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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Hitchcock to alter Blues' lineup for Game 4

Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 7:02 PM

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

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

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.

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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."

The Blues are facing a 3-0 series deficit and Hitchcock is trying to spark something against a Los Angeles team that has outplayed them at their own game.

Hitchcock inserted Stewart in Game 3 and Stewart produced two goals. D'Agostini was used in Game 2 and scored a goal. Hitchcock wishes these latest changes can extend their season and spark some formula.

"It's how do you get around physicality?" Hitchcock said. "How do you get around beef? If you don't have the necessary size to get around it, and the only way you can do it is plow through it. We're trying to put as much pressure on them and forcing them into mistakes, and when you've got speed and guys who are willing to go into the hard areas [like] D'Agostini and Stewart were, it's good for us."

Reaves hasn't played since Game 1 of the quarterfinals on April 12. He said there won't be much adjustment stepping back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think the butterflies left [in] Game 1," Reaves said. "I got my first taste. Now it's just back to what I do and get excited."

Colaiacovo, scratched on April 12, was a minus-2 in Game 3 of the semifinals. Cole was a postseason scratch until Game 2 of the semifinals.

The moves might seem like last gasps but the Blues have been consistent in saying they just need to focus on the start and sending the series back home. One statistic that has surfaced is that St. Louis had seven four-game winning streaks in the regular season, and they have referenced pride in their attempt to avoid a sweep.

"It's no fluke what we've done that we've done what we've done all year," Stewart said. "There's a reason behind the success, and I think when we play our game – that 60-minute Blues hockey -- it's going to be hard for any team to compete with us."

Early start wakes both teams: Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter looked around the media scrum that surrounded him after Saturday's practice and took a head count.

"There are 20 of us?" Sutter said. "Some of you are morning people and some of you are not. That's a fact. So you think that there are 25 guys in here that they're all morning people or all night people? That's a fact. You can't change that. I don't think I can change that."

Sutter, a farmer in his home of Viking, Alberta, is driven by routine, and the 12 p.m. PT start for Game 4 has his attention. L.A. has not fared well in day games this season, notably a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan.7 which ranks as the Kings' worst of the year.

"It was a pajama party," Sutter said of that game.

Sutter has his team holed up in a downtown hotel on Saturday night to eliminate the commute and distraction. The players are looking forward to a different type of game day.

"There's been a lot of time between games, and I think that we're just ready to get things going," Justin Williams said. "It's been two days between the last couple of games here. An early game obviously will get us going a bit earlier. I think everyone at this level just wants to play."

Hitchcock is aware of how the early start might affect the preparation and perhaps the energy at the puck drop, especially after he watched the start of the New York Rangers-Washington Capitals game Saturday.

"You saw one team was really dozy today on the 12:30 game in Washington at the start," Hitchcock said. "Really dozy. And I sure as (heck) hope it ain't us, because if it's us, it's over.

"Experiences from the [Winter] Olympics tell you that the worst thing you can do is have a bunch of meetings in the mornings, so it's come to the rink and play. ... I think too much information in these early games freezes the players."

If there's one area that Los Angeles would like to improve, it's getting results on the power play. L.A. ended an 0-for-30 drought in Game 3 and is 4-for-42 for a 9.5 percent success rate in the playoffs.

"We've worked on it a lot," Sutter said. "They're a tough team to get chances against. They were like that last series against San Jose and we almost have to play like 5-on-5 in trying to get guys around the net and try and get a shot. We've had good zone time the whole time, with both groups, now we [need] getting shots and scoring."

Los Angeles closed out the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in five games, and that experience might help in closing out St. Louis.
 
Said Williams: "We need to obviously have a great start, but also give them a reason to think that it's going to be too hard. I think our power play scoring goals will certainly help in that aspect.

"If we can come up with that same spunk, that same energy that we've had, then I don't anticipate us changing at all. We're going to have some power-play opportunities, and we're going to hopefully give them a reason to think it's too hard."

Kings picking up buzz: In a front-running sports landscape driven first and foremost by the Los Angeles Lakers, the Kings are showing up on the local radar. That's more notable considering that the Lakers and L.A. Clippers are in the playoffs and the Magic Johnson-ownership era is underway with the L.A. Dodgers.

Drew Doughty attended the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Toronto Blue Jays game on Friday night with teammate Trevor Lewis and they got considerable attention even though that area is actually Anaheim Ducks' territory.

"That was the most I've ever got recognized, or people coming up to me for autographs and pictures," Doughty said. "That's the most it's ever happened in L.A. to me. They threw us on the Jumbotron. I'm sure it's just a happy crowd and they didn't know who we were, but we've never had this support and it's great to see and it just makes us want to go even further.

"I've lived here for four years and the first couple of years, you could do anything you wanted around where we lived – just walking around, go for dinner – no one's going to bother you or talk to you, but now it's a whole different story. We're making a presence in L.A. and we're loving it, but like I said, we don't want to stop here."

Doughty, from London, Ontario, is an avid Blue Jays fan. Asked if he thinks they'll make the playoffs, Doughty said, "Yeah. They're a good team. I think already they've blown, like five saves this year, so if they [didn't] have that, they're right up there at the top."

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery