BLUES (21-8-2) at KINGS (15-11-6)
TV: FS-MW, FS-W
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings have worked through slumps the past three regular seasons but this latest is disconcerting on several fronts.
The Kings are 1-3-1 in their past five games and have scored eight goals in their past five regulation/shootout losses going into Thursday against the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center. Los Angeles uncharacteristically allowed five unanswered goals to St. Louis on Tuesday, and defenseman Drew Doughty tried to put a finger on their issues.
"I don't know what it is," Doughty said. "We need more consistency from all of our players. Some guys show up one night, and then they don't the other. We need everyone to show up every single night. That's how we're going to win games. We need our top players to play their best and outplay their top players, and we need our other role guys to outplay their role guys."
It's easy to determine who Doughty is talking about. Right wing Jeff Carter is on a 13-game scoring slump and has one goal in his past 17 games. Center Anze Kopitar has one goal in 14 games and right wing Tyler Toffoli has two goals since Nov. 15.
Coach Darryl Sutter on Wednesday called out Carter, a day after he said that they are not the same team defensively as in the past. Sutter had assistant coach Davis Payne assume media responsibility at the morning skate, and Payne referenced their defense.
"You certainly can't give up five goals," Payne said. "We did that a couple of times on the road. We know what we're about as far as checking, as far as denying opportunities. We need to make sure we've got all 18 [forwards and defensemen] and two [goalies] ready and prepared to do that. We're playing a fast, physical game. We feel that those goals against go right down where they should be and we're playing a high-powered offensive team. We're not on that, you get burned quick."
Sutter had also curiously called out goalie Jonathan Quick after the loss Tuesday at St. Louis, which appears to be a motivational comment to light a fire under Quick, whose recent numbers are down. Quick's counterpart is expected to be veteran goalie Martin Brodeur, who will play the Kings for the first time since Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
"We've seen everything we need to see," Payne said. "He hasn't won all those games without us understanding what he's about. The team was able to beat him in the Finals in '12. Our goalie guy [coach Bill Ranford] will make sure we're lined out pretty good on exactly what Mr. Brodeur's trying to do."
St. Louis will get right wing T.J. Oshie back after Oshie missed Tuesday for family reasons. But this is the Blues' first game without forward Jaden Schwartz, who has a broken foot.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alexander Steen – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
Steve Ott – Jori Lehtera – Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund – Paul Stastny – Dmitrij Jaskin
Chris Porter – Maxim Lapierre – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler – Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman – Petteri Lindbohm
Injured: Jaden Schwartz (foot), Carl Gunnarsson (hip), Brian Elliott (knee)
Scratched: Ian Cole, Magnus Paajarvi
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Jeff Carter
Marian Gaborik – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Tyler Toffoli – Trevor Lewis – Tanner Pearson
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Kyle Clifford
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb – Matt Greene
Scratched: Jordan Nolan, Jamie McBain
Suspended: Slava Voynov
Status report: Sutter appeared to tweak the bottom two lines. Toffoli was back with Pearson. Nolan and McBain skated with the extras and Quick was off the ice first. Jaskin was recalled after the Schwartz injury.
Who's hot: Tarasenko had a hat trick against the Kings on Tuesday and is the first Blues player to have multiple hat tricks in one season since Brett Hull in 1996-97. He is also the first Blues player to have multiple hat tricks before Christmas since Hull in 1991-92. … Gaborik comes off his first multi-goal game since April 10.