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Daily Primer Jan. 2: Blues, Kings renew rivalry

by Sean McCullen

The St. Louis Blues welcome the Los Angeles Kings to Scottrade Center on Thursday in a matchup of two of the top Western Conference teams.

The Blues are third in the West with 59 points while the Kings are fifth with 54. The teams have been heading in opposite directions since the Christmas break, however; the Blues have won all three of their games while the Kings have lost all three, running their losing streak to four games.

The Kings eliminated St. Louis from the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons in physical series. They won the first game this season 3-2 at Staples Center on Dec. 2.

Here’s a look at all of the action Thursday night:

Nashville Predators at Boston Bruins --Boston will be looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season when the Bruins host the Predators. Jarome Iginla, David Krejci and Milan Lucic all carry five-game point streaks into the game. The Predators snapped a five-game skid (0-4-1) with back-to-back home wins against the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings to close 2013. Nashville will play its next three on the road before a stretch of seven of eight games at Bridgestone Arena.

Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders -- Corey Crawford is expected back in goal for the Blackhawks; he has not played since sustaining a lower-body injury Dec. 8. Patrick Kane has seven goals his past 10 games. The Islanders open a three-game homestand against Chicago, which will play on Long Island for the first time since Dec. 8, 2011. New York has had a flair for the dramatic its past two games; they rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Sunday, then overcame a 3-1 Boston lead on their way to a 5-3 New Year’s Eve victory.

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals – Former Washington forward Alexander Semin capped a wild comeback against the Montreal Canadiens when he scored with 1:33 left in overtime Tuesday to give Carolina a 5-4 win. The Hurricanes trailed 3-0 heading into the third. Goalie Cam Ward, who got the win, will not be with the team in Washington due to a lower-body injury. Carolina traded defenseman Tim Gleason to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman John-Michael Liles and a prospect Wednesday. Washington forward Alex Ovechkin scored his 400th career goal in the Capitals' 4-2 win against Carolina on Dec. 20.

Winnipeg Jets at Ottawa Senators -- Each team comes into the game on a winning streak; the Jets have three straight wins while the Senators have won two in a row. Craig Anderson made 34 saves for Ottawa against the Capitals on Monday to give the Senators consecutive wins for the first time since early November. Kyle Turris, who scored in the 3-1 win, has three goals in his past five games. The Jets shut out the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday for their third straight win; they’ll be looking for their first four-game win streak since mid-November. Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler has three goals his past three games.

Los Angeles Kings at St. Louis Blues --The Kings come into St. Louis having scored a total of six goals during their four-game losing streak. The good news for L.A.: Jonathan Quick, one of three goalies named to the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday, is back practicing with the team for the first time since he sustained a groin injury Nov. 12. The Blues' three-game win streak has them sitting in third place in the NHL standings. Jaden Schwartz has scored a goal in six straight games, filling the void left by injured left wing Alexander Steen, who has not played since Dec. 21 due to a concussion but remains second in the League with 24 goals.

Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild -- A few weeks ago this looked like a near-certain win for Minnesota, but not anymore. Not since the Wild have gone into a tailspin that has seen them lose six straight in regulation and eight of 10 (2-8-0), including a 5-4 loss to the Islanders on Sunday after they led 3-0 on home ice. Buffalo, which has the fewest points in the NHL with 26, has won four of seven and goalie Ryan Miller is playing as well as he has in recent seasons. He made a career-high 49 saves in a 2-1 shootout win against the Capitals on Sunday and stopped all six attempts in the tiebreaker. Miller, 4-0-1 his past five starts, will be in goal after backup Jhonas Enroth got the start in a 3-0 loss to the Jets on New Year’s Eve.

Montreal Canadiens at Dallas Stars --If Montreal is going to rebound from a disheartening 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday , a game in which it held a 3-0 lead after two periods, it's going to have to do it against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Dallas has at least a point in seven straight games (5-0-2), and has been picking up wins against some of the League's better teams, including the Vancouver Canucks and Kings. Erik Cole, who played 101 games for Montreal in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, has four goals in his past three games. The Canadiens are going to have to play a more disciplined game if they want to end their six-game road trip, off to a 2-2-1 start, on a high note. They took 10 penalties in the Carolina loss.

Philadelphia Flyers at Colorado Avalanche -- This game will be the first between the Flyers and Avalanche in Denver since Dec. 19, 2011, a 3-2 shootout win for Colorado. The Flyers have won four straight and six of seven. Captain Claude Giroux's point streak ended at nine games in the Flyers' 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames on New Year's Eve; he has six goals and 11 assists in his past 10 games. The Avalanche snapped a four game winless streak (0-3-1) with a 5-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon, who has 10 goals and 24 points, sealed the game with a power-play goal in the third.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Phoenix Coyotes -- Phoenix continues its six-game homestand two nights after a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers. Defenseman Keith Yandle scored twice, including the game-winner with 6.5 seconds left in overtime. The Coyotes have played six straight games past regulation. The Blue Jackets have lost two straight, with special teams a big factor in losses against the Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins. Columbus allowed three power-play goals in each game as it went a combined 0-for-6 with the man advantage.

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks – San Jose split a home-and-home set against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks, but come into Thursday following a 6-3 loss at Anaheim that snapped the Sharks’ four-game win streak. Antti Niemi was pulled early in the third period after he allowed five goals on 34 shots. Joe Pavelski, named to the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday, brings a five-game point streak into the game (three goals, three assists). Oilers coach Dallas Eakins will get Nail Yakupov back into the lineup against San Jose after the second-year forward was a healthy scratch in Edmonton's loss to Phoenix. He'll skate on the second line with Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner.

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