The Blues made the playoffs last season with some room to spare, thanks to a late-season fade by the Kings and Coyotes, but if they failed to make it, one of the things they could point to would be their troubles with the Kings.
Though the Blues finished 14 points ahead of the Kings, went 3-4-1 against the Kings. They went 1-3 against the Kings at Enterprise Center, site of tonight's home opener for the Blues.
"They're a very good team," captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "They work hard, they've added some new pieces too I think that helped them a lot. There's never an easy game against these guys. They're stingy. They play with structure. They work. It's always a challenge and it's a game that you have to be smart. We can't come out gung ho in the first 10 minutes and let up. We have to be consistent with our effort and this game’s going to be won in the third period and that's the mindset that we have the details throughout the whole game and and have a good physical start and establish that right away."
The Kings are expected to be without defenseman Drew Doughty, who suffered a minor knee sprain against Dallas on Friday night. Because of that, the Blues may not see Doughty all season. The teams meet again on Monday at Enterprise and then on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles and are then done for the season.
"They play a very structured game in my opinion," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "You’ve got to work for everything you get. They're gonna have numbers around you all the time so you got to work for space and create your own space. (Anze) Kopitar and (Dustin) Brown have been there a long time, Drew Doughty if he plays. Those guys are winners and been around a long time. They lead that hockey team but they've added (Viktor) Arvidsson, they added (Phillip) Danault, those guys are good players. So that's an improved team and their young guys are a year older."
The Blues will counter with some youngster of their own, as Klim Kostin stays in the lineup because of the absences of Brandon Saad (COVID) and Pavel Buchnevich (suspension). Plus there's a happy Vladimir Tarasenko.
"He's a great person and he's having fun on the ice," said Robert Thomas, who has been centering Tarasenko's line. "You can see it. He's got a smile back, he's got his excitement and it's awesome to see and I mean I just try to get him the puck as much as possible and he's been great.
"Vladi has always been so good to the young guys he's always been great to me. I could point out a ton of times throughout first three years. He's been awesome to me and always helped me out. Injuries are tough and I went through that last year and it's hard to kind of get back to yourself so I know exactly how he feels and I'm happy. He's playing awesome, he's having fun. It's great."
As for losing Saad and adding Kostin on his line, O'Reilly regrets losing Saad just when the line started to play better together but he looks forward to the chance with Kostin.
"I think he's going to do great," O'Reilly said. "Obviously it's unfortunate for Saader, it's such a bad bounce. I think our line was start to get something going, we played a good game in Vegas and then obviously this happens and there's not much you can do. You always have to keep moving forward but the good thing about our team is our depth, we have so many good guys that can contribute to it and move around and play different positions and Kostin I think is going to be excellent for us. He's been playing great hockey, a big body and very skilled and it's just kind of having that communication on the ice. You talk it out after a shift, kind of regroup, just having that feedback to each other is going to be a huge as we go."
The Blues had an optional skate on Saturday, though most of the team was out there anyway. Based on Friday's practice, these should be the lines and defensive pairings: