GAME: St. Louis Blues (2-6-2) at Los Angeles Kings (7-4-0).
TIME: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. EDT.
Although Pavol Demitra devloped into an All-Star with the St. Louis Blues, the team grew unhappy with his postseason struggles.
Demitra faces the Blues for the first time since signing with the Los Angeles Kings when the teams meet at Staples Center.
The three-time All-Star spent eight seasons with St. Louis after being acquired in a trade with Ottawa in 1996. Demitra quickly blossomed with the Blues, becoming an All-Star in his second season and tallying 493 points over his St. Louis career to rank fifth on the franchise's all-time list.
However, St. Louis was not happy with Demitra's production in the playoffs. He managed 18 goals, 25 assists and 26 penalty minutes in 66 postseason games and the Blues never got past the Western Conference finals.
Demitra became a free agent when the Blues declined to make him a $6.5 million qualifying offer on July 1, 2004 after he managed only one goal in St. Louis' five-game, first-round playoff loss to San Jose.
"I think this is something that as an organization, we've been unhappy with our team's performance," said St. Louis general manager Larry Pleau at the time. "We're not blaming him, but at the same time, our payroll is going to roll back a little bit. We had to make a tough decision."
Demitra signed a three-year, $13.5 million deal with Los Angeles on Aug. 2 and has been a major reason why the Kings are leading the Pacific Division in the first month. He has a team-high five goals to go with seven assists in 11 games.
Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera suffered his first loss in Friday's 5-4 defeat against San Jose. LaBarbera replaced Mathieu Garon in the second period and was beaten twice on 14 shots, including the game-winner with 3.7 seconds to go.
Saturday's game will mark the first time in 11 seasons that Los Angeles will play on back-to-back nights at home.
The Blues dropped their fourth straight, 6-4 at Anaheim on Friday.
Eric Brewer and Scott Young scored in the first period to stake St. Louis a 2-0 lead before Anaheim responded with the final four goals of the period, registering 23 shots over the first 20 minutes.
Making matters worse for the last-place Blues will be an extended absence for left wing Keith Tkachuk, who will be out three to five weeks with cracked ribs.
STANDINGS: Blues - 6 points, 4th place (tied), 14 PB, Central Division. Kings - 14 points, 1st place, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Jamal Mayers, 5 goals; Petr Cajanek, 9 assists and 10 points; Barret Jackman, 20 PIM. Kings - Demitra, 5 goals; Lubomir Visnovsky, 10 assists and 13 points; George Parros, 28 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 18 percent (11 for 61), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.2 percent (52 for 64), 18th. Kings - Power play: 15.9 percent (11 for 69), tied for 19th. Penalty killing: 83.1 percent (59 for 71), tied for 12th.
GOALTENDERS: Blues - Patrick Lalime (2-5-2, 0 SO, 3.60 GAA); Reinhard Divis (0-1-0, 4.77). Kings - LaBarbera (5-1-0, 1.65); Garon (2-3-0, 3.43).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Blues, 4-0.
LAST MEETING: March 16, 2004; Blues, 5-3. At Los Angeles, Chris Osgood made 31 saves for the Blues and Cajanek had a goal and two assists for St. Louis.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 0-2-2 on the road; Kings - 5-3-0 at home.