Blues Expect Defensive Challenge vs. LA

Blues / Kings will meet in the Western Conference Semifinals later this week

Monday, 04.23.2012 / 4:17 PM / St Louis Blues - News

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- What do you get when the two stingiest teams meet up in a seven-game playoff series?

The logical answer would be a lot of low-scoring, one-goal games.

Time will tell in the Western Conference Semifinals when the second-seeded St. Louis Blues, fresh off a five-game series win over the San Jose Sharks, face the upstart and eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings, who are coming off a five-game upset of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.

The Blues were 1-2-1 against the Kings this season, with the most recent encounter in Los Angeles on March 22, a 1-0 shootout win in which Jonathan Quick got the better of Brian Elliott.

"It's going to be a real good challenge," Blues winger David Perron said. "We know they're really good defensively and they're a physical team, but we can play with them. The good thing is there's no shootout in the playoffs.

"We've got two real good goalies and they've got Quick, who's real good. They've got [Jonathan] Bernier, who's pretty good, too. I played with him in junior. … For us, we're going to have to play that same style of hockey that we played in that first series. We'll have success that way."

The Blues bested the No. 7 Sharks with a similar style they'll need against the Kings: the ability to play physical, the ability to win puck battles and the ability to maneuver around an ice surface that won't see much real estate.

"I think when you look at both teams, they're built for checking," Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "One does it with position, one does it with more physicality. That will be an interesting challenge.

"When you beat the Presidents' Trophy winner (like the Kings did), you become the No. 1 seed. I think everybody knows that. We've got to be on top of our game. I think if we're on top of our game, this is going to be a great series and I'm really looking forward to it."

Blues winger T.J. Oshie added: "The areas that are sometimes open against other teams are not going to be open against these guys. They play a tight gap, they play great defensively, and they're pretty similar to us. It's going to be a good battle. I'm not going to say it's going to be a one-goal game every game, but it's definitely going to be a defensive battle, and whoever wants to check longer and stay on the puck longer is going to come out on top."

With the way Elliott and Quick have played, one goal per night might be enough to win.

"I read somewhere on Twitter that someone said the first game is going to be like zero to minus-one or something," Perron said, laughing. "We all expect a real defensive matchup. That's the way it was during the season against each other and it's probably going to be the same thing again."

Blues captain David Backes agreed.

"Watch any of their games against the Canucks. They play hard every shift, they've got four lines that are willing to invest in the game," Backes said of the Kings. "Obviously their goaltending's fantastic as well. … We like those types of games, those one-goal games that are low-scoring. That's our style. Hopefully we find some ways to solve Jonathan Quick. He's a good goaltender.

"The guys in here are anxious, they're excited. There's lots of energy here today after a day off."

Hitchcock announced that goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body) will not be available for the first two games of the upcoming series. Halak was injured in Game 2 against the Sharks.

But rather than dwelling on an injury, Hitchcock was more focused on what he's looking for from the Kings.

"L.A. plays nasty. They play real nasty," Hitchcock said. "They, to a man, play with a real edge. They follow the coach's orders, they finish all their checks, they don't swing away on anything. They believe in puck pursuit and angling and determination on the puck. They win the board battles. … They play with a level of commitment to physical play that's going to be a challenge for any team. We're first up."

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1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67


A. Steen 68 33 29 17 62
T. Oshie 79 21 39 19 60
D. Backes 74 27 30 14 57
J. Schwartz 80 25 31 28 56
A. Pietrangelo 81 8 43 20 51
K. Shattenkirk 81 10 35 1 45
V. Tarasenko 64 21 22 20 43
D. Roy 75 9 28 -1 37
J. Bouwmeester 82 4 33 26 37
V. Sobotka 61 9 24 14 33
B. Elliott 18 6 2 .922 1.96
R. Miller 25 30 4 .918 2.64

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