Anze Kopitar is a major reason for the Los Angeles Kings' success this season, and he rallied them to victory in their latest game to keep a surge going. Facing the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles appears likely to further extend its hot streak.
Kopitar will try to lead the Kings to their fifth win in six games Tuesday night when they visit the Maple Leafs for the first time in more than four years.
Los Angeles (29-19-3) has won four of five, matching its win total from the previous 12 games.
Kopitar came up big Saturday as the Kings won 3-2 at Detroit to open their five-game road trip. The center sparked a rally from a two-goal second-period deficit, scoring Los Angeles' first tally and assisting on the other two. The performance came two nights after Kopitar had an assist and scored in the shootout to help the Kings come from behind at home to beat Northeast Division-leading Buffalo 4-3.
"That was his best game of the year," coach Terry Murray told the Kings' official Web site of Kopitar's effort against the Red Wings. "He built up some momentum, off the last game at home, and I thought (Saturday) he was a real horse. He was coming with speed, with a lot of authority to attack.
"Every time the puck was on his stick, he was at the net. He was in dirty areas, paying a price. He was very physical in battles for puck possession. He came up with them a lot of the time. His best game of the year."
Kopitar leads Los Angeles with 20 goals and 50 points, including four goals and seven assists in his last 10 games.
The recent surge has moved the Kings -- attempting to end a six-season playoff drought -- into a tie with Nashville for sixth in the Western Conference, two points behind fifth-place Phoenix.
The Kings have split the last two meetings with the Maple Leafs -- both in Los Angeles. They dropped the last one 3-1, on Dec. 1, 2008, and haven't visited Toronto since a 2-1 victory Dec. 6, 2005.
Mired at the bottom of the Northeast, the Maple Leafs (17-26-10) have dropped three in a row and 10 of 13 (3-9-1). They fell 2-0 at Florida on Saturday to conclude a 1-3-1 road trip.
Toronto could get a lift if Mike Komisarek can return from an upper-body injury that has forced him to miss 11 games. The physical defenseman, though, has been criticized for subpar play after signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract on the first day of free agency last summer following six seasons in Montreal.
"Upper body feels good. Lower body feels good," Komisarek said. "It's been a tough couple of weeks sitting on the sidelines, not playing and not helping your teammates out. Definitely, anxious to get back, but still have a little bit of work to do yet.
"We're at a critical time in the season. We're trying to get into the playoffs and I want to be out there."
The Leafs could use some renewed production from Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has failed to register a point in the last two games.
Ponikarovsky's 18 goals on the season are five shy of the career high he set in 2008-09, and also tie him with fellow left wing Niklas Hagman for the team lead.
He has no points in five meetings with Los Angeles.