The Los Angeles Kings will try to take another step toward becoming a legitimate playoff contender when they host the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.

The Kings have won three in a row to keep them in second place in the Pacific Division, an important distinction considering nearly 80 percent of the NHL teams that occupy a playoff spot at the Christmas break eventually qualify for the postseason.

“This year is about taking a step forward and advancing,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Are we there? We show some nights we certainly are, then we give it back a little bit.”

McLellan said there are a handful of teams in the NHL that win games consistently and another group that can’t string together wins.

“And then there’s a whole group of teams in the middle of the pack that are all trying to figure it out,” he said. “We’d probably be in the middle if you compare us to the rest of the league. We’re hoping for growth and getting better.”

The Kings have won three straight since McLellan moved Alex Iafallo back onto a line with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore.

Iafallo scored in a 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, and Danault scored in a 3-2 shootout win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

“We recover a lot of pucks by forechecking, all that stuff it helps push each shift forward,” Iafallo said. “When you get a lot of chances like that and have control of the puck, it’s good and it’s fun to play. It’s been good playing with them.”

The Flames are coming off back-to-back wins in San Jose on Sunday and Tuesday. They combined to outscore the Sharks 12-5.

“It’s really difficult to win back-to-back games in one building, especially in your division,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “So, I give our team full marks.”

Calgary has been scoring goals in bunches lately.

The Flames scored two goals in the first 30 seconds against the Sharks on Tuesday, and then scored four unanswered in the final 9:56 to pull away for the 7-3 win.

Calgary forward Elias Lindholm set a franchise record on Sunday when he scored two goals in the first 35 seconds of the third period in the 5-2 win against San Jose, the fastest two goals by one player to start the third period in NHL history.

“Probably not going to happen again,” Lindholm said. “Or not too often, at least.”

Milan Lucic, who failed to score in his first 28 games with the Flames this season, has scored in each of the past two games.

The 34-year-old left wing was recently moved up to the top line with Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli.

“That’s the type of player he is,” Sutter said of Lucic. “He’s got to be noticeable to help our team.”

Calgary center Trevor Lewis, who will turn 36 next month, continues to play exceptionally well this season. He scored his seventh goal of the season on Tuesday after totaling six in 80 games last season. His NHL career high is 14 goals while with the Kings in the 2017-18 season.

-Field Level Media