If the Kings are going to overcome their eight-point deficit and sneak into the Western Conference playoffs, they're going to have to do it the hard way, beginning today at Denver.
They open a five-game trip that begins and ends against Colorado, with games at Boston, Detroit and Nashville sandwiched between, and though they are 1-0 against Boston and 2-1 against Detroit, they are 1-1-1 against the Avalanche and a miserable 0-2 against Nashville.
"It's a tough road trip," said winger Glen Murray, who like several other Kings has something extra at stake in the season's final games. He is unsigned for next season and in a position to command a healthy increase over his $675,000 salary.
"This isn't just me," Murray said. "It's five or six guys playing for their jobs. They can't just slack off, and that's a big part of it."
President Tim Leiweke and General Manager Dave Taylor repeatedly have said that jobs were at stake, depending on play down the stretch, and players have responded at least in part to the threat. The Kings have won four of their last seven games.
"You have to believe [what Leiweke and Taylor] say, because if you don't believe it, you'll be gone," Murray said. "They're not going to keep any slackers. They mean business. I think everybody believes that."
The Kings are still mathematically in the Western Conference playoff race, but thoughts are already turning to giving minor league players a taste of the NHL. They have four call-ups available and, barring the unforeseen, plan to spend them on newcomer Jason Podollan, Josh Green, Pavel Rosa and, perhaps, Eric Belanger, though he re-injured his back Thursday night.
Belanger, who is at Springfield of the AHL, has struggled with back problems all season. Green, at Springfield, and Rosa, at Long Beach of the IHL, have spent extensive time with the Kings this season, and Podollan was acquired Tuesday from Toronto in the trade for Yanic Perreault.
Noon, Channel 11
* Site--McNichols Arena, Denver.
* Radio--KRLA (1110).
* Records--Kings 27-39-5, Avalanche 37-26-9.
* Record vs. Avalanche--1-1-1.
* Update--Colorado won, 3-1, Friday night, with Dale Hunter almost taking the head off Washington's Brian Bellows, who was his teammate only four days earlier. When Theoren Fleury has played, the Avalanche is 2-2-1. He has at least one point in each game and has totaled nine points--among them four goals--since coming over in trade from Calgary on Feb. 28.