Columbus Blue Jackets (9-6-0) vs. Kings (12-4-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Injuries, injuries, injuries – The Kings lost another piece of their apparatus Monday night. Scott Parse, who was playing left wing on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, will undergo hip surgery next week and is sidelined until mid-February or so. With forward Alexei Ponikarovsky and defenseman Willie Mitchell recently landing on injured reserve, the Kings have had to dip into their AHL affiliate in Manchester to find healthy bodies.
2. Who will bounce back? – Both teams are coming off perhaps their worst efforts of the season. Oddly enough, those clunkers came two days after both teams played one of their best games of the season. The Kings lost to San Jose, 6-3, on Monday night, two days after defeating the New York Islanders, 5-1. The Blue Jackets fell to Colorado, 6-1, on Friday night, two days after blowing out St. Louis, 8-1. Neither team has lost two in a row this season.
3. Delayed reaction – In his 16-year NHL carrer, Ryan Smyth has never had to wait so long to celebrate a goal, and he has scored 337 of them. Smyth shoved in a rebound Monday night against San Jose, but a Sharks defenseman dug the puck back out before referees noticed it had crossed the goal line. Play continued for another minute until was stopped after a San Jose goal. After a quick review, Smyth was credited with the point, changing the score from 4-1 to 3-2 in favor of the Sharks. Kings coach Terry Murray said Tuesday he hoped that would’ve sparked a comeback, but it went for naught Smyth, by the way, has feasted on the Blue Jackets, totaling 16 goals and 22 assists in 34 career games.
4. Power on power – Despite allowing two power-play goals against the Sharks, the Kings went into Tuesday night’s games still ranked No. 1 on the penalty kill. Columbus, meanwhile, had the worst power-play success rate in the NHL, a measly 10.3%. The Blue Jackets have failed to convert on 13 consecutive power plays and are 2-for-27 in their last six games. The Kings, on the other hand, haven’t allowed a power-play goal at home this season, a streak of 30 straight man-advantage situations.
5. News flash on Nash – Columbus left wing Rick Nash, who is tied for the team lead with six goals, did not play against the Avalanche due to a lower-body injury suffered against St. Louis, but Nash was back at practice Tuesday for the first time since the injury. Incidently, Nash suffered a lower-body injury against the Kings in March, the last time the teams played, causing him to miss four games.