The shifting Western Conference race continues to be close and the Kings pulled within a point of the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild-card playoff spot and they are within one of Calgary for third place in the Pacific Division. A few takeaways from Tuesday night in Denver:
Bottom-six forwards continue to contribute
There were points coming from the likes of Kyle Clifford (two) and Jordan Nolan (one), both showing improvement in the last few weeks.
“It could be a product of younger players getting better and more confident,” said Kings right wing Justin Williams, who had three assists on Tuesday, referring to both Clifford and Nolan.
“Jordan has played quite a few years in this league now. He’s feeling more comfortable out here and he’s making a lot of plays.”
Maybe there is something to getting a contract extension in February. Clifford received one for five years and Nolan for three.
“This time of year, we’ve all got to play our best hockey,” Clifford said.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera looking increasingly comfortable
Sekera, who was acquired from Carolina shortly before the trade deadline, registered his first point as a King with an assist on Clifford’s first-period goal. He was a plus-two against Colorado and his defense partner, Brayden McNabb had two points, with two assists.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter steered the conversation over to Sekera after the game when he was questioned about McNabb’s performance.
“I think the key tonight for Brayden was his partner [Sekera] was excellent,” Sutter said. “Veteran partner with him was probably the best player on the ice. His partner was taking care of business 200 feet from the goalie.”
Sekera, who logged 17 minutes 44 seconds against the Avalanche, was a minus-one in each of his first two games with the Kings and this was his first performance on the plus side since the trade.
Road woes easing, slightly, at the right time
Remember when the Kings rarely won on the road? They didn’t record their first road win until Nov. 4 at Dallas, and only picked up five victories away from home by the All-Star break.
Now with 11 road wins total this season, no one is confusing the Kings, or comparing them to, the Kings of old. But with a road-heavy schedule, they are staying in the playoff race by playing a bit better on the road.
They’ve won two of their last three on the road, beating Edmonton and Colorado, a modest start at least. The competition on the road gets significantly better starting Thursday in Vancouver.