Unless the Kings start winning some games soon, they'll be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV this spring.
So what else is new?
The Washington Capitals sent the Kings down to their sixth consecutive loss Saturday night, this time by a 4-1 score, before a crowd of 11,273 at the Forum. Most of the people left early, including King General Manager Rogie Vachon.
Washington center Bengt Gustafsson scored two goals, including his third straight game-winner, as the Capitals won for the fifth time in their last six games and raised their record to 34-17-4, the third best mark in the National Hockey League.
The Kings, who at 17-33-6 have the league's fourth poorest mark, are in their worst slump of the season. They haven't won a game in two weeks, losing 9 of their last 11 to drop from third to last place in the Smythe Division. They've already lost one more game than they did all last season, and there are still 24 games remaining.
"Everyone is trying hard, but things don't seem to be going our way," veteran King defenseman Jay Wells said. "It's frustrating. It can't keep going the way it's been going. We're a better team than what we're showing."
Said King Coach Pat Quinn: "I stand here and say that we're getting better, but we're still not getting results. But to get better, any team has to go through this stage.
"It (a playoff spot) hasn't slipped away yet, and it won't. Our team is getting better. We have to persevere through it."
Goalie Roland Melanson started his first game for the Kings since he reinjured a groin muscle in a Jan. 15 game against the New York Rangers.
"We decided last night to play him," Quinn said. "He told (assistant coach) Phil Myre that he was ready to play, and the doctors said he was healthy."
It was only the third game that Melanson had played for the Kings since he was acquired on Dec. 9 along with defenseman Grant Ledyard in the three-way deal with the New York Rangers and Minnesota North Stars that sent left wing Brian MacLellan to New York.
Melanson started slowly against the Capitals, giving up a first-period power play-goal to Mike Gartner on the third shot he faced. Gartner put in a rebound of a shot by Alan Haworth after the Capitals' Bobby Carpenter had won a faceoff from King center Marcel Dionne only four seconds into the power play.
Melanson faced 28 shots and said the groin injury didn't bother him. "This wasn't a surprise start," he said. "I was bugging the coaches to get a start either tonight or Monday in Montreal."
The Capitals had a 2-1 lead going into the third period, then scored two goals in the span of 1 minute 14 seconds to put it away.
Washington's Rod Langway banked a pass off the boards behind the net, and left wing Lou Franceschetti put the puck through Melanson's legs to make it 3-1 just 2:55 into the period.
"He was real sharp for most of the game until that stinker goal went in," Quinn said of Melanson. "That changed the tempo of the game. There were lots of errors around him all night."
The Capitals scored again after King defenseman Craig Redmond gave the puck away to left wing Gaetan Duchesne. Duchesne fed Gustafsson for his second goal of the game.
Gustafsson had also scored a second-period goal off a pass from Duchesne, who beat Redmond to a loose puck behind the King net to set up the goal.
Redmond was playing in his second game after being benched for two games.
"He made two costly errors that stuck out and ended up in the net," Quinn said of the defenseman.
Washington goalie Al Jensen, who had missed the last three games with a sprained knee, made 23 saves.
The Kings had plenty of good scoring chances against Jensen, but only Dave Taylor was successful, getting his 25th goal of the season on a tip-in of a shot by Ledyard at 8:08 of the second period.
Jensen's best save came when he robbed Dionne on a three-on-one break, making a glove save.
"I thought he was going to pass it," said Jensen, who has a 7-0-0 career mark against the Kings. "He held onto it a long time. He's a dangerous hockey player who has beaten me a couple of times, so it was nice to stop him."
King Notes The Kings will open a five-game trip Monday night at Montreal. Their next home game is Feb. 27 against Chicago. . . . The Kings have three goalies on their roster with the return of Roland Melanson. But Coach Pat Quinn, although not favoring a three-goalie system, said he doesn't plan to send Darren Eliot or Bob Janecyk to the minors. "We'll keep them all, at least through the road trip," Quinn said. "It's up to Rogie (General Manager Rogie Vachon) what we do after that"