The Blue Jackets and Kings look to get untracked offensively Tuesday night when they conclude their season series.
Columbus (31-26-6) returns home after scoring one goal in each of its three games on a trip through western Canada. The Blue Jackets opened the stretch with a 4-1 loss at Calgary last Tuesday, won 1-0 at Edmonton on Thursday and fell 3-1 at Vancouver on Sunday.
The problem for Columbus, as usual, was its league-worst power play. The Jackets, converting on 12.3 percent of their power plays, went 0-for-13 on the trip.
“This whole road trip we really struggled with some of our forwards to get our competitive level necessary to be a good playoff team, that’s the bottom line,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I really think our goaltender and our defense played well, we’ve got to get more from some people up front. We need better play from some of the guys up front. We’re not getting a lot of production.”
The Blue Jackets, sitting sixth in the tightly bunched Western Conference, are 1-for-12 on the power play against Los Angeles (26-27-9) this season. All three matchups were shutouts, with the Kings winning the first two by 3-0 scores before Columbus won 2-0 on Dec. 29 behind Steve Mason’s 24 saves.
Mason leads the NHL with eight shutouts, and the rookie is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as top rookie. He has struggled a bit over his last six home starts, though, going 2-2-1 with a 3.43 goals-against average.
Mason was bested once by Jason LaBarbera and once by Jon Quick in the Kings’ shutouts of the Blue Jackets. LaBarbera has since been traded to Vancouver, and Quick has suffered losses in the last two games for Los Angeles. He may start again Tuesday.
Like the Blue Jackets, the Kings have three goals in their last three games. They’ve fallen to 13th in the West, and are six points out of a playoff spot heading into the finale of their five-game trip after a 4-2 loss to Chicago on Sunday.
Los Angeles allowed the game’s first two goals and fell behind 3-2 after one period before mustering a total of 15 shots over the final 40 minutes.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” center Anze Kopitar said. “That first period wasn’t good at all. When you fall behind right away, it kind of kills the motivation right off the hop.”
“There’s a great need to a lot of desperation right now in our schedule and our games,” Kings coach Terry Murray said.
Columbus lost veteran center Michael Peca to an undisclosed injury late in the first period Sunday, and Hitchcock said he would be re-evaluated. The Blue Jackets also played without defenseman Rostislav Klesla and forwards Fredrik Modin and Jason Chimera.