Emerging young skaters and standout American goalies have led both the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings back into contention, and just one point separates the two teams in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.
They'll have plenty of chances to settle the score themselves.
The Kings and Avalanche face off twice this week and three times before the end of the season, beginning with Monday's meeting in Los Angeles as each club tries to solidify its position in the standings.
The two worst teams in the West last season, Colorado and Los Angeles have experienced a renaissance behind budding stars.
The Kings (41-24-5) hold sixth place in the West after jumping past Colorado with a 1-0 home win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night. Although the Avs couldn't return the favor Sunday, losing 5-2 at Anaheim, both clubs remain in good shape to return to the postseason, with Colorado (40-25-6) holding a five-point lead and a game in hand on ninth-place Calgary.
Seeking its first playoff berth since 2002, Los Angeles has at least one game in hand on every other West team, and the team was reassured by Saturday's victory after going 2-4-1 in its previous seven games.
"It was a very important win," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It's a win that's very hard to come by, because this is a game you're supposed to win. And those are the hardest kind of games to win."
U.S. Olympian Jon Quick made 26 saves for his fourth shutout and 38th victory, and the Kings killed all four New York power plays to extend their streak of successful penalty kills to 24.
Los Angeles still has issues to address. Former Avs forward Brad Richardson scored the team's lone goal against the Isles, increasing the Kings' goal total over the last five games to a meager six. Captain Dustin Brown, scoring leader Anze Kopitar and top defenseman Drew Doughty -- all 25 or younger -- are their only players with multiple points in that stretch.
"At this point in the year, you take it however you get it," Brown said. "We had the intensity and the four lines (Saturday), but the only thing I think we lacked was the killer instinct."
The Kings had no problem finishing off visiting Colorado on Feb. 13, scoring a pair of third-period goals to seal a 3-0 win. Quick made 22 saves for the shutout in the first game between the teams since the Avs traded veteran forward Ryan Smyth to Los Angeles last summer in exchange for defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing.
The clubs will get more familiar with each other in the coming weeks. Monday's matchup begins a home-and-home series that concludes Wednesday in Denver, where they'll meet again on the final day of the regular season April 11.
"It's pretty amazing," Murray told the Kings' official Web site. "But it's an interesting finish to the schedule."
The Avalanche hope to avoid their first three-game losing streak since Jan. 28-31. They lost 3-2 to Calgary on Wednesday before beginning their brief road trip with the disappointing effort in Anaheim.
Goalie Craig Anderson, who was left off the U.S. Olympic team but has more than doubled his previous career high with 35 wins, was yanked from Sunday's game after allowing four goals on 19 shots in less than two periods.
Colorado's offense has also quieted, and 24-year-old leading scorer Paul Stastny's nine-game points streak was snapped against the Ducks. Chris Stewart, a 22-year-old forward who is second on the team with 59 points, extended his streak to seven with an assist.
Stewart has 10 goals and 13 assists in his last 14 games.