Dustin Brown of the Kings is ready for the second round. (Harry How / Getty Images )
ST. LOUIS -- Greetings from St. Louis, where it’s overcast and in the 50s…. In other words, spring in the Midwest.
Inside Scottrade Center, the Kings on Friday had their last full practice before they open their second-round series against the Blues on Saturday. The mood was businesslike and purposeful, but forward Brad Richardson’s sprawling, unprovoked tumble at the blue line early in the session did provide some comic relief.
"I didn’t think anybody saw that," said Richardson, whose only injury was to his dignity.
That stumble aside, the Kings are eager to play again after waiting around since they eliminated Vancouver on Sunday. The Blues have had to wait a day longer to resume play after dismissing the San Jose Sharks in five games.
“Both teams have been off for a while so I think both teams are probably ready to go,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "It’s a fun time to play."
The logical and overwhelming consensus is that because the Blues and Kings ranked 1-2 in team goals-against average and because their season series involved four shutouts — including a 0-0 double shutout decided by a shootout — this will be a low-scoring series. Tight defensive hockey has been the trend this spring outside of the Flyers-Penguins goalfest, and Brown said he expects that to continue.
"Especially in the West, the teams that have played their system the best have won the series. And I think that’s going to be key for this series, in particular, for us," Brown said.
“They’re very well-coached and so are we. And it comes down to we’re very similar. Again, defensive numbers, it comes down to goaltending battles and … we had timely scoring from our third and fourth line in series one and we’re going to need more of that this time."
It might not be the most exciting kind of hockey, but Brown said that's of little concern.
"As player you don’t really care what the score is as long as you’re on top. It’s one of those things where you’re seeing what’s going on around the league in other series. You kind of have an eye on it. But at the end of the day, we’re not going to lose a game or win a game 6-5, it’s pretty safe to say."
Center Mike Richards said the one area in which the Kings must improve during this round is with the man advantage, especially given the expectations that these will be low-scoring games. The Kings were three for 26 (11.5%) in their five-game upset of the Canucks in the first round.
"Power plays are going to be the difference, and as we get further on in the playoffs specialty teams are always the difference," Richards said. "And our power play wasn’t always the greatest in the first series and we’ve got to be better. And we know that we’re going to have to score big goals at some point on the power play if we’re going to have success."
Defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings haven’t come close to their peak.
"We played OK in the first round, but I don’t think we even showed close to our potential of how good we can play,” he said.
“We had some good parts to our game. Our penalty kill was good for the most part throughout the series and our power play can be a lot better, I think. We have a lot of ways to improve but we haven’t played our best and that’s what we’re expecting to do in the next few days.”
The lines in practice were what they’ve been the past few days: Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams; Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis; Dustin Penner-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter; and Richardson-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan. The defense pairs were Rob Scuderi-Doughty; Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov; and Alec Martinez-Matt Greene.
Kyle Clifford, who suffered a concussion in the opener of the Vancouver series, skated with extra forwards Scott Parse and Andrei Loktionov.
Richards, incidentally, said he was surprised that the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins lost their Game 7 to Washington on Wednesday.
"I’ve been in their shoes before. Their season was probably pretty long," he said. "They had a lot of depth. Obviously anything can happen in the playoffs."
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