A five-game road losing streak may ultimately cost the Los Angeles Kings a chance at their first division title in 25 years.
The Kings can at least secure home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs by sweeping the season series from the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles (46-28-5) is second in the Pacific Division, one point behind first-place Anaheim with two games to go. However, the Ducks have a game in hand, which could prove decisive even with the Kings hosting Thursday's showdown.
Before that, Los Angeles has a chance to lock up second place in the Pacific since it's three points ahead of third-place San Jose. A victory will be enough, while a point combined with a San Jose defeat in regulation at Minnesota would also clinch it.
The Kings failed to move atop the division and nail down that spot Monday, falling 3-2 at Vancouver despite a 42-24 advantage in shots.
"I think it's more about execution than anything else," center Anze Kopitar told the team's website when asked if the team lacked a sense of urgency. "I think it was just too much sloppy play on our part.
"Obviously you want to finish first, definitely, but it's not necessarily always about wins and losses either. ... You've got to know that your game is where it needs to be going into the playoffs, and right now we're just short of that, but we still have three games remaining here to sharpen up and put it in place in an order we want it to be."
The Kings should want to face the Flames (33-40-6) since they've outscored them 9-2 while winning all three meetings - including 3-0 at home last Thursday.
Jeff Carter scored twice in that matchup as part of his nine points in the past six games. However, he only has four during the last 12 on the road. He only has two points in 10 career visits to Scotiabank Saddledome, and none over the last five.
An upper-body injury forced Carter to miss the latest trip to Calgary on New Year's Eve, and Marian Gaborik and Tanner Pearson had two points apiece in the 4-1 victory.
Despite being out of postseason contention, the Flames (33-40-6) are trying to build on Saturday's 5-0 win at Edmonton that split a four-game trip.
Motivation isn't an issue for rookie Hunter Shinkaruk, who has one goal and one assist in four games since being recalled from the minors last week.
"It's a chance for me to show that I belong in this league," said Shinkaruk, the 24th overall selection by Vancouver in the 2013 draft. "Obviously, there's a lot of great players on this team. It's really fun to play with them. I just gotta go out there and play with confidence. I feel like if I do that, control the puck and try to contribute and help them win that's what will help me for next year."
Johnny Gaudreau has 12 points in the past 11 games after scoring two goals against the Oilers. The left wing has nine points in eight career meetings with Los Angeles but just one in Calgary's three losses this season.