Back on October 16th, Brian Elliott and the Blues were the proud winners of a shutout - and still lost against the Kings. That 1-0 loss was more a moral victory than anything else. The Blues matched the Kings during regulation - outshot them by a significant margin of 43-18, even), and came up short in the skills competition. There's no shame in that. If there is something that fans of both of these teams have learned over the past three seasons it is that they are very evenly matched. The Kings just seem to find that way to win.
"It was a really tough game," Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko added. "Both teams had great scoring chances but our goalie (Brian Elliott) and their goalie (Jonathan Quick) played a great game. They were better in the shootout. It’s good for us if you play a tight game in LA. This means you can handle it."
As Tarasenko said to Jeremy Rutherford, showing that you can handle the Kings is a good thing. Recently many teams have been able to more than handle Los Angeles. In their last five games they are 1-3-1 and managed to lose 1-0 to the Buffalo Sabres. The Kings have a long-standing tradition of hanging out in the middle of the pack during the regular season, getting into the playoffs, and then finding some unnatural gear to kick their play into.
This season hanging out in the middle may not be the best strategy. The Winnipeg Jets are taking advantage of some unexpectedly solid goaltending, and the Calgary Flames have been keeping pace with the Kings all season. The malaise has to stop for LA at some point.
The Blues will be without Ian Cole tonight, as the rotating line-up of defensemen continues with Carl Gunnarsson out. Jokim Lindstrom and Magnus Paajarvi will be hanging out in the press box with Cole.
Paul Stastny, who is on the third line now practically by default, will be centering Patrik Berglund and Steve Ott, presumably to make them look better for their pending trade to Edmonton. Remember, Paui, we need you to play better.
Hitch believes that tonight's game is about "energy." Chances are good that it will be more about goaltending. Whoever outlasts the other guy will lead his team to victory.