The Blues lost all four games against the Kings in last year’s playoffs, and they lost all three regular season meetings this season.
So why does Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock think this time around will be different?
“The one thing we have going for us is I don’t think they know our team, because they haven’t played against this team,” Hitchcock said after today’s practice. “This is a different team than they played even here in the 4-2 (loss on March 28), and it’s a much different team than they played in the 6-4 (loss on March 5). What we’re hoping on is the way we played at the end of the year in the last six weeks is what our team is and we’re good enough to play against them.
“We’ve been preparing for this for 10 days and we think we’re ready.”
Since last playing the Kings on March 28, the Blues have won 12 of their last 15 games.
The Kings had an impressive 16-4 record last season in the playoffs en route to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Hitchcock said they are the only team in the League with the knowledge of what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.
“They know how deep they have to go, they know how deep they have to dig. Nobody has that knowledge,” Hitchcock said. “We’re all trying to get it, but they’ve got it. We’re going to have to find that if we expect to win because they’re not going to give us anything easy.”
As has been his mantra lately, Hitchcock told members of the media not to read into today’s lines in practice.
Said Hitchcock: “I’ve always believed the first kick at the can in playoffs is for veteran players. You give them a go. Tarasenko and (Dmitrij) Jaskin will probably get some time during the playoffs, but you want to give the veterans a chance to prove they want to take the ball and run with it. That’s what we’re going to do. If somebody underperforms, we won’t hesitate to replace and move from there.”
Expect Barret Jackman back in the lineup tonight, too. He said he would have played on April 27 vs. Chicago if it had been a playoff game. Well, tonight is a playoff game.
“To be where we are now, we’ve very grateful of what we had to go through to be here,” Cracknell said. “Sitting on the bus in Peoria, you don’t think you’re going to be playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions. We’ll never forget what it took to get here, but we have to live in the moment right now and take care of what we have to do tonight. That’s why we’re here.”
“Everyone knows the atmosphere and everything that goes with these games,” Bouwmeester said. “It’s something you look forward to. Everyone has those little butterflies I guess, but I think once you get in the game, it all goes away and you just play hockey.”
Brian Elliott will start in goal. He’s looking for his 12th win in April, which would extend his new franchise record set earlier this month.
The Blues allowed just one power-play goal on 21 opportunities against the Kings in Round 2 last season.
How important is home-ice advantage? The Blues are 45-13-6 at home since 2011-12 and have outscored opponents at Scottrade Center 176-120 (+56).
David Backes had 30 hits vs. LA last season, ranking fifth overall in the League.
The pregame rally starts at 4:30 p.m. outside Scottrade Center tonight. The Blues have prize
giveaways, live music and more planned. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
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