The Pacific Division title is likely out of the Los Angeles Kings' reach, but they're still in the top four in the Western Conference standings.
A third consecutive road win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night would ensure they won't lose their spot in the crowded playoff race.
When the puck drops for this division matchup on Tuesday, the Kings (22-13-4) will be at least nine points behind division-leading Anaheim with nine games left. Los Angeles failed to close that gap - and win a third straight - with Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss at Anaheim, but coach Darryl Sutter couldn't complain much about the effort from the defending Stanley Cup champs, who had a 38-22 edge in shots.
"We came back three times,' said Sutter, whose club is on a 5-1-2 run.
The Kings are one point ahead of San Jose and two in front of Minnesota, and both have a game in hand, so they need to keep getting results.
Dallas might be a good place for that to happen. Los Angeles improved to 11-1-2 in its last 14 visits with a 3-2 victory on March 31.
Brad Richardson, Justin Williams and Jeff Carter, the conference leader with 23 goals, each scored for the Kings to extend the road team's winning streak in this series to six.
The Kings likely will have forward Dustin Penner, who was activated from injured reserve on Monday. Penner, who has two goals and nine assists in 25 games, missed the last four with a lower-body injury.
Dallas (18-17-3), a winner in Los Angeles on March 7 and 21, will try to put an end to the road team's dominance in this series as they return from a 2-1-0 trip. The Stars won 5-4 in a shootout over the Sharks on Sunday, two days after a 3-1 victory over Anaheim.
Dallas is among five teams chasing Detroit for the eighth spot and trails the Red Wings by four points.
"The situation we're in, every game is important,' forward Ray Whitney said. "If we have any chance at all (to reach playoffs) it's going to be a pretty impressive run at the end."
The recent trades of Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy, who all had expiring deals, signaled the Stars have an eye to the future, but they still have their sights set on postseason hockey this year.
"The only thing that matters is what we believe in this dressing room,' Jamie Benn, the team leader with 27 points, said after the Stars rallied from two down twice on Sunday. "It's not going to be pretty some nights. But the effort is going to be there and the heart and character will be there also. I think you saw part of that.'
The Stars would like to see continued production from rookie Alex Chiasson and Eric Nystrom. Chiasson, called up last week from AHL Texas, has three goals in the last two games, while Nystrom has found the back of the net in each of the last two.
It's uncertain if Lane MacDermid, acquired last week from Boston in the Jagr trade, will return after missing Sunday's game with an upper-body injury. The young forward scored in both of the games in Anaheim on the just-completed trip.
Kari Lehtonen, the Stars' starting goaltender in the last five contests, has lost four of five at home to the Kings following his 37-save effort on March 31.
Dallas had a season-low 15 shots that game against Jonathan Bernier, who suffered his first loss in 11 starts on Sunday.
Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick was in net in the home losses to the Stars last month.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved