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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Lineups for Kings-Blues Game 4

St. Louis is expected to bring in Ryan Reaves on the fourth line, in place of B.J. Crombeen, and Ian Cole on defense in place of Carlo Colaiacovo.

Cole practiced with Kevin Shattenkirk while Alex Pietrangelo was with Barret Jackman in practice, although that could change. Cole and Shattenkirk have played together on U.S. developmental under-17 and under-18 world junior teams.

Brian Elliott will take the net again after he allowed four goals in Game 3. He is 0-3 with a 3.75 goals-against average and .845 save percentage in the series. Coach Ken Hitchcock on Saturday declined to talk about Elliott bouncing back.

"I don't want to go there," Hitchcock said.

Chris Stewart voiced his support behind Elliott.

"He had one bad game and he's battled for us all year," Stewart said. "If it wasn't for him or [Jaroslav Halak] we wouldn't be in the position we are this year. I don't think one bad game is going to sum up our year. We're going to battle for him."

BLUES

Andy McDonald - David Backes - Matt D'Agostini
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Alex Pietrangelo - Barret Jackman
Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 7:02 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Hitchcock to alter Blues' lineup for Game 4

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If the St. Louis Blues can't go through the Los Angeles Kings, they will try to go around them.

Ryan Reaves
Right Wing - STL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 1 | +/-: 0
That's sort of the reason that St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock will tinker with his lineup again in the Western Conference Semifinals. Hitchcock said Saturday that he will insert Ryan Reaves on the fourth line and Ian Cole on defense for Game 4 on Sunday at Staples Center.

Reaves will likely replace B.J. Crombeen, while Cole will come in for Carlo Colaiacovo.

"More size, more speed – keep pulling speed into the lineup and it works," Hitchcock said. [Matt D'Agostini] was good. Obviously, [Chris Stewart] was good. [Reaves] brings more speed, more size and just keep trying to get better. ... We're close. The last game was our best game. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better."
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 7:28 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Blues struggle against team that mirrors them

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The series has played out the way Blues coach Ken Hitchcock envisioned in that his team is running into a Kings club that has been dialed in since late February-early March.

L.A. had to come on like gangbusters just to get the eighth seed, and now the Kings' grinding style is perfectly suited for the playoffs against a team that plays the same way.

"I think we're getting done to us what we've done to teams all year," Hitchcock said. "I think we're getting it done to us. It's how do we react to this now?

"Everybody that watched the West saw this coming around 65-66 games. I think we all saw this coming. We saw it before we got here. The game 75 [on March 22] that was here was better than any of these games of these playoffs so far. We were on top of it. They were on top of it. It ended up 0-0 (the Kings won 1-0 in a shootout). … When we left the Staples Center we all said, 'Man, whoever gets that team in the playoffs got their hands full.'"

Said forward Jamie Langenbrunner," They're playing a very sound, smart, controlled game. They're forcing us to make mistakes and we've been the one to crack in every game -- and that's kind of been our calling card all year."

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 7:23 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Blues look for answers to keep season alive

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- St. Louis held an optional skate and most players practiced as the task at hand crystalizes for the Blues.

It's not only that they've lost games, but the way in which they've gone down is disturbing. St. Louis has not led this series since the first period of Game 1, and coach Ken Hitchcock had a telling quote about being in that unfamiliar position.

"We're not built for coming from behind all the time," Hitchcock said.

St. Louis seemed to take back Game 3 when it tied it at 1 at the start of the second period, but then disintegrated with more undisciplined play and poor goaltending and fell behind by two goals.

"When we do find ourselves playing from behind we tend to do things that are uncharacteristic of us and dig ourselves in a deeper hole," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said.

"We've only played with the lead once in the series and that was short lived. I think we've been a really good team all year playing with the lead. There's no reason things will change now. We just got to find a way to get that lead and carry some sort of positive momentum our way."

The Blues were still at a loss to explain the undisciplined play. They took roughing and slashing penalties in the first period of Game 3 and failed to make Los Angeles retaliate.

Getting a lead in Game 4 would help, but staying at even strength would also go a long way toward extending this series.

"It's huge," Colaiacovo said. "We keep shooting ourselves in the foot by giving then all the momentum. In a series like this we've got to find better ways to control our emotions and make sure we do stay out of the box. Those are some key moments in the game where we took some questionable penalties. Our discipline has to be a lot better in all areas of the game."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Kings want road success to translate to home ice

LOS ANGELES -- In order to feel more like home, the Kings are staying in a hotel downtown and practically treating Thursday like a road game.

L.A. hardly ever has a morning skate at Staples Center, which also hosts the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. But coach Darryl Sutter wanted his players get more familiar with their game rink. The Kings have not played at home since April 18, more than two weeks ago.

"I haven't been downtown very much," Sutter quipped when asked about changing the routine.

L.A.'s home record isn't a laughing matter, though. The Kings, whose 5-0 road playoff record matches the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning, are only 1-1 at home in the playoffs. They were 22-14-5 at Staples Center in the regular season, which ranked 19th in the League.

"I personally liked it," Jarret Stoll said. "The ice is a little bit different than our practice facility so it's good to get on the ice, get your edges going and just snapping the puck around in a kind of a familiar setting. I don't mind it."

Sutter on Doughty:
Sutter had an interesting take on Drew Doughty, who seems to elevate his game for the postseason after a somewhat quiet regular season.

Doughty, 22, is known for his offensive dynamic, and Sutter said the other part of his game can come around.

