UPDATE (5 p.m.) - T.J. Oshie will not play in tonight's game due to family reasons. He will join the team for the upcoming three-game road trip.
ST. LOUIS - Typically, the Blues would look at a game against the defending Stanley Cup Champions as a measuring stick…a way to see how they stack up against the best of the best.
But tonight, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock is looking at it a different way.
“It’s all about points,” he said. “They need the points, we need the points. We need to play our best game, because we’ve got a difficult opponent and we have to find a way to keep getting points.”
As always, the Blues expect a tough battle. In the last meeting between the teams, the Kings took a 1-0 victory in a shootout, with Jeff Carter scoring the only goal in the game. The Blues fired 43 shots on net.
Tonight’s contest (7 p.m., FSMW, KMOX) is the first game of a home-and-home series with the Kings, which wraps up Thursday night at Staples Center in LA.
“This is always a playoff game in the middle of the regular season. The fact that we’re playing back to back against them makes it feel that way,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “The first game we had against them this year was a phenomenal game. When you look at it, we lose in a shootout, but it was a back-and-forth game, 0-0, the way we always play each other.
“Hopefully we come out with the right attitude and the right effort to get a win.”
Jake Allen will make his third consecutive start tonight. He’s won two straight, the latest a 23-save performance on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.
“The second half of the game in Colorado, we saw Jake come back into form,” Hitchcock said. “We want to continue to build on that. That’s the goalie we anticipated. He had a little bit of a rough stretch, which is what happens with younger guys. He jumped back to form in the second half of the game and the third period, so we want to build on that.”
Allen leads all rookie goaltenders with 10 wins. In 15 games this season, he’s 10-3-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .907 save-percentage.
BLUES / KINGS LATELY
In the last three meetings with the Kings, the Blues are 1-1-1. The Blues have killed 27 consecutive penalties against Los Angeles over the last six games. That will be a big key tonight. LA is 9-2-0 when scoring on the power play and 6-8-5 when they don’t.
The Blues enter tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak. The Kings are 3-3-1 in their last seven.
“They’re a good team,” said Blues forward Chris Porter. “If we play the right way and work on our things, we’ll give them just as much trouble as they give us. We’ve created a pretty good rivalry with LA over the years, and I don’t think anything’s going to change tonight.”
Carl Gunnarsson was on the ice for the team’s optional skate this morning. Gunnarsson hasn’t skated with the team since being injured on Dec. 6 against the Islanders.
The Blues defenseman was hit in the head by the elbow of Islanders forward Anders Lee, who was fined but not suspended.
“He’s cleared head-wise. It’s up to conditioning-wise,” Hitchcock said of Gunnarsson after practice. “How he conditions after today and how he gets through tomorrow’s practice will determine when he’s ready to play.”
Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm will be in the lineup tonight. Ian Cole will sit out.
Paul Stastny has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 30 games vs. LA. He is one of 14 active players with a point-per-game career average vs. the Kings.
Barret Jackman has points in four consecutive games, tying a career-high for the third time. With five points in December, Jackman is tied for sixth overall in points for defensemen this month. Jackman has been a plus player in four straight games and his plus-8 rating in that stretch is the best in the League.
Fans can donate a new, unwrapped toy on the concourse tonight, where volunteers will collect donations for Toys for Tots. All fans who donate will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win great Blues prizes.