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Halak set to return as Blues host Kings

by Davis Harper

KINGS (3-5-2) at BLUES (6-4-1)


Last 10: St. Louis 5-4-1.

Season series: This is the first of three meetings. The Kings won three of four last season.

Big story: Jaroslav Halak is back. The goalie has been activated after missing three games with a groin strain, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Blues. St. Louis went 0-2-1 without Halak, conceding 17 goals. Halak’s return is bad news for Los Angeles, however, as the Kings’ offensive struggles leave them tied for the fewest points (eight) in the Western Conference.

Team scope:

Kings: With their goal-scoring woes so far this season, the Kings were likely hoping Halak would remain sidelined just a little longer. Los Angeles ranks 25th in goals per game (2.10) and is tied for the League-low in goals scored (21). Offensive inefficiencies were apparent in the Kings’ last two outings, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Nashville and a 3-2 nail-biter against Detroit.

Against the Red Wings, the Kings looked better offensively, firing 47 shots on goalie Jimmy Howard, but managing only two goals. The second came from Alec Martinez in the final minute to tie the game at two, but the Red Wings responded with the winner with 4.5 seconds left on the clock.

"That was our best game of the year," Kopitar said. "Playing like that, you're going to win more times than not."

Blues: It’s been a rough February for St. Louis. After winning six of their first seven to open the season, the Blues have gone zero-for-February, taking just one point from four games. After three lopsided divisional losses – two to Detroit and one to Nashville – St. Louis welcomed surging Anaheim to the Scottrade Center on Saturday. The Blues trailed after two periods but got goals from T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart to send the game to overtime tied 5-5. They ultimately fell in the shootout when Anaheim converted four of six chances. Brian Elliott conceded four or more goals for the third straight game.

"A goalie's no different than a defenseman or a forward," Hitchcock said. "Guys come in and out of the lineup based on their performance. You can't stay in the lineup if you don't play well. I don't care who you are. He's got to play better."

Who’s hot: Stewart got off to a hot start this season, but faded along with his teammates in February. He raised his game against Anaheim, scoring a goal and two assists as well as converting in the shootout.

Injury report: For Los Angeles, Willie Mitchell is day-to-day with a knee injury and Matt Greene is out indefinitely with a back injury. … Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner has been playing through hip pain this season and decided over the weekend he would undergo surgery. He is out indefinitely.

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