"I think he's learning how to be better defensively," Sutter said. "I'm not saying he's miscast or anything like that, but for a kid that plays that many minutes, it was probably forced on him a little bit. … He has all the natural ability … it's just a matter of knowing when to use it and when not to use it. From a defensive standpoint, he's probably got a long ways to go."

Sutter added that, "From my standpoint … I think that he's just scratching the offensive part of it -- when to use it and how to use it."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:36 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

LOS ANGELES -- Here are the projected lineups for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN):

BLUES
Andy McDonald - David Backes - Matt D'Agostini
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Scott Nichol - Jamie Langenbrunner - B.J. Crombeen

Alex Pietrangelo - Carlo Colaiacovo
Kevin Shattenkirk - Barret Jackman
Roman Polak - Kris Russell

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie MitchellSlava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forward Kyle Clifford is available, but coach Darryl Sutter didn't say if he would play. Clifford has been out with a concussion since Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:26 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Pietrangelo back in lineup for Blues

LOS ANGELES -- The St. Louis Blues will get a direly needed addition back in their lineup when defenseman Alex Pietrangelo returns from a lower-body injury (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Coach Ken Hitchcock said after Thursday's morning skate that Pietrangelo is ready for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings.

"He's in. He'll play," Hitchcock said. "He's ready to go."

Pietrangelo was injured in Game 1 and St. Louis hasn't looked the same because the defenseman plays a vital role on special teams and even strength.

Hitchcock didn't understate the effect of Pietrangelo's return.

"[Game 1] was 1-1 and we're probably playing better than they are, and then he goes out and this whole thing changes," Hitchcock said. "It's hard to believe that one player makes that big a difference, but obviously, in our game, he did. So we're hoping that the whole stability part gets back to our team where we've got the right players playing in the right situations.

"There's going to be no tie-down on allowing him to play the minutes. He's going to have to play big minutes. He knows that. We waited 'til the last possible minute that he could play without any reservations. He's there now. This series changed dramatically with that one play and for whatever reason we haven't been able to get back up to speed back there, but I think you'll see us play very well tonight."

Pietrangelo did not speak to the media. He has been skating the past two days and Los Angeles is preparing for a different Blues team with him.

"He's an impact player because of the minutes played and special teams so it makes a huge difference," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It's exactly what Hitch says -- we have [Drew] Doughty and they have him."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 5:39 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Blues hope Pietrangelo is OK for Game 3

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Alex Pietrangelo participated in practice Wednesday but St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn't commit to his status for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings.

"He feels OK," Hitchcock said after the Blues' skate. "I don't know. We'll see tomorrow, if he feels OK tomorrow and wants to give it a go, we'll let him go. But it was nice to see him out there and he lasted the whole practice. It was a hard practice and he participated in everything, so we'll see."

Pietrangelo was boarded by Dwight King late in the second period of Game 1. He was at first thought to be concussed but Hitchcock later said it is a lower-body injury. Pietrangelo did not play in L.A.'s 5-2 win on Monday.

Pietrangelo is a major piece of the Blues' power play and his absence translated to an 0 for 9 performance in Game 2. St. Louis is 0 for 12 for the series and 0 for 26 on the season against Los Angeles.

One St. Louis player who didn't skate Wednesday was Jason Arnott. Hitchcock said the veteran center has a lower body injury and is day-to-day.

The Blues skated with Andy McDonald, David Backes and Matt D'Agostini on the first line, Alexander Steen-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie on another line and David Perron, Vladimir Sobotka and Chris Stewart on another. There was no change on the fourth line of Jamie Langenbrunner, Scott Nichol and B.J. Crombeen.

Hitchcock appeared to mix up the defensemen pairings as he had Pietrangelo with Barret Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo with Kevin Shattenkirk and Roman Polak with Kris Russell.

"Don't read the d-pairs in," Hitchcock said. "You can read the forwards in if you want and write those down and see how far you can get with that one but don't take the d-pairs."

Hitchcock continued to credit the Kings for their performance in back-to-back wins in St. Louis and pointed to what his team is up against.

"This opponent has had to be dug in for a long time," Hitchcock said. "L.A. has had to dig in for a long time. And then they had to go through a really good team to get to this level. They're at 100 percent. Their commitment is 100 and we're probably 85, and we know now against L.A. that's not good enough."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:52 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Despite road success, Sutter still prefers home cookin'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- While his team became the first to win its first five road playoff games since the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04, Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter reiterated that he still prefers being at home.

Sutter is a stickler for scheduling and routine, and he says there also is a something to playing in a familiar building and feeding off that energy.

"I'm still old school and I still want to play a deciding game in our building," he said. "I think early in the series, early in the playoffs, especially teams in the West, they prefer to play that always, because of travel. That's how I feel. I've been on both sides of it and I've won and lost both sides, so I don't know what the answer is.

"If you have a distinct home crowd flavor, it's always better. I go back again, those old buildings, old Chicago Stadium. Now they say what's the difference? All the buildings are the same. The ice surfaces are the same. But your home crowd can influence if you handle it right. Composure with young players is a big thing. Preparation is a big thing. When you weigh all that stuff … I'm just set in my ways now."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:48 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Clifford skating, working his way back into shape

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford skated again Wednesday in an encouraging sign in his recovery from what is believed to be a concussion, although the team is not using that term.

Clifford said he passed his "psych" test and feels better but is cautious about possibly coming back too soon after seeing other players make that mistake.

"It's just a matter of coming back at top shape," Clifford said. "It's a matter of time. It's going to happen."

Clifford got hit by Vancouver Canucks forward Byron Bitz in Game 1 of the quarterfinals and Bitz was suspended for the play.
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