The Kings may be just about out of the fight in terms of an NHL playoff berth. But the fight hasn't gone out of the Kings.
Wednesday's brawl-filled win in Calgary showed that if the Kings are going to go down before the postseason, they intend to go down swinging.
"We're all fighters in here," defenseman Drew Doughty said Thursday after practice in Vancouver. "We take a lot of pride when we put on the Los Angeles Kings' jersey and we take a lot pride in playing well for each other. We're never going to go on the ice and not play as hard as we possibly can no matter the circumstances. It's an honor to play in this league and you've got to treat every single day like it's your last."
Speaking of lasts, Friday's game against the Vancouver Canucks could be the last meaningful game of the season for the Kings because a loss would eliminate them from the playoff race. Even a victory probably would do little more than delay what now appears inevitable.
To reach the playoffs the Kings would have to win their remaining six regular-season games; their longest winning streak this season is five games. But they also would need one team from a group composed of the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues to lose all of its remaining games.
None has lost more than five in a row this season.
Plus the Kings aren't exactly charging to the finish. They've lost six of their last nine games, scoring two or fewer goals in all but two. As a result the Kings entered Thursday's play ranked 25th in the NHL in scoring at 2.41 goals a game.
"Hopefully," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said, "we can get to April and still be in the race."
Saturday is April 1.
Asked how his team found itself in such dire straits, Sutter was direct: "[There are] guys that are making mistakes."
The gravity of the situation hasn't been lost on the players.
"We're in a do-or-die stage as a team," said veteran Jarome Iginla, who took only a brief turn on the ice Thursday. "We have to stay alive and get on a role. It could put pressure on other teams. But we have to make sure we do our part.
"It's not a situation ideally that we'd like to be in. All we can do is what we can do. That's try to win one right now."
They'll have to fight to do that, of course. But Sutter said it will have to be a different kind of fight than the one the Kings showed in Calgary, where they and the Flames combined for 74 penalty minutes.
"Fighting doesn't necessarily mean 'fighting, dropping your gloves, fighting,'" he said. "Fighting means second and third efforts and digging in. And your top players and your captains having really strong examples in terms of their work and their effort.
"That's what's more important to me."
KINGS AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS
When: Friday, 7 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: This is the Kings' last game outside Southern California. Their next four are at the Staples Center, followed by the season finale at Anaheim. And that's probably a good thing since the Kings, who ended a five-game road losing streak Wednesday, have the worst road mark among the remaining playoff contenders. The Kings have struggled against the Canucks, their only win in three games coming in a shootout. Vancouver also won the only meeting between the teams in Canada in December.