By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues (32-8-5) face the Los Angeles Kings (28-14-5) for the second time in two weeks, they'll do so with a hint of familiarity.
Normally, it's understandable to speak of a divisional opponent as one the Blues are quite familiar with. But when it comes to the Kings, the Blues have seen their fair share of them the past two seasons.
So when it comes to strategy, coaches Ken Hitchcock and Darryl Sutter can throw them out the window.
"We've played them two years in a row in the playoffs so there's not a lot of change in personnel," said Hitchcock, whose team has won five straight home games. "There's very little change in each others' game.
"From our standpoint, we need a much better start. We've been outplayed badly the first half of the first period in both of these (regular season) games, so we need a better start and I'm sure from their standpoint, they need to capitalize on the changes they do get early in the games. But not a lot of secrets."
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Dmitrij Jaskin, who will play in his sixth game of the season, is slated to play on the left wing with Vladimir Sobotka in the middle and Vladimir Tarasenko on right wing. And it's no secret that if the Blues are to get a true evaluation out of their 2011 second round pick, Jaskin will need to play with skill players.
"I'd definitely bring our lineup with a pencil and eraser today," Hitchcock said. "It looked good at practice (Wednesday), but we are not going to hesitate going with (Patrik Berglund at left wing with Sobotka).
"We know Jaskin can play center ice, so there's a position for him to play there (between Magnus Paajarvi and Chris Stewart). We won't have a long hook on this one. If we feel that we're not going as well as we can, we know that the Berglund, Sobotka, Tarasenko line has been great. ... I don't know if it's going to work or be successful long-term. We're hopeful based on a couple of practices and a few shifts together. They seem to have great chemistry. They're three really strong guys, but we're not going to wait very long."
Jaskin has one goal in five games, and Hitchcock likes his progression.
"This guy's a heck of a player," Hitchcock said. "He's strong, really determined. Last game, we had 12 scoring chances (and) he was in on five of them and never spent a second on the power play. He's a hard guy to play against. He's a really determined offensive player. His game is more mature now, he's dominant in the American Hockey League level. He comes in, he gives us energy, he helps us. What level he plays at, how much he fits? We don't know.
"But the experience, every game he gets to play makes him a better player. I think his tempo is better now, he's able to keep up to the pace. He's used to things now. He's a little more comfortable. But man this guy can compete for pucks like nobody. He's an awful determined guy on the puck."
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Dmitrij Jaskin-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal. Brian Elliott is the backup.
Healthy scratches include Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian Cole and Adam Cracknell. Alexander Steen (concussion) and Maxim Lapierre (lower body) are on injured reserve.
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The Kings' probable lineup:
Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Jeff Carter
Matt Frattin-Mike Richards-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell-Alec Martinez
Robyn Regehr-Slava Voynov
Jonathan Quick will satrt in goal. Martin Jones is the backup.
Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey are healthy scratches. Matt Greene (concussion symptoms) did not accompany the team on its current trip.