The Los Angeles Kings appear on their way to ending the longest playoff drought in team history. They'll need Jonathan Quick to play better on the road if they plan to go deep in the postseason.
Quick is expected to go for his 40th win Thursday night when the Kings visit the fading St. Louis Blues.
Los Angeles (42-24-6) is fifth in the Western Conference, seven points ahead of ninth-place Calgary. The Kings are also seven points behind Phoenix for fourth, so gaining home-ice advantage in the first round is starting to look out of reach.
With 10 games left, Los Angeles is in solid position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02. However, the Kings could use some better play from Quick, who is 0-1-1 with a 3.87 goals-against average in his last three road starts.
He struggled again Wednesday, getting pulled in a 4-3 shootout loss at Colorado after allowing three goals on 16 shots in the first 18:08. Backup Erik Ersberg stopped all 14 shots the rest of the way before giving up two goals in the tiebreaker.
"We were competitive after the change and got some momentum," said Ersberg, who is 0-2-2 with a 1.48 GAA in his last five games with three starts. "We were able to sneak a point out of (Wednesday's game)."
Quick's performance against the Avalanche also came after he had 18 saves in Monday's 4-3 overtime win in the opener of the home-and-home set.
Playing his first season as the Kings' primary starter, Quick is tied with Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov for second in the NHL with 39 wins, one behind New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.
However, Quick has lost his last two starts against the Blues, posting a 4.36 GAA. Both of those defeats came at home, and he won in St. Louis, making 29 saves in a 2-1 victory Oct. 10.
Anze Kopitar has six goals and 17 assists in 15 career games against the Blues. The center had one goal and three assists in the Kings' last two contests, setting a single-season career high with his 33rd tally Wednesday.
Kopitar has thrived on the road lately, accumulating nine goals and nine assists during the Kings' 8-2-2 stretch as a visitor.
The Blues' hopes of returning to the playoffs are dimming fast as they're 10 points behind eighth-place Detroit with nine games to play.
St. Louis has dropped four of six including a 4-2 loss at Detroit on Wednesday. Ty Conklin gave up the game-winner to Valtteri Filppula with 6:49 to play after misplaying a dump-in.
"Just frustrating," said Conklin, who had 20 saves. "One was off a foot and the last one, I'm trying not to back up and get eaten up by it."
Conklin is 5-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and a shutout in six meetings with Los Angeles, but all those games came prior to joining St. Louis this season.
The Blues may put Chris Mason back in net, although he's lost three straight starts with a 4.79 GAA.
In 13 games against Los Angeles, Mason is 7-3-0 with a tie, a 2.04 GAA and four shutouts. He's beaten the Kings twice this season on the road, but lost 2-1 to them on Oct. 10 at Scottrade Center.