Red-hot Kings to host West-leading Blues
BLUES (46-20-8) at KINGS (36-25-12)
TV: FS-MW (HD), FS-W (HD)
St. Louis 6-3-1; Los Angeles 8-2-0.
This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. Los Angeles has won two of the first three showdowns, but St. Louis took Round 3 in a 1-0 victory at the Scottrade Center on Feb. 3.
It's another huge game for the Kings, who have won five in a row to move back into playoff position in the Western Conference. However, L.A. has far from clinched -- it enters Thursday's action tied with ninth-place Phoenix at 84 points apiece, while No. 10 San Jose and No. 11 Calgary are both just two points behind. It certainly doesn't get any easier for Los Angeles, which will host Boston on Saturday after facing the League-leading Blues on Thursday night.
"Is that what it is," Kings coach Darryl Sutter told lakingsinsider.com regarding the playoff race. "Jeez. You can win and not gain any ground. It's crazy. It doesn't mean nothing. The bottom line is, we pretty much have to overcome something that's pretty much insurmountable. We'll try to take advantage of what we have to home. It doesn't get any easier. We play the best team in the League and defending Stanley Cup champions, back to back. I don't think where we are right now means much to me. I'm thinking about St. Louis."
St. Louis had every chance to come away with two points Wednesday night, but failed to protect three separate leads and ultimately suffered a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. The Blues, who still sit atop the Western Conference with 100 points, have now lost three of four thus far on their seven-game road trip.
"It's uncharacteristic of us to blow three one-goal leads, let alone just one one-goal lead," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo
said. "We've been really good at that all year. A couple of mental mistakes and mental breakdowns cost us tonight."
Los Angeles made it five in a row with a solid 5-2 victory against the Sharks at the Staples Center on Tuesday night. Thursday marks the third game of a five-game homestand for the Kings, who also notched a 4-2 win against Nashville last Saturday.
"We're definitely showing signs," Anze Kopitar said after helping his club beat San Jose. "There's always room for improvement, but tonight was a huge game. We knew what was at stake, and I think we came up big. It was a full-team effort, and that's what we've got to do down the road."
Blues rookie Jaden Schwartz
has scored in each of his first two NHL games. Those goals came on his first two shots in the League. … Kings center Jeff Carter has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last six games, while winger Justin Williams has 6 goals and 6 assists in his last 11 contests. Dustin Brown, the team's captain, is 5-11-16 in his last 12.
Injury Report: Matt D'Agostini
(concussion), Andy McDonald
(shoulder), Alex Steen
(concussion) and Kris Russell
(concussion) are out indefinitely for St. Louis. … Simon Gagne (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) are out indefinitely for the Kings.
St. Louis is within five victories of the franchise record of 51, set in 1999-2000. … In the 12 games since acquiring Carter from Columbus, the Kings have totaled 42 goals for an average of 3.5 goals per game. Before the trade, the Kings averaged 2.03 goals per contest.
"It started a while ago for us. We knew we had a tough road to climb, and we still do. There's lots of work to do. We've got San Jose a couple more times, and we've got St. Louis and Boston coming up here. There are no easy games in this League, and especially against those two teams. We'll look to just try to continue to play well." -- Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell