BLUES (17-19-7) at KINGS (25-16-3)
Last 10 - St. Louis3-5-2; Los Angeles 4-6-0
Season series -- This is the third of four meetings. Each team has won a one-goal game on the road. On Oct. 10, the Kings received goals from Ryan Smyth and Michal Handzus and 29 saves from Jonathan Quick for a 2-1 win in St. Louis. On Dec. 5, Alexander Frolov of the Kings scored with 34 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes scored in the shootout to give the Blues a 5-4 win. Paul Kariya added two goals in the third period and Chris Mason made 36 saves for the victory.
Big story -- Long-time minor-league coach Davis Payne was named coach last week and faces a big challenge in lifting the Blues to playoff contention. Payne led the Alaska Aces to the ECHL title in 2006-07 and was named coach of the year. He was coaching the Blues' AHL team in Peoria when he was promoted after Andy Murray was fired. "Obviously the buildings are bigger and there's lots of star power on the ice, but it's the same game," Payne said. "I feel like you communicate and give the players the message. If you have them towing on a collective rope, great things can happen. I think that's where we expect to go as a team."
Blues -- This is the final game in a three-game road trip that began with losses against the Blackhawks, Sharks and Ducks. Overall, St. Louis is 0-5-2 in its last seven, its longest stretch without a win since losing 13 in a row (0-10-3) from March 16 to April 8, 2006.
This is also the fourth game for the Blues since Payne replaced Murray on Jan. 2. "We feel that a new voice is something that needs to be with our club right now. Davis will provide that," St. Louis president John Davidson said. "We feel that we're a .500 hockey club right now on paper, but we think we should be better. I think everybody realizes that and that's our goal -- to be better than that. We have to have goals, and we have to pursue those."
On Thursday, Anaheim's Matt Beleskey broke a tie with 2:40 left in regulation and Todd Marchant added an empty-net goal for a 4-2 victory against the Blues at Honda Center.
Kings -- This is the second game in a seven-game homestand that began with a 2-1 loss against the Red Wings on Thursday.
Los Angeles lost its last contest in heartbreaking fashion. Ryan Smyth scored the tying goal for the Kings late in the third period, but Darren Helm put Detroit back ahead with only 17.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Wings rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard made 51 saves, including 27 in the second period.
"We did pretty much everything we could except get it past him," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of Howard.
The Kings' 52 shots represented a season high and they set a club record by taking 27 in the second period. The line of Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown had 23 shots.
Who's hot -- For the Blues, Andy McDonald has 4 goals and 2 assists in five games, David Backes has 4 assists in three games, and Alex Steen has 5 goals and 5 assists in nine games. For the Kings, Michal Handzus has 3 goals and 2 assists in six games, Kopitar has a goal and 2 assists in three games, Wayne Simmonds has a goal and 3 assists in six games, Smyth has 4 goals in four games, and Brad Richardson has 2 goals and 6 assists in nine games.
Injury report -- For the Blues, Kariya (head) and D.J. King (hand) are on injured reserve, and Keith Tkachuk (facial) is day-to-day. For the Kings, Justin Williams (leg), Randy Jones (neck) and Andrei Loktionov (shoulder) are on injured reserve, and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is day-to-day.
Stat pack -- St. Louis has won eight of its last 13 games away from ScottradeCenter. … The Blues are 9-0-0 when they score four or more goals. … Eleven of Kopitar's 17 goals have come at home. … The Kings have five Olympians: Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick of the United States; Drew Doughty of Canada and Michal Handzus of Slovakia. … Brown is two goals away from 100 for his NHL career. … St. Louis has three Olympians -- Erik Johnson and David Backes of the United States, and Roman Polak of the CzechRepublic.
Puck drop -- "I'm absolutely thrilled to be standing where I am. I asked (our team) to work hard for each other, I asked them to trust each other and I asked them to play with passion. There's a lot of ground to cover structurally, there's a lot of ground to cover philosophically, but we feel that if we trust each other and work hard and play with passion, we're going to take steps in the right direction." - Davis Payne