KINGS (25-12-4) at BLUES (27-7-5)
TV: FS-W, FS-MW
Last 10: Los Angeles 5-5-0; St. Louis 7-1-2
Season series: The Los Angeles Kings are 14-3-0 in their past 17 games against the St. Louis Blues and have eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons. The Kings beat the Blues in the first of three games this season, 3-2 on Dec. 2.
Big story: For the second month in a row, the Kings will open their slate against the Blues. And for the second straight month, the Kings are in need of a win. When Los Angeles beat St. Louis on Dec. 2, the Kings had gone 1-1-3 in the previous five games and were looking for some momentum. The Kings found it, reeling off five straight wins following the win against the Blues.
It'll be a similar situation Thursday, with Los Angeles on a four-game skid. The Kings are still fifth in the Western Conference standings, but can't afford to fall much further in the highly competitive Pacific Division.
The Blues have won three straight and six of seven, including back-to-back beyond-regulation wins against the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars this past weekend.
Kings: Scoring has been an issue of late for Los Angeles. During their six-game winning streak earlier this month, the Kings outscored opponents 23-7; over the four-game losing streak, opponents doubled LA's scoring output (12-6). The Kings haven't scored more than two goals in five straight games in regulation and overtime; a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 21 came via the shootout.
The Kings allowed two power-play goals Tuesday to the Stars' Western Conference-worst power play in a 3-2 loss. Despite the loss - the second to Dallas in eight days - coach Darryl Sutter was mostly pleased with his team's effort.
"I thought we played really well," Sutter said. "We got a little bit of a bad break on the second goal. We're not scoring any goals right now. We easily could have won the last three. That's the way it goes."
The Kings might also be finally starting to miss goaltender Jonathan Quick, who has missed 24 games with a groin injury. The duo of Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens proved an able replacement at first, but both are carrying losing streaks into the St. Louis game. Scrivens started in the win earlier this season against the Blues, stopping 25 of 27 shots.
Blues: The Blues have ridden their current hot streak to a third-place position in the overall standings (behind Chicago and the Anaheim Ducks). The Blues have kept winning despite losing top scorer Alexander Steen and captain David Backes to injuries.
On Saturday, the Blues twice erased two-goal deficits to top Chicago in a shootout. They beat Dallas in overtime the next day. On Tuesday, the hobbled Blues lost another top goal-scorer in Chris Stewart, but still finished 2013 with a 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
"Obviously, we miss those guys a lot, but it's a chance for more guys to get an opportunity and step up," said forward Jaden Schwartz. "I think we're doing a good job of that; everyone is chipping in and playing hard defensively, and it's paying off right now."
Who's hot: Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar has two goals and three assists over his past five games. … Schwartz is riding a six-game goal-scoring streak.
Injury report: Quick (groin) is traveling on L.A.'s current road trip and practicing with the team for the first time since sustaining his injury Nov. 12. He is listed as day-to-day. … Forwards Backes (upper body) and Stewart (face) are game-time decisions for Thursday, and Steen (concussion) is out indefinitely. Defensemen Roman Polak (ankle) and Jordan Leopold (hand) are out indefinitely. Right wing Ryan Reaves (hand) was activated from injured reserve Thursday.
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