kings and has compiled a 1.54 goals-against average during the streak.