KINGS (33-20-3) at BLUES (33-17-9)
TV: 8 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-MW, NHL.TV
ST. LOUIS -- The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, two teams that haven't done a lot of scoring lately, will look to bring their respective big, heavy games to the table Thursday in an important Western Conference showdown at Scottrade Center.
The difference between the teams is the Blues have won two in a row scoring a total of four goals, including one in overtime, and the Kings, who are playing the sixth of a season-long seven-game trip, have lost two straight scoring one total goal.
The Blues are always compared against their potential opponents in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Kings, who eliminated the Blues in 2012 and 2013, are one the Blues need to show a level of consistency against. They hope to do so Thursday and follow up a 2-1 shootout win the previous time the teams played Jan. 9.
"It was a great little morale boost," Blues captain David Backes said. "But we don't start with any points on the board. It's a clean slate and we've got to build our game right from the puck drop."
The Kings, who missed the playoffs for the first time last season after a five-year run, are in first place in the Pacific Division and closing in on a return to the playoffs. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock calls games against the Kings defining moments.
"I don't know that it's a rebound. They played well last year," Hitchcock said of the Kings. "They were on the wrong end of a lot of close games, but they played well last year. They played well enough to win and I think you get in that sometimes when you're a target. When you're a target, you get everybody's 'A' game. If you're not on the mark every time, it's hard to sustain such a high level. To me, they're playing exactly the same now as they were before. They've got a lot of good players who play predictable to each other and that's why their team looks faster than probably it is skating-wise, just because they play so predictable and their anticipation on where the puck's going to be. Their puck management is probably one of the best in the League right now."
It's been a strange trip for Los Angeles, which began with a nine-goal outburst against the Boston Bruins and scored five against the New York Rangers, winning each game. But in the three losses, the Kings have scored three goals.
"You've just got to find a way," Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli said. "You've got to keep things simple and being on the road this long, things for sure get tough, but you've got to find a way, dig deep throughout our room. We've got to find a way to get all four lines going, all six [defensemen] going.
"… I don't think we've been thrilled with the way we've been playing, the wins even. Obviously New York was good, a real big win for us, but we've got to get a little stretch going playing with some confidence in our game. Just play the right way."
Here are the projected lineups:
Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Tanner Pearson - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Andy Andreoff - Jordan Nolan
Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez
Jamie McBain - Luke Schenn
Injured: Matt Greene (upper body), Marian Gaborik (lower body)
Scratched: Nick Shore, Kevin Gravel
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Alex Pietrangelo (knee), Jake Allen (knee), Steve Ott (hamstring)
Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Peter Harrold
Status report: McBain will replace Gravel on defense after being a healthy scratch five straight games. Andreoff will replace Shore after being scratched the past three straight games. … Allen skated again Thursday but Hitchcock said he's not ready to be the backup to Elliott, who makes his 16th consecutive start Thursday, prolonging what is already a career-best.
Who's hot: Kopitar has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) the past nine games; he has 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 35 games against St. Louis. … Schwartz has three points in three games since returning from injury; he missed 49 games with a fractured left ankle. Parayko has a goal and three assists the past four games. Stastny has 11 goals and 20 assists in 32 games against Los Angeles.