Firing Andy Murray has yet to pay dividends for the Los Angeles Kings, but hiring him has helped the St. Louis Blues recover from a dismal start to the season.
Murray and the resurgent Blues visit the Kings on Thursday for the coach's first trip back to the Staples Center since his March 31 firing.
This will be Murray's third time facing his former team since he replaced Mike Kitchen as St. Louis coach on Dec. 11. He won the two previous matches at home, including a 6-5 Blues (17-21-8) win last Saturday, and admits Thursday's game has a special meaning.
"It's obviously more than just the next game," Murray said. "You can't spend the next seven years of your life in one organization and be around that long and not care. I loved every minute of being with the Kings, so it's going to be special going in there, for sure. But I won't make any difference in the hockey game. It'll be these guys."
Murray coached five-plus seasons in Los Angeles before getting fired with 12 games remaining in the 2005-06 season. He is the Kings' franchise leader in wins (215) and games coached (480), and reached the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, but was fired during an inconsistent stretch drive to 2005-06, that eventually left Los Angeles out of the postseason.
While Los Angeles (16-26-6) has yet to show much improvement since he left, the Blues have rebounded from a 7-17-3 start to go 10-4-4 since Murray took the helm.
"Every time we lace up our skates, we're expecting to get two points," St. Louis center Doug Weight said. "It's a good feeling. We haven't had that in a while in this locker room. We've got a lot of character in this room and a lot of belief that we can be a playoff team. We've dug ourselves quite a hole, but we're on the right path."
Weight scored one of four second-period goals for the Blues in Tuesday's 6-2 victory over the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks. Eric Brewer added a goal and two assists, while Petr Cajanek, Keith Tkachuk, Jamal Mayers and Dallas Drake also scored.
Goaltender Curtis Sanford finished with 30 saves in place of starter Manny Legace, who received the night off after starting 15 consecutive games.
The Kings return home after a dismal three-game road trip extended their losing streak to a season-high tying five games. Los Angeles, which fell 6-2 at Atlanta on Tuesday, has not dropped six in a row since a seven-game skid Jan.24-Feb.8 last season.
Goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji made the first start of his career Tuesday, and the first NHL start for a Japanese-born player, but he was pulled less than two minutes into the second period after allowing three goals on nine shots.
Alexander Frolov scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season in the first period, and Tom Kostopoulos added a third-period tally to round out the offense for Los Angeles.
The Kings have surrendered an NHL-worst 176 goals and are missing both starting goaltender Dan Cloutier, who underwent hip surgery last week, and backup Mathieu Garon, who has a finger problem.
"That's just the way it's been going," forward Craig Conroy said. "We give up a lot of goals ... and there's nothing we can do about it. We just have to try to get better defensively and help our goaltenders. They've been under a lot of pressure."
Los Angeles has won the last three matchups against the Blues at the Staples Center.