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Kings ready for another physical battle with Blues

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings went through last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs like a buzz saw. So far this spring, that saw has been dulled, bent and chipped in what is arguably the most closely contested series of this postseason.

"I don't remember all the statistics from series in the past, but from what I've read there [were] 377-some hits going into last game," Dustin Penner said of L.A.'s Western Conference Quarterfinal against the St. Louis Blues.

"I'd have to think this is the most physical one I've been a part of so far."

Subjective as the statistic might be, there have been 406 hits credited to the teams through five games. Penner said he's heard from friends around the NHL about the physicality of this series. The teams mirror each other, with huge forwards and a crash-bang style in which every inch of ice is hard-earned.

"When you hear it from other guys around the League that are like, 'Wow,' that's when you kind of take a step back and go, 'Yeah, that actually is as physical as they're saying,'" Penner said. "For us, it's just normal."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter has been through a few of these types of series as a player and a coach. But even the typically surprised-at-nothing Sutter acknowledged Thursday this is a first-round contest in which momentum is gained shift to shift.

"Both teams check so well," Sutter said. "That's the thing. Both teams try and forecheck. They've probably spent more time in our zone than we'd like. But it's been like that. It's been a banging series. But it's also the least penalized series, if you look at it. That tells you both teams ... the style they play and the discipline they play. That's why it's a long series. I think it's a good series."

This is an abrupt change from 2012 for L.A., which went 16-4 in the postseason on its way to the Stanley Cup. The Kings dropped the first two games of this series but take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 on Friday at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a playoff series historically win about 86 percent of the time, but this is no ordinary series.

It seems like nitpicking, but closing out a series was a bit of stumbling point last postseason for L.A., which was 4-4 in elimination games. However, the Kings are 6-1 all-time when leading 3-2 in a playoff series.

Can they draw on last season's experience to close out a series this time?

Sutter said the Kings are still a young a team and "there are still constant reminders" when it comes to his message. He pointed to the condensed 48-game schedule being the toughest part of this season.

Captain Dustin Brown said Sutter is different in one aspect with the team after last year's run.

"He's probably harder this time around because he doesn't want us to rest or think it's going to be easy, partly because we've lost two games and we lost four all last year," Brown said. "I think he's just trying to bring more attention consistently. He knows what we went through last year and everyone understands that, but it's just a matter of refocusing because it's going to be a different postseason this year."

The Kings did not skate Thursday. Sutter confirmed that defenseman Robyn Regehr got hit in the nose in Game 5. Regehr broke his nose earlier in the series.

"It was broke so you can't re-broke it," Sutter said.

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