EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A kinder, gentler game between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues?
It seems unlikely for teams that combined for 479 hits in their 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinal series. But even Kings coach Darryl Sutter agreed with St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock's opinion that the Kings and Blues play different styles from then, which makes the first game between them Thursday at Staples Center more interesting.
"For sure," Sutter said. "Quite honest, I couldn't tell you much about [the 2013 series] other than what was said outside. We had a good series and both teams probably have a higher skill set than they did at that time. Both teams have moved toward, for sure, [being] more of a four-line team."
The Blues added center Paul Stastny and the Kings became more of an attacking team last season with the addition of left wing Marian Gaborik. Los Angeles also has more speed with Gaborik and the line of left wing Tanner Pearson, center Jeff Carter and right wing Tyler Toffoli.
So the days of the combined 100-hit games between the teams might be less common?
"I think we're physical when we need to be physical," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "And when I say physical it's not necessarily about body checks. It's about strong sticks and getting under sticks. That sort of thing. I think the less hits, essentially, that we have, is a result of us having the puck more and taking care of the puck better."
This is the first big test of the Kings' six-game homestand after wins against the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers. Gaborik will miss the game because of a lower-body injury but there is still intrigue in what has become a nasty rivalry the past three seasons.
"Just like writers or coaches, or fans, everyone knows who the elite-level teams are," Brown said. "Our approach doesn't stay the same but we also understand that we're not going to get away with not being prepared against a team like the Blues, because they are one of those teams has been consistently one of the better teams the past few years."
The Pearson-Carter-Toffoli line has scored nine of the Kings' 12 goals, perhaps none prettier than Toffoli's shorthanded goal Tuesday against Edmonton.
"I watched it on the bench and [Carter and Pearson] were chirping me because I was watching it during the game," Toffoli said.
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen- Paul Stastny – Joakim Lindstrom
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole - Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester - Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman - Jordan Leopold
Scratched: Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi
Injured: Carl Gunnarsson (hip)
Mike Richards - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford - Andy Andreoff - Jordan Nolan
Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
Injured: Marian Gaborik (lower body), Jake Muzzin (upper body), Trevor Lewis (upper body)
Status report: Quick was off the ice first. He is 13-3-0 in his past 16 games against St. Louis, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs. ... Muzzin continues to skate but has not been cleared. ... Berglund is expected to return from injury.
Who's hot: Pearson leads the Kings with four goals, one more than he had in 25 regular-season games last season. ... Toffoli leads the Kings with five points. ... Stastny is coming off a three-assist game.