BLUES at KINGS
(Los Angeles leads best-of-seven series, 2-0)
TV: NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Big Story: The Kings figure to receive a hero's welcome when they take the ice at Staples Center on Thursday night -- and it's largely because of the work they've done away from home during the postseason. This will be the eighth playoff game for Los Angeles, but only the third in their arena. By sweeping the first two games of this Western Conference Semifinal series in St. Louis, the Kings are now 5-0 on the road. After disposing of the top-seeded Canucks in short order in the first round, they now have an opportunity to do the same to the second-seeded Blues.
Blues: Likewise, this will be just the third road game for St. Louis in the playoffs -- and the Blues won the first two in San Jose to take a commanding 3-1 series lead en route to finishing off the Sharks in five in a West quarterfinal. If Game 3 seemed pivotal in the first round, it's all but a must-win here with a loss putting the Blues in a 3-0 hole the likes of which only three teams in NHL history have come back from.
It's safe to say St. Louis didn't get the start it wanted Monday, but after falling behind 4-0 in the first period the Blues had a much better showing over the final 40 minutes in a 5-2 defeat. David Backes set up goals by Andy McDonald and lineup addition Matt D'Agostini, and the team generated a number of power-play opportunities in the third but couldn't beat Jonathan Quick to cut into the deficit any further.
"We've got some looking in the mirror to do, some regrouping and we need to make some changes," Backes said. "We're better. X's and O's or film, we've done that to death. It's about intestinal fortitude and coming together as a group and going to the hard areas and showing some (guts). They showed it for the first two games for the full 60 minutes and we didn't, and that's why we have an 0-2 hole to dig ourselves out."
Kings: There were points in the regular season when for Quick it probably felt like Los Angeles couldn't score him four goals in a week's worth of games, much less a period, but with the NHL's 29th-ranked offense now rated fourth in the playoffs at 2.86 goals per game, he's certainly not complaining.
Quick stopped 27 of 29 shots in Game 2 and had a nice cushion to work with most of the way thanks to Mike Richards scoring 31 seconds after the opening faceoff and Anze Kopitar adding a pair of first-period goals sandwiched around one by Jeff Carter. After McDonald got the Blues on the board 18 seconds into the middle period, Justin Williams restored the four-goal lead 1:08 later. Although the Kings were never really threatened from there, the perception was they could still improve significantly over how they played in the second and third.
"It took a lot of guys out of the with all the penalty kills," Carter said. "But in the playoffs, when you win a game, that's all that matters. We know there's areas that we need to improve on, but we'll do that in the next day and we'll be ready."
Who's Hot: After being held off the score sheet for the first time in the postseason in Game 1, McDonald scored his fifth goal and added his fifth assist Monday. His 10 points are tied for second in the playoffs. … Kings captain Dustin Brown has four assists in the series and nine points in the playoffs. Dustin Penner has consecutive multi-point games, totaling a goal and three assists.
Injury Report: St. Louis hopes defenseman Alex Pietrangelo might make his return after missing Game 2 with a lower-body injury. He's day-to-day but did take part in all aspects of Wednesday's practice. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak won't play in this series due to his own lower-body injury. … Los Angeles forward Kyle Clifford remains out with a concussion suffered in the first game of the series with Vancouver.
Stat Pack: After scoring six power-play goals in five games against the Sharks, the Blues are 0-for-12 so far in this series and 0-for-26 against the Kings including the four regular-season games. … Kopitar's first goal Monday came shorthanded and was the Kings' fourth of the playoffs while down a man. Brown has a pair and defenseman Matt Greene scored shorthanded in the series opener. The team only has three power-play goals.
Puck Drop: St. Louis has lost the first two games of a best-of-seven series 15 times. The only time the Blues rallied to win was 40 years ago against the Minnesota North Stars.
"We just have to look back on what we did as a team when we were playing well," forward Jamie Langenbrunner said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We realize that first period was as bad of a period as we've played in a long time. It's frustrating to do in that situation, but it is only one game. It's a situation where we've lost two games, but they've got a long ways to go. They've got to still beat us two more times and I don't think we're going to be a team that's going to roll over and give it to them easy. We've got the ability to play good hockey, and we feel if we do that, we can control our own destiny a little bit."