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Kings go for the clincher against Blues

by John Kreiser


(Los Angeles leads best-of-seven series 3-0)


Big Story: The Kings go for the knockout before what's sure to be a raucous sellout crowd at Staples Center, while the Blues look for a way to send the series back to St. Louis for Game 5.

Team Scope:

Blues: To say that the Blues have been stunned after dropping three in a row to Los Angeles -- after not losing three straight games in regulation during the regular season -- would be an understatement. They haven't had a lead since the early stages of Game 1, are taking a lot of undisciplined penalties and are not getting the kind of goaltending that helped them lead the NHL in goals-against during the regular season.

"We're not built for coming from behind all the time," coach Ken Hitchcock said.

One problem for the Blues is that they're facing a team that plays a style similar to theirs -- but it doing it better.

"I think we're getting done to us what we've done to teams all year," Hitchcock said. "I think we're getting it done to us. It's how do we react to this now?

Kings: With his team one game away from making the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1993, it's fair to say that GM Dean Lombardi's midseason coaching change has been a success. The arrival of Darryl Sutter following the firing of Terry Murray has ratcheted up the team's intensity. He's not the screamer that some might have anticipated, but he's got his team ready to play every night. Sutter has the Kings playing the kind of grinding game that often produces success in the postseason.

"He pushes the right buttons," captain Dustin Brown said. "I think one problem we had as a team was, before he got here, was getting emotionally attached to games. He brought that emotional level up. You can do all the X's and O's right, but if you're not emotionally attached, it's really hard to win in the League. And he's brought attention to that. Again, that comes with pushing guys and patting guys on the back at the right time."

Who's Hot: L.A.'s Jonathan Quick has been the best goaltender through the first two rounds of the playoffs. He's won seven of eight games and has a 1.62 goals-against average and .948 save percentage.

Injury Report: The Blues are still without goaltender Jaroslav Halak (ankle) and played Game 3 without center Jason Arnott, who's day-to-day with a lower-body injury. … The Kings have been without forward Simon Gagne (concussion) since late December.

Stat Pack: The Blues' top-six forwards had 10 goals and 15 assists in five games against San Jose, but have managed just two goals and five assists in three games vs. L.A. Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie do not have a point in the series. Andy McDonald, who went 4-4-8 in five games against the Sharks, has one goal, one assist and only six shots on goal despite averaging 20:14 of ice time against the Kings. … The Kings have gone up 3-0 in both their playoff series this spring after never winning the first three games in any series since entering the NHL in 1967.

Puck Drop: It's a busy spring at Staples Center, where the Kings are jockeying for playoff dates and practice time with the NBA's Clippers and Lakers, both of whom qualified for the postseason. The constant turnover in the building has meant that the Kings often have to have their morning skates at their practice facility rather than on their home ice -- much to the chagrin of Sutter, who wants his players to get used to the game-day environment.

"Young guys … don't get to go and skate. They go there at night and play the game and they're there for three or four hours," Sutter said. "You don't get to experience the whole atmosphere of it. When you look at it, you'd like to do it all the time. It's the only chance we've had to it. You've got three teams and you can't do it. You've got six days here. If the Sunday game was an afternoon game we could actually do it twice."

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