By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Sammy Blais will miss his first game for the Blues Thursday when they conclude a four-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings (7 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).
Blais injured his left thumb while blocking a shot against the Colorado Avalanche; he finished the game but was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and took part in an optional skate Thursday morning.
Blues coach Craig Berube said Blais, who has five points (three goals, two assists) in nine games, is day-to-day and could play in weekend games at Boston on Saturday and Detroit on Sunday.
Blais will be replaced by Zach Sanford, who has been a healthy scratch the past four games; he has no points in four games this season and will play on a line with Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas.
"Just a straight line game," Berube said when asked what he wants to see from Sanford. "Intensity's the biggest thing for me with him. When he's intense and he's hard on pucks, he has good hands, makes plays. But he's got to be an intense player and be hard on pucks and be a physical player. That's his game."
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The top line of the Blues is catching some fire, and not just from a points perspective, but also playing responsible defensively too.
Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have combined for 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) the past five games, but they're also a combined plus-2 after a slow start in the plus-minus category this season.
"They've been a factor all year," Berube said. "They've scored, but on the defensive side of things, we wanted to see it better. A little bit tighter, to so much loose play. I thought last game was a lot better. I thought they worked hard, all three of them as a unit. They were on the chances for rather than the chances against."
Schenn has nine points (six goals, three assists) his past eight games, Tarasenko comes in on a five-game point streak (three goals, five assists) as does Schwartz (one goal, four assists).
"At the end of the day, you just try to win hockey games, buy in," said Schenn, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft by the Kings. "I think with the way 'Vladi' and 'Schwartzy' are going right now, they're both playing extremely well as well. We're pretty much just trying to read off each other."
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The Kings (4-5-0) come in off two straight wins and are getting acclimated under new coach Todd McLellan, but they still have some savvy veterans from the days when the Blues and Kings locked up in the playoffs earlier in the decade, including Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Alec Martinez and Jonathan Quick.
"They're still a good team," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I think they won [Wednesday] night against Winnipeg. Still a good team. Every team's good. Every game we've played, every game's been tight. Took a good opportunity yesterday, kind of reset our brains and took a day off and a good practice today.
"It's never an easy game against them, but we've played them well over the last couple years. Every team's playing good now. Every team's good now and there's parity. There's no off nights now."
The Kings are on a four-game road trip through the Central Division, with stops in Minnesota Saturday and Chicago Sunday remaining on the ledger.
"This game comes at a good time for us because I think we're starting to put some things in place, and you may as well test it against the best," Kings coach Todd McLellan said. "We have enough players in our locker room that have won championships and remember it and they know how the opposition prepared for them. We don't want to disappoint the Blues tonight. We want to give them our best game as all the teams in the league are going to do this year. When you're champions, they prepare for you. I'd like to think that we can deliver on that and we can evaluate where we stand against the best."
Berube said he likes where the Blues' game is
"I think that for the most part, I think we are pretty happy with most nights," Berube said. "There's lulls in games, it cost us. A play here or there cost us. Our record could be a lot better than what it is. We had leads and they came back and tied it. Those three overtime games, we get wins in those three overtime games, we're not really talking about it. I don't think it's that bad to be honest with you. I think that we've played some pretty good hockey. You can't go into a game and think because you won last year, 'Well, we're better than them.' We're not. Every team you play is tough. That's going to be a tough game (tonight) against L.A. It's pretty even hockey to be honest with you most nights. You've got to be ready to go."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Zach Sanford-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Mackenzie MacEachern-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Colton Parayko-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson and Robby Fabbri. Sammy Blais (thumb) is day-to-day.
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The Kings' projected lineup:
Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Jeff Carter-Blake Lizotte-Tyler Toffoli
Ilya Kovalchuk-Adrian Kempe-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Michael Amadio-Austin Wagner
Ben Hutton-Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez-Sean Walker
Kurtis MacDermid-Matt Roy
Jonathan Quick will start in goal; Jack Campbell will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Joakim Ryan and Nikolai Prokhorkin. Derek Forbort (back) is out.