Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Kings: Looking to rebound in St. Louis
By Dan Arritt
Kings (10-7-3, 23 points) vs. St. Louis Blues (10-7-2, 22 points) at Scottrade Center, 4:30 p.m. (PT)
Five storylines to track:
1. Rule or exception? – Kings coach Terry Murray is hoping his team’s performance Saturday against visiting Detroit was just a hiccup and not a step back in progression. The Kings had won three straight heading into the game and seemed to have ironed out a few kinks, but then had 15 giveaways, many in the neutral zone, in the 4-1 loss to the Red Wings. They also went without a power-play goal for the first time in seven games and were stumped in 5-on-5 play as well.
2. Two for two – The Kings played one of their best games of the season against St. Louis in their home opener last month. Simon Gagne had two goals and an assist and Jonathan Quick stopped 27 shots for the first of his franchise-record three consecutive shutouts. The Kings haven’t been as sharp in St. Louis, losing their last three games at Scottrade Center. They last won there Oct. 10, 2009, the same night the Dodgers eliminated host St. Louis from the National League Championship Series.
3. More Slava – Before the Kings flew to St. Louis on Monday afternoon, Murray announced that second-year defenseman Alec Martinez would not play in St. Louis or Wednesday in Dallas because of a shoulder injury suffered 10 days earlier against visiting Minnesota. The Kings can afford to let Martinez take his time with his recovery because rookie Slava Voynov is more than holding his own. In eight games over two different stints with the Kings this season, he has five points and a plus-2 rating. Martinez has two points and a minus-2 rating in 16 games.
4. New man in town – There have been a few changes since the Kings last met the Blues, most noticeably a new coach, Ken Hitchcock, who took over for Davis Payne last month after the Blues limped to a 6-7-0 start. Under their new leader, the Blues have gone 4-0-2 and have allowed just six goals in regulation. Hitchcock and Murray have coached together in the past and both demand similar styles of play. Don’t expect the Kings to put another five goals on the board, but three should be enough to win.
5. Power struggle – St. Louis has been absolutely abysmal on the power play. The Blues have scored just six man-advantage goals in 59 opportunities, a success rate of only 10.2 percent. Only one team in the last 11 seasons has finished under 11 percent. The top four point producers for the Blues, Alexander Steen, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and David Backes, have not scored a power-play goal, neither has Patrik Berglund, who led the team with eight last season.