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Kings start Stanley Cup defense against Blues

by Brian Hunter /

KINGS (27-16-5) at BLUES (29-17-2)


Last 10: Los Angeles 5-3-2; St. Louis 7-3-0

Season series: The Los Angeles Kings not only swept the St. Louis Blues out of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they picked up where they left off by taking all three meetings during the 2012-13 regular season. Jeff Carter scored three goals and six different Kings recorded four points.

Big story: The Kings begin their defense of the Stanley Cup against a team that hasn't beaten them in nine meetings, combining the regular season and playoffs, dating back to Feb. 3, 2012. Don't expect this matchup of No. 4 and 5 seeds to be a cakewalk, though. The Blues once again have home ice and come in having won six straight at Scottrade Center. They also have one of the NHL's hottest goaltenders in Brian Elliott, who went 11-2 in April, allowing one goal or less 10 times.

Team Scope:

Kings: This series could have started in Los Angeles, but the Kings lost back-to-back road games in Minnesota and Detroit during the final week of the regular season to slip out of the fourth seed. However, they avoided dropping to sixth and having to face a division winner in Vancouver by edging Pacific Division rival San Jose 3-2 in the regular-season finale. Jonathan Quick, last year's Conn Smythe winner, stopped 23 shots as he looks to rediscover his playoff form.

"We know what we're getting [in St. Louis]," said Anze Kopitar, who led the Kings in scoring this season with 42 points. "They have some big bodies and they play a heavy game. We have some big bodies, and we're pretty familiar. We've played them enough in past seasons."

Blues: A three-game winning streak to end the regular season allowed St. Louis to claim home ice in the first round. The Blues are 15-8-1 in their building, with their only loss in the past month a 2-0 setback to the Blackhawks on April 14. Jaden Schwartz scored a pair of goals and Elliott made 22 saves as they concluded the regular season with a 3-1 victory against a Hawks team resting many of its regulars. While fellow veteran Jaroslav Halak is healthy again and able to play, Elliott's hot streak has made him the undisputed No. 1 heading into the playoffs.

"He's back playing the way he did all of last year," coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He was very good when Jaro got hurt in the playoffs and then he had the inner-ear infection and didn't really play up to par until the last game when he was healthy. I just like his frame of mind. I like his disposition. He's a confident guy right now and we're going to need him."

Who's hot: The Kings won last year by getting contributions up and down the lineup, and Kyle Clifford enters Game 1 with goals in each of his past two games. … Elliott posted a 1.28 goals-against average and .948 save percentage for the Blues in April.

Injury report: Los Angeles forward Mike Richards (illness) played less than 10 minutes in the season finale but is expected to see regular duty in Game 1, but the status of defenseman Matt Greene (undisclosed) is less certain. … St. Louis hopes to activate forward T.J. Oshie (foot) off injured reserve to play in the opener. Defenseman Barret Jackman (ankle) is also likely to suit up, while forward Scott Nichol (lower body) is out indefinitely.

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