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BLUE JACKETS (4-7-2) at KINGS (4-5-2)
TV: FS-Ohio, FS-West
Last 10: Columbus 3-6-1; Los Angeles 4-4-2
Season series: One of the three is already in the books, a dominant 4-2 win by the Los Angeles Kings at Nationwide Arena last Tuesday. The next two will be played at Staples Center. Last year, the teams split in both venues.
Big story: One of the peculiarities of this short season is how the defending Stanley Cup champion and the perennial also-ran could end up on the bottom of their respective divisions with the same number of points. The Columbus Blue Jackets took another step toward gaining respectability this week by replacing their general manager and handing the once-red-hot San Jose Sharks an embarrassing 6-2 loss. The Kings did the same thing to the St. Louis Blues on Monday, extending their opponents' losing streak to five with a 4-1 win and ending a tough five-game road trip on a positive note.
Blue Jackets: Though 10 points in 13 games may not seem like much, to the Blue Jackets, it's a huge step forward from last season's start, when they compiled five (2-10-1). The improvement has had its effect on the dressing room, especially after Monday's performance against the Sharks, which ended an otherwise frustrating 2-3-1 six-game homestand on a happy note.
"I was here for the start of last year, that whole mess there," forward Matt Calvert told the Columbus Dispatch. "It wasn't just our record that wasn't pretty, it was the attitude in the room. That's something that our whole coaching staff and our players have done a good job with: staying positive.
"We're a new team. There's a lot of new faces in here. We felt like we've really found some chemistry, and we're starting to figure each other out.”
Kings: One high point of the Kings' Midwestern swing was the win in Columbus, but the second one was the difference between inconvenient and horrific. After getting blanked by Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators, then losing a hard-fought game with 4.5 seconds left to the Detroit Red Wings, the Kings took some of that Motor City mojo to St. Louis and put it all together in the 4-1 win, giving them a 2-3-0 record on the trip.
"We're on the right direction, that's for sure," Jeff Carter said to NHL.com. "I think we thought Detroit was our best overall game.
"We were solid tonight, we did what we had to on the road. It's not easy coming in here and playing these guys -- it's a step in the right direction."
Who's hot: Calvert teamed with linemates Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky for six points against the Sharks. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin leads the Blue Jackets with 10 points (nine assists), five coming in his past five games. Derick Brassard has points in five of his past six games. … Former Blue Jackets player Carter scored in front of the Columbus crowd then picked up two more goals in St. Louis. He leads the Kings in goals with six and is tied with Anze Kopitar for the team lead in points with seven.
Injury report: Blue Jackets forward Cam Anderson (high ankle sprain) has missed 10 games and was shooting for a return Friday but that seems unlikely after he reported discomfort after practice Wednesday. He did make the trip. Defensemen Adrian Aucoin (lower body) and John Moore (lower body) expect to be back in the lineup after missing four and six games, respectively. James Wisniewski is with the team but may have to leave quickly; his wife is overdue with their first child. ... Kings defenseman Alec Martinez (upper body) was hurt during Monday's game and placed on injured reserve Wednesday. Willie Mitchell (knee) missed practice Wednesday and has no set return date.