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Pacific Division Roundup: Kings not the worst, Kovalchuk finds new home

NHL: DEC 12 Kings at Ducks Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy New Year, everybody! The last decade brought two Stanley Cups to California, both to the city of Los Angeles. Will the Kings eventually bounce back to become a Cup contender later in the decade, or, maybe, right now? Anything can happen!

New Year, same old problems for the Pacific Division. It’s not as wide-open anymore, but the distance between the contending top five and the bottom trio from California continues to grow. The Golden Knights lead the division, as they have refound their stride. They are backed up by the Arizona Coyotes, who have 50 points.

It’s all pretty territorially organized. The teams from Nevada and Arizona are neck-to-neck. Then, the teams from Western Canada are split by only one point. The Canucks have 48 points, while the Oilers and the Flames are tied on 47 points. The Flames are presently just outside of the playoff picture in the West.

However, the Kings are not the worst team anymore. The Sharks “reign” in California with 39 points, the Kings have 38 points, and the Ducks complete the bottom of the Western Conference with 37 points. Bad news, though — the Ducks have one game in hand on the Kings.

The Sharks were the last team in the West as of Thursday morning. It looks like they want to repeat the feat by the St. Louis Blues from a year ago, who were in the same exact position in 2019. We all know what happened next. The Sharks have plenty of reasons to believe they can repeat the Blues’ magic run. The start was more than encouraging. They even downed the Penguins in Pittsburgh this week. Of course, while the Pens are really hurt with all those injuries, they are still near the top in the East. Tristan Jarry is working out pretty well in the Steel City.

The Kings are currently nine points outside of the playoff frame. Last year’s Blues were 11 points out. Will the Kings be the Cinderella story? It’s highly improbable, but why not at least dream about it?

Circle Around the NHL

The Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes have officially ended. The former Kings forward has signed a one-year, two-way deal for the League’s minimum salary with the Montreal Canadiens. Now, Kovalchuk got his contract with a contender.

Wait, the Habs are six points outside of the playoff picture in the East?

The Canadiens were busy with moves lately. On Thursday, the Habs acquired Marco Scandella from the Sabres, as the Sabres used that acquired fourth-round draft pick to trade for Michael Frolik from the Flames. Montreal also shipped Mike Reilly to Ottawa.

Thursday was a great example of big things to come. The trade deadline is on February 24, which nears at light speed. The Kings are believed to be on the trade market, as well. Not for the acquisitions, though. But who knows, a 15-game winning streak and a strategy can change rapidly!

Pacific Division Power Rankings

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (+1)
  2. Arizona Coyotes (-1)
  3. Vancouver Canucks (+2)
  4. Calgary Flames (=)
  5. Edmonton Oilers (-2)
  6. San Jose Sharks (+2)
  7. Los Angeles Kings (=)
  8. Anaheim Ducks (-2)

There are slight changes to the Pacific Division Roundup from Christmas. The Golden Knights finally show consistency to lead the division. The Coyotes are still trying to rediscover their form with Taylor Hall, but the injury to Darcy Kuemper still hurts the Yotes. What to make from the Oilers? They nearly squandered a six-goal lead this week! They continue to stay in a playoff berth, but, perhaps, not for long.