Kings-Blue Jackets Preview

The Associated Press

A coaching change has yet to turn around the fortune of the Los Angeles Kings.

They'll try to end a five-game losing streak Thursday night when they continue a four-game trip against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Los Angeles (13-13-4) fired Terry Murray on Monday. Murray had the franchise's best winning percentage (.560) but became the scapegoat for the Kings' poor start to this season.

John Stevens didn't fare any better in his first game as interim coach Tuesday, a 3-0 loss at Boston. The Kings have totaled six goals during their five-game skid and have failed to score more than two in nine straight, dropping their league-worst average to 2.13 per game.

"There's a lot of stuff going on, but that's no excuse," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "You can't take stuff like that and call it as a distraction and use it as a reason not to win the game."

Los Angeles came up empty on 41 shots - its second-highest total of the season with both efforts coming in the last three games.

"We're going to have to put it behind us," top scorer Anze Kopitar told the Kings' official website. "Terry did a great job for us, for three-plus years. Personally, for me, he put a lot into my game and I gained a lot from him. Like I said, we're going to have to overcome that and start playing again."

The Kings are trying to avoid their first six-game losing streak since they dropped eight straight Dec. 12-26, 2007.

It may be surprising that Los Angeles' next opponent has yet to fire its coach. Columbus (9-17-4) has been at or near the bottom of the NHL standings throughout the season, having started 0-7-1 with Scott Arniel in charge.

The Blue Jackets have been playing better, going 3-2-1 in their last six following Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver. They can relate to the Kings' struggles.

"L.A., obviously, they've made big changes," Arniel said. "They'll be a desperate hockey team and we've got to be as good as we were this game."

Steve Mason returned to goal after Curtis Sanford started Columbus' previous 12 games. Mason made 30 saves for his first win since Nov. 12.

"It's been a long time since I played. I've been hard on myself," said Mason, who had a 4.91 goals-against average in five November starts. "There's probably nobody harder on me than I am. I expect a lot better. Tonight was a good performance. Over the last three or four weeks, I think I've matured a lot in a lot of ways."

Mason, though, has been dreadful in his last five starts versus the Kings, going 1-4-0 with a 4.96 GAA. Sanford hasn't been any better, losing both career matchups while allowing nine goals, but he last faced them since 2007.

Quick has won five of his past six starts versus the Blue Jackets and has a career 2.30 GAA against them. However, he's 1-4-2 with a 3.11 GAA in his last seven starts on the road.

The Kings have won six of their last seven meetings with the Blue Jackets. Kopitar has 13 points during a nine-game run in the series.

Columbus winger Rick Nash has five goals and three assists over his last four games against Los Angeles.

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