PREVIEW: Los Angeles Kings hope to keep climbing division standings vs. St. Louis Blues

Feb 18, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown (23) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Arizona Coyotes in the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The visiting Los Angeles Kings will try to continue their West Division climb when they face the host St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.

The Kings blanked the Blues 3-0 on Monday for their fifth consecutive victory. They have earned points in six straight games to ascend into fourth place.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Kings, check out #LAKings rumors, rankings, and news here.

“I think everyone is probably surprised outside of the room,” said Kings winger Dustin Brown, who has scored seven goals in his last eight games. “I think we have a good team in there, I think we’re building on some of the momentum we had last year, the confidence.

“We have some young players coming in and kind of learning on the fly and doing a pretty good job of it. You have a good veteran core group and some other spots are starting to get filled in by some younger players, which is a good thing.”

During this streak, the Kings regained speedy forwards Blake Lizotte and Andreas Athanasiou from COVID-19 protocol. Defenseman Sean Walker returned Monday night after missing eight games with facial injuries.

“We just talked about getting those guys back in the lineup, they’re huge parts of our team,” Brown said. “We weathered the storm while they were out, we’re getting more pieces back and it really helps us.”

While the Kings have gotten stronger in recent games, the Blues’ casualty list grew. They lost defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a right leg injury Monday night.
The Blues announced Tuesday that Gunnarsson will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, and forward Ivan Barbashev will be sidelined at least six weeks after ankle surgery.

Related: NHL trade rumors – Latest buzz for 2021 free agency

Also on long-term injured reserve are defenseman Colton Parayko and forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak.

The Blues have lost three of their last four games while suffering two shutouts during that span.

“There are games where we create quite a bit and score, and then there’s games where we don’t,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “For me, it’s more consistency than anything. And it seems to be at home more than on the road.”

The Blues played a more physical game Monday, outhitting the Kings 39-20. They also fared well in the faceoff circle while winning nearly 60 percent of their draws.

But once again they were plagued by untimely turnovers and defensive breakdowns.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Blues, check out #STLBlues rumors, rankings, and news here.

“You’ve got to find a way to be better,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “There’s areas of our game definitely we’re happy with in spurts in the game, but I think as a whole, bringing it back to the last seven or eight games, I don’t think we’re doing enough consistently and that’s kind of leading to inconsistent play and kind of win one, lose one, or not putting together a full 60. We’ll find a way to be better.”

Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington is just 3-4-1 this month despite his 2.50 goals-against average and his .914 save percentage.

While Berube is likely to start Binnington again Wednesday, Kings coach Todd McLellan can choose between Jonathan Quick (two shutouts in his last three starts) and Calvin Petersen (2.43 GAA, .926 save percentage).

–Field Level Media