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Mason, Blues set to stave off Kings

PA Stats Inc
By:
The Hockey News
News

Mason, Blues set to stave off Kings

PA Stats Inc
By:

By Anthony Giornalista
Stats Senior Writer

Los Angeles (30-32-10) at St. Louis (33-30-9), 8:30 p.m. EDT

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Chris Mason's outstanding play has helped keep
St. Louis in the playoff hunt. He's done little, however, to
stop the Blues' defensive struggles against the Los Angeles
Kings.

Opening a key three-game homestand, the Blues will likely give
Mason his 24th straight start as they try to avoid being swept
in their season series with the stumbling Kings on Tuesday
night.

St. Louis (33-30-9) is two points behind eighth-place Nashville
in the Western Conference, hoping Mason can continue his strong
play over the team's last 10 games -- four at the Scottrade
Center. Mason is 16-7-5 with a 2.08 goals-against average in 26
games after an 0-8-1 skid that lasted into mid-January.

Mason, though, struggled in his only start against the Kings
(30-32-10) this season, stopping 20 of 24 shots and getting
pulled after two periods in a 6-2 loss Dec. 11. Los Angeles has
outscored St. Louis 15-5 in winning all three matchups this
season.

In the 42-year history of this series, the only season in which
the Kings have won every meeting came in 2005-06.

However, a faltering offense is largely to blame for their
dwindling playoff hopes. Los Angeles is 2-8-1 in road games
after winning seven of its previous eight, averaging 1.6 goals
per game during the slump.

The Kings, who trail the Predators by seven points with 10 games
left, are halfway through a six-game road trip following 4-1
losses at Pittsburgh and Chicago on Friday and Sunday,
respectively.

St. Louis, meanwhile, totaled one goal through the first two
stops of a three-game trip before beating Calgary 3-2 on Friday
night.

The Blues ended their scoring slump even though veteran winger
Keith Tkachuk missed the game due to a wrist injury. St. Louis
is hoping Tkachuk, who has 21 goals and 18 assists, will be back
on the ice Tuesday.

Andy McDonald and Jay McClement scored in a 51-second span
midway through the third period Friday after the Blues trailed
by one through two periods.

"That's how we've been getting our wins all year," said Mason,
who made 33 saves. "We've had to fight for every point."

St. Louis has to take advantage of this stretch at home, where
it is 10-4-3 in 2009. The Blues also host Vancouver and Columbus
this week before playing six of their final seven games on the
road.

The Kings are 1-4-1 overall after winning their previous three,
hurting their chances of making the postseason for the first
time since 2002.

"It's a big mountain in front of us, we know that," Los Angeles
coach Terry Murray told the team's official Web site. "We have
to have 20 guys playing very good and then you go from there.
It's one game at a time."

The Kings are in desperate need of a boost on offense. Their
only goal Sunday was scored by defenseman Drew Doughty, who has
two goals and two assists in his last three games after posting
three points -- all assists -- in his previous 15.

Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar, who leads the team with 61
points (25 goals, 36 assists), has been held off the scoresheet
in three of his last five games and has just two points in that
span. He has five goals and 15 assists in 11 games against the
Blues.

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Mason, Blues set to stave off Kings