Kings-Blues Preview

A recent rough stretch has St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock

concerned about his team’s collective focus.

After a much-needed road win, the Los Angeles Kings are poised

for more success on their current trip.

The Blues hope to avoid a third straight loss by ending their

recent struggles against the visiting Kings on Thursday night.

St. Louis (17-13-2) is in playoff position, two points behind

sixth-place Los Angeles (18-12-2), but a loser in three of four

since winning five of six. The Blues recorded a season-high 43

shots on goal but had their four-game home winning streak end with

a 3-0 loss to Edmonton on Tuesday.

Afterward, Hitchcock and the team held a lengthy closed-door

meeting.

“I think it’s going to require a deeper buy-in from the group,

which is what we talked about here with our leaders,” he told the

NHL’s official website. “It’s going to take a deeper buy-in by the

group for us to be successful. I think that’s going to be a

partnership by management, coaches and players. It’s going to have

to be deeper. It’s not deep enough.”

Hitchcock added: “You have the same people, they just want

different pieces of the pie.”

The Blues have been held to two or fewer goals four times in

five games and have totaled two goals in 81 shots in losing their

last two.

“A lot of shots in volume, but maybe too many perimeter (shots)

and not enough second and third opportunities,” said Blues forward

David Backes, who scored 55 goals the past two seasons but has

three this year and none in 12 games. “All goalies in the NHL are

good and if you’re not getting those chances, it’s tough to

score.”

St. Louis rookie Jake Allen had a 2.09 goals-against average

while winning eight of his first nine starts but has allowed six

goals on 26 shots in his last two. He was pulled after yielding

three on seven shots Tuesday.

The Blues could face a difficult task against Los Angeles, which

scored 10 goals while winning the previous two 2013 meetings.

Including last season’s playoffs, the Kings have won seven straight

over the Blues.

Los Angeles snapped a three-game road skid and two-game goal

drought by opening a five-game trip with a comeback 5-4 win at

Chicago on Monday. The Kings went 150 minutes, 35 seconds without a

goal before Anze Kopitar’s early in the second period. Dustin Brown

capped a two-goal third by converting his own rebound with 1:27

left.

“We kept battling,” said center Tyler Toffoli, who scored his

second goal in his fourth career game. “Pucks started going in.

We’d lost two at home, so we wanted to get the road trip going

well. Now it’s important to carry it into the next game.”

Including the playoffs, Kopitar has three goals and six assists

in five games versus St. Louis.

Jonathan Quick has a 1.04 GAA while winning seven of eight

regular season and playoff contests against the Blues.

Before the Kings shifted their focus on the Blues, the reigning

Stanley Cup champions were honored by President Barack Obama at The

White House on Tuesday.