Halfway through the Southern California double, which has been known to give teams a legitimate chance to load up on road points, the Colorado Avalanche would be wise to take a lesson from an Eastern Conference team that was in a similar situation.
The Avalanche earned a 1-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, and they head to Los Angeles for a game against the Kings on Saturday. Nothing beats a pair of road games when the venues are near each other, except for a pair of close road games against two teams that are struggling.
The Kings and Ducks both have been sellers in advance of Monday's trade deadline, but as the Florida Panthers found out earlier this week, a team in transition can be dangerous.
The Panthers defeated the Ducks on Wednesday but lost an offensive-minded game against the Kings a day later when the teams combined for nine goals. Florida, like Colorado, is fighting for playoff positioning, and it is no time to take any team lightly.
After a recent three-game losing streak, the Avalanche have won two in a row.
In his third start after Colorado's No. 1 goalie, Philipp Grubauer, was injured, Pavel Francouz made 26 saves against the Ducks to earn his first career shutout. Earlier Friday, Francouz agreed to a two-year contract extension reportedly worth $2 million per season.
J.T. Compher scored the game's only goal on a pass from Martin Kaut, who earned his first career point in his second NHL game.
The impending trade deadline means that Saturday's game could be the last before the Avalanche roster gets some additions for the stretch drive.
"We love the team we have here, and we're going to try and do whatever we can to improve, if it's the right price," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said, according to NHL.com. "If not, we believe in our group."
The Avalanche have every reason to take the struggling Kings seriously after Los Angeles played spoiler against Colorado on Feb. 15 amid the pomp and circumstance of the outdoor Stadium Series game at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
The Kings stole the show with a 3-1 victory over the Avalanche as Tyler Toffoli delivered a hat trick. Two days later, though, Toffoli was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. Two days after that, Alec Martinez was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights. Both players were factors in the Kings' 2014 Stanley Cup title run, and Martinez was part of Los Angeles' 2012 championship team, too.
The Kings also traded Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell to the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this month, so the rebuild is well underway.
Even so, it didn't prevent Los Angeles from putting together an inspired effort in a 5-4 win over the Panthers. With nothing to lose, the Kings put offensive pressure and caught their road-weary opponent off balance.
In a symbolic passing of the torch Thursday, the Kings' Gabriel Vilardi scored a goal less than 10 seconds into his first-ever NHL shift. It was the fastest goal in NHL history from a player making his debut.
"Pretty exciting," the 20-year-old said afterward, according to the Los Angeles Times. "First shift, I wasn't expecting that. No one expects to score on the first shift. That was definitely cool."
--Field Level Media