HAZELWOOD, Mo. --
As the St. Louis Blues
prepare for the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings
, the element of surprise was when it would all get started.
Both teams had to wait for the NHL to release at least a partial schedule, which came Wednesday, to have a better idea when to mentally and physically prepare for the start of the series.
It's tougher for the Kings, who traveled to St. Louis Thursday for Games 1 and 2. But as much as they want to practice, the Blues also were looking for a better idea of when to really get the game preparation underway.
"It's the first go for a lot of guys without knowing the starting date; I think that was the bigger distraction," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Having the down time, knowing when you're starting, players can plan their week. Not knowing in the first practices what day we were going was a little bit of a concern for everybody because you didn't know when to amp it up, how much to amp it up. You didn't have any idea.
"Once we got down [Wednesday] and we knew it was Saturday, then you saw even a bigger focus today. We had a very good focus today at practice."
For the players, staying even-keeled is key.
"You've just got to keep telling yourself that it's going to happen, just keep working every day," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo
said. "I can't remember when we've practiced this many days in a row except training camp. This time of year, you just want to be playing hockey. I think we're all ready right now."
Now a plan can be put in place.
"I think we we knew it was going to come Friday or Saturday from the start," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
said. "We've been getting some stuff done for L.A., but today and tomorrow are kind of the key days of practicing and getting ready for them.
"Now that there's a set day, we know it's going to be Saturday, it's a little nicer to plan your week out and get ready."