It isn't unusual for Los Angeles to be fighting for a playoff spot when March roles around, but it also isn't uncommon for the Kings to turn a late-season push into a deep playoff run.
The defending champions are hoping the trend continues.
Los Angeles looks to end a three-game losing streak as it concludes its road trip against the last-place Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
The Kings were on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture entering March 2012 before winning the Stanley Cup as the No. 8 seed, and they needed a big run out of the Olympic break last season to secure their spot before winning three straight road Game 7s to get to the finals.
Los Angeles (29-21-12) is currently tied with Calgary for third in the Pacific Division and sits three points behind Minnesota for the West's final wild-card spot.
The Kings were shut out by Ottawa on Thursday before dropping the first two on a three-game road trip, 4-2 to Anaheim on Friday and 5-2 to Winnipeg on Sunday.
"We're in a tight race, and every game for us is a playoff game," said Jeff Carter, who scored both goals against the Jets. "We need to get our level up. We haven't been playing well enough, that's the bottom line.''
The last defending champion to miss the postseason was Carolina in 2006-07. The Kings traded for Carter three years ago and Marian Gaborik last year prior to the deadline before winning the Cup, and they're hoping they boosted their chances this season by acquiring defenseman Andrej Sekera from the Hurricanes on Wednesday.
"The toughest challenge in the National Hockey League now is not winning the Stanley Cup - it's making the playoffs," coach Darryl Sutter said. "If we were in first place, I'd still be saying that. That's a good thing, because that's like talking about Edmonton. I thought Edmonton would be one of the teams we'd be fighting with this year to make the playoffs."
Instead, the Oilers (18-35-10) have the fewest wins in the NHL and are heading toward another draft lottery. They've scored three times while dropping three of four, most recently falling 2-1 to St. Louis on Saturday.
Edmonton began picking up draft picks Jan. 2 when it dealt David Perron to Pittsburgh for a first-rounder. It then traded defenseman Jeff Petry to Montreal for second- and fifth-round selections prior to Monday's deadline.
"As well as Jeff played all year, we can't lose sight of the big picture here," general manager Craig MacTavish said. "We can't lose sight of the fact that we're the 29th team in the league and we have to handle our assets appropriately."
Carter and Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist apiece while Jonathan Quick made 31 saves in a 6-1 win over the Oilers on Oct. 14. Edmonton then ended a seven-game skid against Los Angeles with a 3-2 shootout victory Dec. 30.
Quick is 7-0-2 with a 1.19 goals-against average in his last nine against the Oilers, but he was pulled prior to the third period after allowing four goals against Winnipeg.
Former King Ben Scrivens made 23 saves against the Blues and is 1-2-0 with a 1.69 GAA while starting the last three for Edmonton.