St. Louis Blues Battle Los Angeles in Saturday Matinee

Michael WagenknechtContributor IDecember 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Alex Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues is challenged by Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on December 11, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

After a thrilling come-from-behind victory against nemesis San Jose on Thursday night, the St. Louis Blues combat another thorn in their side Saturday afternoon. The Los Angeles Kings have had the Blues' number recently, going 4-1 in the last five games, including a 2-1 victory on October 10th.

The Blues need to continue to ride the wave of momentum they gained from Thursday straight into the first period on Saturday. Slow starts in their last few games have led to early deficits that, until Thursday, they were not able to overcome. The re-emergence of David Backes and Paul Kariya has helped the effort, but players such as Brad Boyes still need to start showing up.

Paul Kariya has dominated the Kings in his career, posting 68 points in only 61 games. David Backes is a +7 in his twelve games against LA, which is second on the team for forwards to Keith Tkachuk's plus 13. 

Jay McClement and Alex Steen have held some of the top lines in the NHL in check this season, and the stopper line will have its hands full with Anze Kopitar, Michal Handzus and Jarett Stoll. This trio has combined for 12 goals and 28 assists in 50 combined games against St. Louis.

The Blues' goalie tandem has had excellent success against the Kings, and either one could start Saturday. Chris Mason has a 1.71 GAA in 11 career games against LA, while Ty Conklin has posted a 5-1-0 record in six games. It is safe to say that either of these goalies will keep the team in the game all the way to the end.

The Kings are riding a three-game win streak and have one of the best records in the Western Conference at 17-10-2. Their young nucleus, like the Blues, is carrying this team to new heights. This is also Luc Robitaille weekend, so they should be playing with a bit more intensity than usual.

Anze Kopitar leads the club with 34 points, but the Kings have seven players with 20+ points. Key signee Ryan Smyth is still sidelined with an injury and doesn't figure to play this weekend, but he should return soon. But with the depth at forward it really doesn't even matter to the Kings.

The Kings defense is a bit banged up, but it is led by superstar-in-the-making Drew Doughty. Jack Johnson is struggling a bit this year with only nine points, but the slack has been picked up by Wayne Simmonds, who is a bit of a surprise this year to anyone outside of LA.

Another surprise is the play of goaltender Johnathon Quick. Quick was kind of an afterthought goalie in the LA system, but he has quickly proven his worth. With a 16-9-0 record and a respectful 2.68 GAA, Quick is playing head and shoulders above the goalie LA wanted last year in Nikolai Khabibulin.

This is the first afternoon game for the Blues, and it will be interesting to see how they handle it, especially being on the West Coast to boot. They need to come out quick and hard with the same intensity they showed throughout Thursday night's game. The Kings will jump on mistakes and make you pay.

This will be a battle between two of the youngest teams in the NHL, and it's really a preview of what the next ten years will be like in this conference. Hopefully the Blues can reverse the trend of early deficits and large defeats to LA, but the Kings won't make it easy. Game time is 3:00 pm Central Time.