They tried to patch it together in the absence of defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, acquiring one young defenseman in February and a veteran defenseman April 1.
Others received expanded responsibility with the Kings, and, at times, flourished.
Still, with the playoffs looming, the best replacement for Greene was always going to be Greene, of course. (Unfortunately, that won't work with Mitchell, whose future remains murky.)
Greene, who had back surgery to repair a herniated disc, played in his first game since Jan. 19, and it was a measured success. The Kings beat the Blue Jackets, 2-1, on Thursday night at Staples Center, ending the five-game winning streak by Columbus.
They also cling to the valuable fourth spot in the Western Conference, which means home ice in the opening round of the playoffs.
"These aren't playoff games, but they are what you expect at the end of
the season like this," said Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who won his 16th game of the season and had 20 saves. "They're hard-fought games, one-goal games. That's how it usually is toward the end of the year like this.
"They're fighting for a playoff spot. We're fighting for a playoff spot. It's good to get two points in regulation without letting them get a point."
Greene's ice time was 16 minutes 15 seconds, with five hits, and his penalty-killing skills were required once, in the second period. Greene and Rob Scuderi were partnered on the second penalty-killing unit when Kings center Jarret Stoll went off for holding the stick at 8:53.
The Kings' goals were scored by defenseman Drew Doughty (sixth of the season), on a four-on-three power play in the first period and the game-winner came from the fourth line as forward Kyle Clifford scored at 13:32 of the second.
It was his first goal in 17 games and came by virtue of hard work, going after a loose puck in front of the
net after linemate Brad Richardson threw it in front. Jordan Nolan had the other assist.
"It definitely wasn't the prettiest goal," Clifford said. "But [Richardson] made a good play. It went off a couple of skates and I was able to bang it in."
That broke a 1-1 tie and helped halt the Blue Jackets' momentum after Columbus had seized some on defenseman Dalton Prout's first career goal, at 12:07, of the second.
His wrist shot from the blue line went under the leg of Quick with the help of a deflection in front.
The Kings had hoped to get Greene back for the last week and a half of the season.
"I just want to play well," Greene said. "I don't want to make mistakes. Just keeping it simple as you can there. And obviously the puck got away from me a few times. Hopefully rectify that in the next couple of games here.
"I was just thinking, 'Don't mess up too much.' That's it. I messed up a few times. It'll get better and move on. But you really can't simulate that, going back for pucks or battling in the corner. You've just got to go out and do it."
Said Quick: "He brings a lot of leadership qualities. Whether it's physical presence, some energy, he's very vocal in the locker room. We've got a lot of leaders — some are quiet, some are vocal. He's one of the guys that is vocal."
The Kings and Blue Jackets scrapped at the end of the game, the scrum starting when Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky went after Doughty. Dubinsky received a match penalty for his actions.
"Just a cheap shot," Clifford said. "And that's his personality. We got guys out there and he goes after [Doughty] who is not our toughest player. Not the smartest thing. But it's good to get the win."