KINGS (15-10-6) at BLUES (20-8-2)
TV: SN1, SNO, SNP, FS-W, FS-MW
ST. LOUIS -- The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues will have ample time to get re-acquainted.
When the teams collide Tuesday at Scottrade Center, it will be the first of two meetings spanning three days. They will match up again Thursday at Staples Center.
And after facing one another twice in the past three years in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, both teams have gotten to know the other quite well.
Since the Blues (20-8-2) swept the Kings (15-10-6) and won all four regular season meetings in 2010-11, St. Louis has gone 2-7-2 against L.A. in four seasons, including a 1-0 shootout loss in L.A. on Oct. 16.
"They've got our number," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Kings. "As small as the gap's been, they've been better, and it's our job to play catch-up. Everybody knows even as well as we've played, the first time we played them in L.A. early in the season, we still didn't score a goal. Those are things we've got to address and have an honest conversation. Every time we play them, they're good hockey games. They're really well-played. They feel like playoff games. I think the players' heightened sense of urgency on both sides is there. Quite frankly, they're fun to play in and they're fun to coach in. You get such a true assessment on your own personnel.
"I think this is more about energy. What's their energy going to be like the last game of a road trip (L.A. is 1-2-1 on a five-game trip)? Are they going to be enthused and put in (the effort)? What's our energy going to be like knowing we go on the road right after? I think this game's all about energy."
Goalie Jonathan Quick, who will start for the Kings, has had his share of wins against the Blues, including a 43-save shutout in the first meeting and eight wins in two postseason series.
"I think the goalie gets a lot of credit, and he deserves it, but they contest every part of the ice," Hitchcock said of the Kings. "That's the fun part. They don't give you any easy ice. You get no room, you get no space, you've got to fight for your space, you've got to fight for your puck battle, you've got to play a heavy game one-on-one, so you get a true read on how involved in how your players can become.
"I think when these two teams play each other, the players on the ice that are kind of looking for space, they get exposed. That's why you like this type of evaluation. I think it's a great evaluation for both Darryl [Sutter] and myself."
The Blues know measuring up again the Western Conference's best will tell them a lot regarding where they are. They've been knocking on the door but haven't been able to burst through when it matters most.
"They've got a real maturity to their game where it seems like they never go away no matter what," Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said of the Kings. "They're always playing hard. I think the last game we played them really well. We each played the full 60 minutes and then OT and then into a shootout. I think we did a good job against them. We've got to stay patient and just play a little bit longer than they do."
Oshie was a late scratch because of family reasons, but the Blues said he would travel on their upcoming road trip.
Jake Allen will make his third straight start for the Blues after Hitchcock was undecided Monday. Martin Brodeur last played Dec. 8 against the Florida Panthers, a 4-2 Blues victory in which the 42-year-old recorded 32 saves.
"Second half of the game in Colorado, I saw Jake come back into form," Hitchcock said regarding his decision. "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 and he jumped back to form there the second half of the game, was great in the third period, so we want to build on that."
Here are the projected lineups:
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Jeff Carter
Marian Gaborik - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Tanner Pearson - Mike Richards - Dwight King
Kyle Clifford - Trevor Lewis - Tyler Toffoli
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr - Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb - Matt Greene
Scratched: Jamie McBain, Jordan Nolan, Slava Voynov (suspension)
Alexander Steen - David Backes - Jaden Schwartz
Joakim Lindstrom - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund - Paul Stastny - Steve Ott
Chris Porter - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler - Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman - Petteri Lindbohm
Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Ian Cole
Injured: Brian Elliott (knee), Carl Gunnarsson (concussion), T.J. Oshie (family reasons)
Status report: Gunnarsson was cleared medically from his concussion to resume skating but Hitchcock said he needs to get up to speed conditioning-wise now. ... Cole and Butler have been alternating being healthy scratches. ... King and Toffoli have swapped spots in the Kings lineup.
Who's hot: Shattenkirk has two goals and six assists in the past five games. ... Jackman (one goal, four assists) and Pietrangelo (one goal, three assists) each have four-game point streaks. ... Oshie has six points in four games after having six points in 19 games to begin the season. ... Doughty and Muzzin each have one goal and three assists in the past three games.