Kings/Blues Gameday: Discipline [Game #71 Preview]
Kings Roster Notes: (IN) Jonathan Quick (2.19 GAA, .919 SV%), Kevin Westgarth. (OUT) Brad Richardson, Peter Harrold, Davis Drewiske, Scott Parse.
Blues Roster Notes: (IN) Jaroslav Halak (2.65 GAA, .906 SV%), Nathan Oystrick. Via trade: Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk. (OUT) Injured: Alex Steen (ankle), Barret Jackman (finger), David Perron (concussion), Phil McRae (knee), Vladimir Sobotka (foot). Via trade: Erik Johnson, Jay McClement. For more info, see St. Louis Gametime.
It's been a hard-luck season for the Blues, with 275 man games lost to injury thus far, and plans to sell the team causing some uncertainty going forward. Nevertheless, they're 3-2-0 in their last 5 games, and the Kings haven't beaten them since....October of 2009. Yes, that's right. And it's embarassing. Jaroslav Halak has outdueled Quick each time this season, so tonight will be the last chance for our #1 to get some revenge.
You may recall that Detroit coach Mike Babcock once said our own Drew Doughty was "touched by God." Well, December brought more rapturous odes to young defensemen, since he followed that up by saying 20-year-old phenom Alex Pietrangelo was "touched by the wand of God." That is some disturbingly specific imagery, Mr. Death-Stare. (Is Doughty jealous or relieved? And do they ever hang out with Della Reese?) In any case, Pietrangelo's excellent play was a major factor in the decision to trade former first round pick Erik Johnson to the Avalanche, and he will be one to watch tonight. Chris Stewart is another -- the emerging power forward has 9 goals and 3 assists in his 14 games with St. Louis. (Hey, Simmer! Look what your friend is doing!)
For the Kings, Penner, Kopitar, and Williams continue to hum along and drive the majority of the offense. It's hard to quibble with a 4-0 road trip, but this team can't afford to be out-shot and out-chanced, and one line can't do it all. There is a lot left to accomplish in the last 11 games, and production from other sources must pick up. Let's hope we see more goals like the one scored by Alec Martinez off a nice feed by Brown.
Dean Lombardi recently noted that he thinks it's easier for young teams to keep their focus on the road, since the schedule brings fewer distractions and imposes more structure. Now's their chance to prove they've learned their lessons, and can be just as disciplined at home.
87 points would solidify their hold on 4th place, and could also potentially bring them within one point of division-leading San Jose.