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17-14-2

Kings-Blues Preview

AP - Sports

A recent rough stretch has St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock concerned about his team's collective focus.

After a much-needed road win, the Los Angeles Kings are poised for more success on their current trip.

The Blues hope to avoid a third straight loss by ending their recent struggles against the visiting Kings on Thursday night.

St. Louis (17-13-2) is in playoff position, two points behind sixth-place Los Angeles (18-12-2), but a loser in three of four since winning five of six. The Blues recorded a season-high 43 shots on goal but had their four-game home winning streak end with a 3-0 loss to Edmonton on Tuesday.

Afterward, Hitchcock and the team held a lengthy closed-door meeting.

"I think it's going to require a deeper buy-in from the group, which is what we talked about here with our leaders," he told the NHL's official website. "It's going to take a deeper buy-in by the group for us to be successful. I think that's going to be a partnership by management, coaches and players. It's going to have to be deeper. It's not deep enough."

Hitchcock added: "You have the same people, they just want different pieces of the pie.''

The Blues have been held to two or fewer goals four times in five games and have totaled two goals in 81 shots in losing their last two.

"A lot of shots in volume, but maybe too many perimeter (shots) and not enough second and third opportunities,'' said Blues forward David Backes, who scored 55 goals the past two seasons but has three this year and none in 12 games. "All goalies in the NHL are good and if you're not getting those chances, it's tough to score.''

St. Louis rookie Jake Allen had a 2.09 goals-against average while winning eight of his first nine starts but has allowed six goals on 26 shots in his last two. He was pulled after yielding three on seven shots Tuesday.

The Blues could face a difficult task against Los Angeles, which scored 10 goals while winning the previous two 2013 meetings. Including last season's playoffs, the Kings have won seven straight over the Blues.

Los Angeles snapped a three-game road skid and two-game goal drought by opening a five-game trip with a comeback 5-4 win at Chicago on Monday. The Kings went 150 minutes, 35 seconds without a goal before Anze Kopitar's early in the second period. Dustin Brown capped a two-goal third by converting his own rebound with 1:27 left.

"We kept battling,'' said center Tyler Toffoli, who scored his second goal in his fourth career game. "Pucks started going in. We'd lost two at home, so we wanted to get the road trip going well. Now it's important to carry it into the next game.''

Including the playoffs, Kopitar has three goals and six assists in five games versus St. Louis.

Jonathan Quick has a 1.04 GAA while winning seven of eight regular season and playoff contests against the Blues.

Before the Kings shifted their focus on the Blues, the reigning Stanley Cup champions were honored by President Barack Obama at The White House on Tuesday.

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