Kings (25-16-10, 60 points) vs. St. Louis Blues (29-13-7, 65 points) at Scottrade Center, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Clock stops here – So, the Kings went to bed Wednesday night, set their alarm clocks and awoke to a ticking time bomb. Turns out, Drew Doughty’s last-second goal that beat Columbus, 3-2, probably wouldn't have counted, had the game clock not froze for a heartbeat just before the game winner. Interesting stuff, particularly the responses from the general managers involved. And, no doubt, answers need to be found as to what caused the delay. Beyond that, it’s a non-factor moving forward. After all, the Kings have more timely concerns, such as finding a way to beat the Blues heading into a season-long six-game road trip.
2. Double Doughty – Somewhat buried in all the hullabaloo surrounding Doughty’s goal was his two-point effort for the second consecutive game. It's only the third time in his career he has produced back-to-back multi-point games and the first since October 2009. That was the season he earned a Norris Trophy nomination as one of the league's top defensemen, which ultimately went a long way toward inflating his asking price going into last summer’s contract negotiations. Many believe Doughty still isn’t earning all those zeroes on his paycheck, but a few more games like the last two and that perception should change.
3. Diamonds and rust – The Kings were coming off an eight-day layoff when they played the Blue Jackets. Now it’s the Blues turn to scrape off the rust. St. Louis is the last team in the NHL to hit the restart button coming out of the All Star break. The Kings are probably hoping they accidentally hit the snooze. The Blues have allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference, and scoring has been the Achilles heel for L.A. That could put the burden on goalie Jonathan Quick to deliver another All Star performance and hope to keep the Kings in the hunt long enough to steal a one-goal victory.
4. Who's in for Blues? – St. Louis forwards Andy McDonald and Alex Steen are close to returning from head injuries, but that likely won’t happen against the Kings. McDonald has been out since early October, Steen since late December. Look for David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Vladimir Sobotka to form the top line, with David Perron, Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart rounding out the top six. In addition, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock announced Jaroslav Halak will start in goal. Halak has lost both starts against the Kings this season after coming in 5-0 in his career against L.A.
5. Score to settle – Kings second-year forward Kyle Clifford has had a couple opportunities to settle a score with St. Louis right wing Ryan Reaves, but they’ve yet to tangle this season. Reaves dropped Clifford with a stiff right hand last March, leaving the rookie sporting a shiny black eye. Clifford isn’t fighting at nearly the same rate since taking that shot, but this might be a good time to take one for the team, and maybe get a little payback with Reaves in the process.