Kings-Blue Jackets Preview

The Associated Press

A matchup with the NHL-worst Columbus Blue Jackets would appear to be a welcome sight for a Los Angeles Kings team battling for the Pacific Division lead.

Los Angeles, though, may be catching Columbus at the wrong time.

The Kings look to extend their winning streak to a season high-tying four games Thursday night when they visit the Blue Jackets, who are trying to win four in a row for the first time since a five-game run in November 2010.

Los Angeles (31-23-12) opened a four-game road trip Tuesday night with its fourth win in five contests, 5-4 over Nashville. That strong play has helped the Kings pull within three points of first-place Dallas in the Pacific and into a tie for eighth in the Western Conference.

Justin Williams scored twice, and Drew Doughty, Matt Greene and Trevor Lewis also had goals to lead Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Kings had 28 shots on goal after totaling 35 in their previous two wins.

"Our defensemen scored two goals by getting shots through, getting it past the first guy," coach Darryl Sutter said. "That really was the difference. Our defense was more involved offensively than they have been."

Williams, third on the Kings with 15 goals, has scored three in the last three games.

"We felt the last few games we haven't gotten as much shots on net as we should have," Williams said. "We tried to put as many as we could."

The Kings haven't had trouble getting shots off in three games against Columbus (21-38-7) this season. Los Angeles has 105 shots on goal in the series but has scored only five times in winning two of the meetings.

Columbus' Curtis Sanford was in net for all three matchups, stopping 31 shots in a 1-0 win at Los Angeles on Jan. 7. Sanford, though, will serve as the backup Thursday as the Blue Jackets continue to go with starter Steve Mason.

Mason has been in net for all three wins during Columbus' run, posting a 1.33 goals-against average. He's lost four of his last five starts against Los Angeles with a 4.96 GAA.

"I'm feeling really good," Mason said. "I'm treating it as a fresh start. The guys are working really hard. The games right now are becoming fun to play in. The guys are playing competitively. You can see it's just a lot more fun atmosphere."

Columbus has helped Los Angeles in its quest for the Pacific title by beating Phoenix twice in the past few days. The Coyotes are in second place in the division, two points behind the Stars and one in front of the Kings and San Jose.

Former Kings defenseman Jack Johnson played a part in the Blue Jackets' latest victory, scoring his first goal since being acquired from Los Angeles on Feb. 23 for Jeff Carter in Tuesday night's 3-2 win over Phoenix.

"I had talked to you leading up to the trade deadline, and was asked, 'Is the room tense?' My response was, 'Everything's good,'" interim coach Todd Richards said.

"But seeing the way we're playing now, I think that had a big effect on us. Guys seem more relaxed, seem to be enjoying the game, enjoying being around each other. So the morale is good."

Carter has two goals in five games for Los Angeles after scoring 15 in 29 for Columbus.

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