Monday, October 30, 2017

(10-30-17) Kings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's early, but a good measuring stick game will take place on a Monday when two of the top teams in the Western Conference standings collide at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (9-2-1) entertain the Los Angeles Kings (9-1-1) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) in a matchup of two teams atop of the conference standings with 19 points and off and running in this young NHL season.

The Blues, who are tied with the Kings atop the conference standings with 19 points, are the only unbeaten team in the League on home ice (4-0-0) and have points in five straight games (4-0-1).

It's the second of a four-game homestand and the Blues are in the midst of six of seven on home ice and looking forward to seeing where they stack up against an upstart Kings team.

"It's going to be a fun game," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "It's another team that's going. Their top guys are going really well right now. [Anze] Kopitar looks really good, [Drew] Doughty looks really good, and then their supporting cast, I'd say that everybody is on top of their game. Everyone's excited. 

"John's doing a good job (first-year Kings coach John Stevens). It's showing up in their game. There's still a lot of similarities that you'd think of when you play the LA Kings, and that's a hard, heavy structured smart game. It's going to be difficult to get things going against a team like this. They're going to force you to defend in situations that are not easy to defend. I feel like they're playing with a little bit more pace than they have in the past. I've seen a lot of good things from their side."

"Yeah, 9-1 versus 9-2, both in the Western Conference. It's going to be a Western Conference style of hockey tonight," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "There's not going to be a whole lot of chances. I think it'll probably be a pretty physical game, tight defensively. It's going to be a fast-paced game tonight but I would say it's going to be physical. It's going to be tight."

The Blues and Kings have been known in the past as playing that big, heavy, bruising style of game where the team that wins the war of attrition normally comes out on top.

Times have changed ... somewhat.

"They're big and heavy, but they're starting to play with that up-tempo pace that I think that we've played with since Mike came in," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of the Kings. "They obviously are at the top of the standings for a reason. They have a good recipe right now of good size and skill that we do, so I think both teams will use this (game) as a measuring stick."

The Kings' 19 points through 11 games matches their best start since 1980-81 when they were also 9-1-0-1 (one tie); they've won three in a row and are 4-1-0 on a six-game trip, which wraps up against St. Louis.

"These are some of the most fun games in the league to play in," said Doughty, playing in his 700th NHL game tonight. "It's a battle out there. It's a playoff every single time. They have a very similar system to us and very similar personnel. It's a lot of fun. ... We have to show them that we're for real. They're at the top of the league, too, so it's a big game."

Stevens has paid much attention to the Blues from the start of the season and is very respectful of how they've managed to be a top-tiered club.

"We're looking at it as a big game," Stevens said. "... We're focusing in on one game right now. I've watched St. Louis since the start of the year. They've had a lot of injuries and their biggest focus has been on their team game. I think because of that, they've been able to absorb a lot of injuries and still have a lot of success. I think their team game is very good and the other thing is their defense has scored 13 goals in 12 games, I think it's a St. Louis record. Obviously there's some things they're doing to really get their defense involved in the offense and we've got to be aware of that.

"I think their team game has always been part of their identity here and their defense is big; they're big and they move, and I think that's probably the one thing that's changed. They've implemented some young guys and they still have some key core guys around them. They've done a great job with it."

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Speaking of Schenn, he goes up against the club that drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

Schenn, who has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 12 games this season, played in only nine games with the Kings before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23, 2011 but still knows a number of coaches and players on the Kings.

"Stevens was an assistant coach when I was there, (goalie coach) Bill Ranford. I know Doughty, Kopitar, [Dustin] Brown, [Trevor] Lewis, [Jonathan] Quick, [Kyle] Clifford, [Jake] Muzzin -- there's a lot that I know. Obviously been away from them for a long time now. They're all good guys that have had a ton of success and off to a great start this year.

"A couple Cups later, and obviously a lot of guys with a lot of good resumes. They've built a winning culture over there and through those core player of guys. They've definitely done a good job of doing it."

Doughty said he doesn't remember Schenn a lot as a teammate but they have been close friends.

"No, but I know him pretty well," Doughty said. "I was buddies with his brother [Luke]. I used to go to Saskatoon for Jarret Stoll's golf tournament so I would see them there. I actually stayed at their house a couple times. I know him pretty well. Brayden's a good kid, a good player, plays well going both ways. I'm surprised to see him come here; I'm surprised he's not in Philly anymore. He's obviously a good addition to their team and he's going to be a guy we have to shut down and play hard (against) tonight."

Stevens said Schenn has come a long way since his Kings days and he's not surprised.

"He's obviously a kid we had for not a lot of time, but just a really good, gritty offensive player," Stevens said. "He's one of those guys that has great offensive instincts and skills but he's got a little edge to his game as well. Certainly followed him when he was in Philadelphia there and I could see him having success. Not surprising. He's matured now. He's become a well-rounded player but definitely is still a dangerous offensive player.

"St. Louis, to me, has really thrown some trust towards their players. I think they've asked them to be responsible in certain areas of the game. That's the trade-off with those players and it looks like he's really embraced that idea. When he was with the world junior and really set the world on fire from the center ice position, I think there's a level of trust there that he had to earn and it looks like he's done it."

- - -

Yeo was asked if he was awake for the end of last night's Game 5 World Series game, a game which the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings, since Yeo does have ties to Houston and still has a home there.

"No, I'm a Cardinals fan," Yeo said with a smile. "I was in bed long before that game was over last night. But I was following along. It was a heck of a game, for sure."

- - -

Blues center Patrik Berglund, who skated on Saturday with extra players before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, took par in the morning skate and worked on skating, puck handling and shooting.

Berglund has been sidelined with a dislocated left shoulder, sustained during off-season training who isn't scheduled to be re-evaluated until mid-December.

"He's been working real hard," Yeo said of Berglund. "He's been doing a lot of conditioning skating. He's coming along. Obviously he's still a ways away here. Definitely nice to have him back with the group. We have to take advantage of the start we've had but when you think about a guy like that and what he means to our team, and the way that guys have stepped up, guys have done a really good job, and obviously we're anxious to get a guy like that back."

Also, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, out since Sept. 17 with a fractured left ankle, skated on his own before the team's morning skate.

"He's put his skate on," Yeo said of Bouwmeester. "I don't know if I'd call it skating yet, but he's kind of moving around a little bit. He's inching along. He's getting there."

Goalie Carter Hutton, who missed Saturday's game to be with his pregnant wife, is expected to back up Allen tonight unless "something changes," according to Yeo. Ville Husso, who backed up Allen on Saturday, is still here just in case.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-Oskar Sundqvist-Beau Bennett

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin

Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton is expected to be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Nate Prosser, Chris Thorburn and Ville Husso. Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Zach Sanford (shoulder) are out.

- - -

The Kings' projected lineup"

Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson-Adrian Kempe-Tyler Toffoli

Michael Cammalleri-Brooks Laich-Trevor Lewis

Andy Andreoff-Michael Amadio-Nic Dowd

Derek Forbort-Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin-Alec Martinez

Kurtis MacDermid-Christian Folin

Jonathan Quick will start in goal; Darcy Kuemper will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Oscar Fantenberg and Nick Shore. Marian Gaborik (knee), Kyle Clifford (upper body) and Jeff Carter (lower body) are out.

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