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Blues mix up lines, look to repeat first round

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

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Blues mix up lines, look to repeat first round
The Blues changed up their lines after losing Game 1 to San Jose, and they hope the results will be the same after dropping their second-round opener to L.A.

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The St. Louis Blues got back on the ice Sunday morning, and the mentality is exactly the same as it was after Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The Blues, who trailed the San Jose Sharks after losing the series opener, are faced with the same scenario after dropping Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings. After their loss in the opening round, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock made some lineup changes that would suit the Blues' needs more. They went on to win four straight to bounce the Sharks in five.

Could there be more changes in store for Monday's Game 2?

"I wouldn't read anything into the lines at practice today," Hitchcock said. "I wouldn't read one thing into them. ... But it was fun watching them practice."

The Blues did switch their top two centers [David Backes and Patrik Berglund] for Sunday's practice, with Backes playing between Alex Steen and Andy McDonald and Berglund between David Perron and T.J. Oshie.

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"They wanted to change it up, and I'm familiar to playing with both Perry and Osh from two years ago, three years ago," Berglund said. "It is what it is. Just change and we'll see if we can generate some offense."

Backes agreed.

"With Mac and Steener for practice today, try and change things up, find a little chemistry, find a spark," Backes said. "Hopefully, that provides some of it."

Hitchcock's message to the team wasn't one with great detail. Just matter-of-fact.

"It lasts 60 minutes, not 32," Hitchcock said. "We played great for 32 minutes [Saturday night], we were the much better team for 32 minutes and then we were the ones that cracked. We took the bad penalties, we had lazy sticks at times, we started turning the puck over at the blue line trying to make the extra play. L.A.'s not a team that you're going to push out of the competition very easily. What happened was we pushed ourselves out.

"The first period and probably the first period and a half, other than two shifts, was the best we've played in the playoffs and then we left the program and went onto a different program. The second half of the game was very similar to the way we played the first two periods in Game 5 [vs. San Jose], and that was disappointing. So we'll get back on the right page. It's a race to four. We've put a little pressure on ourselves, we've got to perform for more minutes at the same level we did to start the hockey game. If that level's out there for 60 minutes, I like our chances."

Hitchcock mentioned the need to get more from his top six forwards.

"Just the same program. Stay on the program," he said. "There's a reason that [Scott] Nichol's line is the best line on our team right now. They're on the program. They get scoring chances, they don't give up much, they compete, they're collectively working well together. They end up with four, five, six scoring chances a game, which is great. They're taking on tough minutes, doing a great job doing it. They're all on the program. They get every puck deep, they funnel every puck to the net, they shoot when they have to, they find it again, they play the game the right way. That's why they're having so much success.

"They create. They just create chance after chance. That puck didn't miss by much, Nichol's chance there. [B.J.] Crombeen had a stick on it, too. That's just the ebb and flow of the game."

Players agreed more is needed after the Kings got a late shorthanded goal in the second period and then the Blues played undisciplined and took three penalties totaling eight minutes at the start of the third.

"We didn't go to enough hard areas, we didn't stay with our game long enough, we didn't make the sacrifices of moving our feet, taking penalties," Backes said. "The third period, we didn't give ourselves a chance to tie the game up.

"We've got to have better performances from everyone. Our top players need to help carry the team. Our third and fourth lines have been doing a pretty darn good job of keeping other teams off the scoresheet and providing energy and momentum for us. Top lines need to win their matchups."

The Blues aren't in panic mode. They've been here before and expect to come through with a confident effort in Game 2.

"Hopefully, it will be a little bit of a wakeup call and know that you can't take a shift off, you can't take a couple minutes off here and there," said goalie Brian Elliott, who stopped 26 shots in the Game 1 loss. "You have to play the whole 60. That's pretty much the lesson, I think."

"We lost the first game in the last series and rallied," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "It's definitely a wake-up call. We did some things well, we did some things we'll work on. It's a long series and hopefully Game 2 goes in our favor."

Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis