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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 7:24 PM

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

Kings aim for 60-minute effort in Game 3

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Little has gone wrong for the Los Angeles Kings thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there was one teachable aspect that they brought back home after Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Kings jumped on the St. Louis Blues for a four-goal opening period, but they were outshot 24-5 the rest of the way as St. Louis got reorganized, although it was too little, too late to prevent a 5-2 loss.

L.A. reconvened at its home facility Tuesday feeling good about owning a 2-0 series lead. But the Kings know the last 40 minutes weren't the ideal way they would have liked to take to victory. 
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 11:30 AM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Hitchcock rules Halak out for rest of series

ST. LOUIS -- Not only did the St. Louis Blues lose the first two games on home ice in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings, but coach Ken Hitchcock ruled after Game 2 that goalie Jaroslav Halak would not be available for the remainder of the series.

Halak, who started for the Blues when the playoffs began, has a lower-body injury that he suffered in Game 2 of the conference quarterfinals against San Jose when he collided with teammate Barret Jackman early in the second period.

Halak has been skating off and on by himself ever since and before the series with the Kings began, Hitchcock ruled Halak out for Games 1 and 2 and said they would "go from there" as the series progressed.

Hitchcock was asked at the end of his post-game press conference Monday night if Halak would be available for Game 3 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

"No," Hitchcock replied.

Asked if he would be available as a backup, the coach said before departing, "No … Jaro's out for the series. He won't play in the series."

So the Blues will move forward with Brian Elliott, who allowed five goals on 21 shots in Game 2, as the starter and rookie Jake Allen as the backup.

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Greene's shorthanded goal a hit in Kings' room

ST. LOUIS -- There was a buzz around the Los Angeles Kings' locker room Saturday and the last couple days in the aftermath of defenseman Matt Greene's shorthanded goal in Game 1.

"It's a little rare that he ever crosses the blue line," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty joked about Greene. "But that's what playoffs [are] about. Getting a little from every single guy on your team and to see a guy like him score in the playoffs, all of us were so happy for him and it just gave us a boost."

The Kings have three shorthanded goals [Dustin Brown with two goals and an assist has been a part of all three of them], which matches their power play output in the postseason.

"We don't want to give them any time and space," Doughty said of the PK. "If good players have that space, they're going to find the seams and the open guy backdoor for an easy tap-in. We're definitely very aggressive on the penalty kill. We're blocking shots and that's kind of the motto of our team.

"It's been working out great for us. That aggressive style makes guys on the back-end panic when guys go 100 miles an hour at them. You're going to panic with the puck a little bit and with ice conditions and stuff like that, pucks are going to bounce over your stick or whatever it may be. Brownie's been doing a great job of reading those opportunities and it's been a big part to our playoff season so far."

Greene's goal broke a 1-1 tie late in the second period and propelled the Kings to a 3-1 victory.
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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

D'Agostini in as Blues make lineup changes

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will make a couple changes to their lineup heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Coach Ken Hitchcock has decided to flip his top two centers for tonight's game, meaning David Backes will now be between Andy McDonald and Alex Steen, while Patrik Berglund will once again join David Perron and T.J. Oshie.

Also, Matt D'Agostini will replace Chris Stewart in the lineup on the third line.

When asked what he's looking for, Hitchcock said, "More o-zone time, better o-zone play, more tenacity on the puck, more reckless. We've made the switch before short-term and it's worked.

"We just feel like we need a different energy. I just think for us to win the series ... they're a big team, they're a physical, big team, and we need to play with more tempo, more speed throughout our lineup. This allows us to play that way the way it's built. With switching the lines there with D'Agostini, it gives us more speed. We just want to see how it looks because for me, they're a team that wears you down. We need to make them spend more time in their zone more than they want."

Oshie, Perron and Berglund are no strangers to playing together. They're Blues first-round draft picks who came up through the organization together and are close as well off the ice.

"There's going to be a lot of energy," Oshie said. "We've been through a lot together away from the rink, at the rink. We've been here from the start for all of us ... Perry was here a year earlier, but it seems like we all kind of grew up together and we've got this sense of closeness.

"... We've got those young legs, as Walt [Keith Tkachuk] used to say. I think we compliment each other well. I need to bring more intensity and as much intensity as I can into those two; try to carry it along with me, because when both of them have their feet moving, they're hard to stop."

D'Agostini has only dressed in one postseason game [Game 2 of the first round against San Jose] and is looking forward to providing a boost.

"Just go out there, try to get involved early and get into the game as quick as possible," D'Agostini said. "... Any time after a loss, a change could spark the guys.

"It's been tough watching. You know you always feel like you can contribute. Me personally, I feel like I can help this team win. I'm happy to be back in there and looking forward to tonight."

Hitchcock said it's nothing against Stewart, who's pointless in five playoff games.

"I'm not unhappy with Stewy at all," Hitchcock said. "I think he's been fine for me, but we just feel like we would like to play with more speed in our lineup ... number one, and number two is we want to have a different look on one of the power-play units and that's where Dags excels. ... We'd like to see him get some PP time if we get there. He's very effective at where he goes. He's a guy that's willing to stand in there and absorb the shot."

With Backes, it gives him a different perspective with two more skill guys and he can continue to be more responsible defensively.

"Those guys are supremely talented and I'm hoping to be a supporting piece to it, take care of the defensive zone and let their offensive instincts and their skill show up," Backes said of McDonald and Steen. "If we can do that, those guys will have great nights and we'll have a great night as a team."
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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 2 lineups

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

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 Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forwards Kyle Clifford (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) once again sit out. Healthy scratches include forwards Andrei Loktionov and Kevin Westgarth as well as defenseman Davis Drewiske, all of whom sat out Game 1.

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

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

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body) is still out for Game 2 and Pietrangelo (undisclosed injury) will be a gametime decision. Healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz along with defensemen Kent Huskins and Cole will be a healthy scratch if Pietrangelo plays.
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POSTED ON Sunday, 04.29.2012 / 12:00 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

NHL statement on Dwight King hit

Kay Whitmore, NHL supervisor of officiating for Blues-Kings series, answered questions from a pool reporter on the hit by Kings' forward Dwight King on St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the second period. King was assessed a minor penalty on the play:

Q: What did the officials see on Dwight King's hit, and what went into the decision to give King a two-minute minor?

Whitmore:
Their judgment of the degree of violence ... they deemed it a minor penalty and that's why they called it a minor. It's their judgment. They see the whole play unfold and they didn't deem in this instance obviously that King drove [Pietrangelo] into the boards. It was a hit, he was in a vulnerable position, but they didn't deem it violent enough to call a major."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 2:51 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Blues and Kings ready for new challenge

ST. LOUIS -- Both the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings are perfect on the road in these playoffs, but for the Blues, they have home ice and were one of the best teams at Scottrade Center this season with a 30-5-6 regular season record and two wins and an overtime loss against San Jose in the first round.

But the Kings won all three games at Rogers Arena against the Vancouver Canucks, who won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's regular-season champions.

"We were a pretty confident group going in," Brown said of the road success. "I think a lot of players have been in this room for a while, have been playing together for a while.

"We understood the situation we were in and we understand the type of team we have. Knocking off the top seed Vancouver obviously adds a little bit of confidence, but I think we all understand that St. Louis is a different type of beast and it's going to be a hard series.

"They're just a different team than Vancouver. We found a way to be successful against Vancouver and now it's a new challenge. There's different things that we have to do to be successful against the Blues. A lot of it comes down to work. That's the one thing you can control, which is a good thing. To beat a team like St. Louis, you've got to be willing to do all those little things on every single play."

The Blues hope to be as relentless as the Kings are advertising them to be.

"Just a strong defensive game like we had all year and in the San Jose series," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We're going to really have to work for our chances, throw everything we can on net and get second chances. It's going to be predictable hockey from both sides, a hard-fought series and it's going to start right from the first drop of the puck."

Added veteran center Jason Arnott: "We just can't get out of our element. We have to stick to our system. You can't get frustrated, that's the biggest thing. We know we're going up against a great defense and a great goaltender. They play a solid defensive game. It's going to be tough and frustration's going to creep in here or there, but we just have to stick to our system and play to our game plan and keep funneling pucks as much as we can and hopefully a few go in for us."

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 2:03 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Players eager to get started

ST. LOUIS -- As has been the case all week, both the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings are eager and anxious to begin their playoff series.

There's only so much the respective teams can do in practice and only so much a team can do to simulate what their opponent is going to do.

From a rest standpoint, getting a week off for St. Louis and six days off for L.A. was a blessing. But from a game standpoint, since both teams went 4-1 in their first-round series, players remain cautious about any rust that may have developed during that time off.

"You look at Nashville last night, they came out a little slow," Blues winger Chris Stewart said. "We've definitely got to get out there and get on our toes and take it to them. We have to show why we can use home ice advantage."

Added Blues winger Andy McDonald: "We've had some rest, a lot of practice and it gives you a lot more time. We knew before they did when we would be playing and who we'd be playing against. It gives guys a little bit more time to recover, we've got some bumps and bruises but I think we're ready to go. It's been kind of a long layoff. I think guys are pretty anxious."

The Kings agreed.

"You want to play. You watch games on TV," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Getting some rest obviously is important. Both teams had ample time to get ready, both physically and mentally. Guys are ready to go now."

Added Kings center Mike Richards: "I don't think there's much of a process. I think you just get excited. A week looking at tape, a week of practicing... it doesn't take much to get out there and you feel the excitement.

"Coming here this morning, I think there's a lot of excitement. Finally gameday's come. I don't think there's going to be much of an amping-up process."

Watching the Predators and Phoenix Coyotes Friday night definitely made players eager to get started.

"It's been a long week," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "There's been a lot of practice, a lot of things that we've gone over but at the same time, we're excited to get this thing going and jump into it. Watching the game last night gives you that itch to get things started."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 1:45 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Backes-Kopitar matchup a highlight of this series

ST. LOUIS -- As the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings finally lace the skates and begin what is expected to be a hard-hitting, hard-nosed and physical Western Conference Semifinals, two players quite familiar with one another will get re-acclimated shortly after at the drop of the puck Saturday night.

The Blues' David Backes and the Kings' Anze Kopitar will see a lot of ice time together, and they'll be in each other's way more times than they might care to see but both will be faced with the challenge of overcoming what the other has to bring.

Backes is the Blues' checking specialist and just got done engaging with San Jose's Joe Thornton in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. It will be contrasting styles when going up against Kopitar and his linemates.

"Joe's a little bit bigger of a body, but I think Kopitar's got a speed element ... he's one of the fastest guys in the league," said Backes, who finished with one point in five games against the Sharks. "If you've seen me skate, I'm not.

"There's a physical element on my side that needs to balance out his speed. It's not one-on-one. We're not out there playing one-on-one on a full sheet [of ice]. I've got linemates [David Perron and T.J. Oshie] and he's got linemates [Dustin Brown and Justin Williams] helping him. I think the collective unit needs to be better than their collective unit and we'll see if that happens."

Kopitar, who saw a lot of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler in their quarterfinal series, had a goal and three assists in five games. He expects a different challenge facing Backes but is quite familiar with it.

"It's going to be a physical game," Kopitar said. "I have seen him quite a bit over the last couple seasons. It's nothing new. I'm sure the intensity's going to be high and I'm sure it's going to be a physical game.

"I don't think [Kings coach] Darryl [Sutter] was too big on matchups even the first series. He was rotating lines and was pretty much going with his feeling on whoever was going. ... We're going to come out, we're going to have to play. If the matchups are important to them, they're probably going to match it since we're here. For us, we just have to go out and play."

Brown was a teammate of Backes' at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"Just a big, straight-line body ... he does a lot of the little things right," Brown said of Backes. "You don't see him change his game too much. That's why he's probably successful on a nightly basis. He's big, he's strong and he knows a straight-line game, physical ... he's just hard to play against in general."

Sutter is equally as impressed with Backes.

"He's one of the really good young captains in the League," Sutter said. "I think he has an identity and it's a strong one. He plays both sides of the puck, plays a 200-foot game. We're lucky we have a couple centermen like that, too, so hopefull we can saw that off a little."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock would like to see more offense from the Backes line, which collected two goals and five assists but understands their commitment to defending playing with a lead the majority of the last series.

"The first thing he has to do is trust his linemates a little more and secondly he's got to play more reckless," Hitchcock said. "He played safe ... and playing against Joe is no day at the beach. Joe was dialed in and Joe was playing for his life. He was a terrific player in our series, so David had his hands full. The other thing is, sometimes 5-on-5 with as much as David plays on the power play and he kills penalties, sometimes 5-on-5 is a rest and we want to get him past that, where he's really contributing more 5-on-5 because he's back playing a little more reckless and not so careful. He plays reckless on the power play, which is great, it helps us. He's obviously a great penalty killer. We just want him to trust his linemates and not have to be the safety net that he thinks he has to be all the time."

Added Backes: "It's kind of situational, who you're out against, time of the game, score of the game ... that kind of dictates it. Luckily in the series against San Jose, we were faced with leads and just protecting them and making sure we took care of mostly in the defensive side.

"There's going to be times in tie games when you need a goal and we're going to have to wade it on the other side. There's a balance there that needs to be found; I don't think it was perfect in the first round. It was good, but we need to be great in order to win this series."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 12:49 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 1 lineups

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

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 Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forwards Kyle Clifford [concussion] and Scott Parse [hip] will not play. Healthy scratches include forwards Andrei Loktionov and Kevin Westgarth as well as defenseman Davis Drewiske.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - Alex Steen
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

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

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak [lower-body] will not be available for Games 1 and 2 but has been skating and is progressing. Healthy scratches include forwards Matt D'Agostini, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz along with defensemen Kent Huskins and Ian Cole.
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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild