Three points separate the two teams.

They butt heads on Monday.

Something's got to give.

For the Blues (35-27-5) and Los Angeles Kings (33-28-6), it's simple: a Blues victory in regulation puts them five ahead in the race for the second wild card in the Western Conference. A Kings victory in regulation tightens the screws down to a single point.

There is, of course, the proverbial three-point game that could make it four with a Blues win or two with a Kings win, but regardless, Monday's tilt at Staples Center (9 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) adds plenty of zest to the start of a five-game, 10-day trip for the Blues.

"This California trip will be very important for us," said Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. "Even if we look at point-wise, it's so simple, we need these points. Especially with tough opponents it's going to build our confidence. We know how to play successful against those teams, great teams, so it will be really interesting games."

The Blues enter play on a four-game winning streak, and aside from the second wild card, they can still shoot for third place in the Central Division because they trail the Nashville Predators by two points with a game in hand and are only four points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the first wild card.

But first thing's first: trying to distance themselves from the Kings.

"It's a great challenge for us," said Blues coach Mike Yeo, whose squad is 1-1-0 against the Kings this season with each team winning on home ice. "We'll continue to do what we've been doing, and our focus will be on LA right now, but this is obviously a very key point of our season right now.

"I would say they're putting a lot of importance and emphasis on it, so I think if we want a good chance to win, we better too. As competitors, those are fun hockey games to play. That's what you want. You want to be involved in those, you want to go out there and be a gamer and rise to the level your teammates need you to play at and obviously it's a lot of fun to come out on top."

The trip also includes games against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks in California before shifting to Arizona to play the Coyotes and finishing in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.

"It's tough, especially going on the West Coast, had success out there last time," said goalie Carter Hutton, who made 20 saves in a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday. "Just have to be simple, playing our game, especially on the road. I think we've found that niche on the road, we're a tough road team to play against. We have to keep on it.

"Sometimes it's hard not to look at the big picture. But we've got to keep it individual, sometimes even break it down period by period. If we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to have success."

The Blues' last California swing netted them wins against the Ducks and Sharks and a loss to the Kings. They want to start this one off on the right foot.

"We've got to bank points," left wing Alexander Steen said. "Doesn't matter how we do it, we've just got to get points."

The Blues control their own destiny, and with six of their remaining 15 games against the Coyotes and Avalanche and only four of 15 against teams in a playoff position, the Blues know it's a good spot to be in as long as they take advantage of it.

"It's probably goal of every team to play whole season to not look on other teams in the season," Tarasenko said. "It's what we try to do, focus on our own game and improve every day."


Showdown with Kings on deck with Blues trying to extend winning streak to f ive; faceoff success without Stastny; Schwartz playing well; bucking the trend By LOU KORAC ST. LOUIS -- Three points separate the two teams. They butt heads on Monday. Something's got to give.