While the Los Angeles Kings' current run likely won't be enough to spark a playoff push, the St. Louis Blues' sudden free fall may have ended any shot they had at contending for a postseason spot.
The Kings, concluding what has been a successful eight-game road trip, look to even their season series with the struggling Blues as the teams meet Tuesday night.
A five-game losing streak that started in September -- and included a 5-3 loss to St. Louis (24-22-8) on Oct. 6 -- was an early indicator that Los Angeles (24-31-3) likely was headed for another long season. Indeed, the Kings have struggled, posting a league-worst 51 points.
But Los Angeles is enjoying what is easily its best stretch of the season, earning 19 points in its last 14 games (9-4-1). That is the Kings' best 14-game run since going 10-3-1 from Dec. 16, 2005-Jan. 12, 2006.
Much of that success has been on the road. Los Angeles is 4-2-1 on its trip, which is only the sixth time in team history it has been on the road for a stretch spanning eight games or more.
At this point, a playoff berth isn't likely for the Kings, but they are just five points behind the 12th-place Blues in the Western Conference. Just a month ago, St. Louis was 22-14-5 and poised to end a two-year playoff drought, but it has gone 2-8-3 since.
"It's tough, for sure," Blues winger Paul Kariya said. "We had ourselves in pretty good position to make the playoffs a month ago. It's inexcusable, this is crunch time."
St. Louis has lost four straight, dropping the first three in regulation before a 2-1 defeat to Minnesota in a shootout that lasted six rounds Sunday night.
The Blues have struggled even though All-Star goaltender Manny Legace has played in nine straight games. Legace is 1-4-2 with a 3.00 goals-against average in that span.
He was scheduled to get a day off on Saturday, when St. Louis lost 6-2 at Dallas, but relieved struggling backup Hannu Toivonen in the second period. Legace is 9-1-0 with one tie and a 2.62 GAA in 13 games versus the Kings.
Toivonen was assigned to Peoria of the AHL on Monday, and the Blues recalled Chris Beckford-Tseu to back up Legace.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, has a new backup goalie in Dan Cloutier, who was recalled on Feb. 7. He made his first start of the season Sunday night, finishing with 31 saves in the Kings' 3-2 shootout win over Columbus.
It was Cloutier's first win since beating Colorado 5-4 on Dec. 9, 2006. Cloutier, who has struggled with injuries and mostly played in the minors the last few seasons, will back up Jason LaBarbera.
"I've been through a lot in the last couple of years," Cloutier said. "I'm pretty excited to come back up and get an opportunity to play."
Los Angeles has gotten clutch play in net during its road trip, allowing a combined two goals in the third period in its last seven games. The Kings also have scored 11 goals in those games in the third period.
All-Star center Anze Kopitar, who scored two goals in regulation Sunday, has eight goals and 15 points in his last 17 games. He assisted on all three goals in their October matchup with the Blues.