I so thoroughly blocked that last Kings game out of my mind that when I went to adjust the win/loss stats up there, I automatically plugged in 21 as the win number. I had a whole spiel about how the Kings have finally passed 20 wins on the season that I had to delete when I double-checked my numbers.
And really -- that’s all you can do with that Stars game. Pucks took weird bounces, went in off faceoffs, popped up in the air and rolled back into the net. Jeff Carter proved his mortality by turning over the puck next to his own net. The Kings managed to score four goals -- including a career first shorthanded goal from Nick Shore -- and still lost.
What kind of team are the Kings? Was that game an anomaly? Darryl Sutter seems to think so. There hasn’t been any great reshuffling of lines in practices this week, not even a change to the Muzzin-Martinez pairing that’s gotten burned for a whole ton of goals lately. (Muzzin is a -5 over his last five games, Martinez is a -4.)
So, no new looks. No shuffled lines. Just -- hopefully -- a team that’s wiped the slate off from the last game and is ready to come and play tonight.
If you’re looking to figure out who the Kings of the Central are -- it might just be the Blues. Every year, the Blues look poised to be a contender, and then something happens. Poor goaltending, confusing coaching, whatever it is, something always keeps them from going all the way to the Cup. They finally were able to get past their northern nemesis, Chicago, this past season, but still fell short of reaching a Cup final.
This season has been a bit perplexing for the Blues, who got off to a hot start and then came back to earth. Things certainly aren’t dire for the Blues -- they’re third in the Central, Vladimir Tarasenko is unstoppable (20 goals, 23 assists, and poised for another 40 goal season), and they’re a perennial playoff team, no matter what happens once they get there.
And yet one of the headline stories on the Blues’ site today is an appeal for Blues fans to be optimistic about their chances, while still looking over their shoulder at who’s behind them in the standings. (Don’t panic, but also, panic a little.) They’ve won four of their last ten, dropping games to Carolina, Nashville, and Edmonton, and put up a real dud against the Bruins this week, giving up three goals in the first period and allowing 39 shots. Carter Hutton was named a star of the game, despite the loss, probably just because he didn’t throw off his gear and walk out.
Blues fans have a lot of the same questions that Kings fans do about their team: who are they, really? What kind of a team are they? Are these troubles temporary, or are they a sign of things to come? And why -- why!! -- can’t they play a full 60 minutes?
Find out tonight -- and please. Somebody. Anybody. Keep Vladimir Tarasenko away from the puck.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Lewis
Pearson - Carter - Brown
Clifford - Dowd - Setoguchi
King - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - Greene
St. Louis Blues
Steen - Stastny - Yakupov
Fabbri - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Schwartz - Berglund - Perron
Upshall - Brodziak - Reaves
Pietrangelo - Parayko
Bouwmeester - Shattenkirk
Edmundson - Bortuzzo
Opposing Preview: St. Louis Game Time