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(Sports Network) - There's no denying that the Columbus Blue Jackets have displayed significant improvement since Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach in late November. However, there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made before the franchise can finally emerge into a legitimate playoff contender.

Simply put, the Blue Jackets need to play better on the road. The club is just 6-12-2 away from home this season and has suffered five consecutive defeats in enemy territory.

The latest setback happened Wednesday in Los Angeles, where Columbus fell victim to a Kings squad that had lost six of its last eight games coming in. The Jackets were victimized by a rash of bad penalties in the 3-0 loss, as Los Angeles was awarded 10 power-play opportunities on the evening.

Playing shorthanded has hardly been an uncommon theme for Columbus, especially as the visitor. During this current five-game road slide, opponents have enjoyed an average of 8.2 power plays per contest.

Things don't figure to get any easier for the Jackets any time soon. Columbus will next visit the Anaheim Ducks, owners of the NHL's best record at the moment, on Friday before concluding its West Coast swing Saturday against the formidable San Jose Sharks. After returning home for one game, the Blue Jackets will take on Nashville, co-leaders of the Central Division, on January 12.

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