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Kings could face short-handed Blues team in Game 2

St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who went face-first into the end boards after being hit by the Kings' Dwight King in Game 1, does not practice Sunday. He leads the Blues in ice time per game.

April 29, 2012|By Lisa Dillman
  • Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stops a shot by St. Louis Blues left wing Andy McDonald during game 1 of the second-round NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoff series in St. Louis.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stops a shot by St. Louis Blues left wing… (Chris Lee / Associated Press )

ST. LOUIS — The gavel of NHL justice did not come down on Kings forward Dwight King on Sunday, and, in fact, did not even swing in his general direction.

There were questions — in some quarters — whether King would receive supplementary discipline for his second-period hit on St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the Kings' 3-1 victory Saturday in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals. King received a two-minute minor for boarding after Pietrangelo went face-first into the end boards. The defenseman did not return for the third period.

Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said during practice that the team had not heard from the league and probably would have had an indication shortly after Game 1 if a hearing were looming.

Pietrangelo did not skate Sunday, and his availability is uncertain for Game 2 on Monday. If he does not play, the impact on the Blues would be like the Kings' losing the dynamic presence of defenseman Drew Doughty.

It could drastically change the complexion of the series.

Doughty and Pietrangelo went second and fourth, respectively, in the NHL entry draft in 2008. They both lead their teams in a hugely important category: minutes played per game.

In the regular season, Pietrangelo's playing time per game was 24 minutes and 43 seconds, leading the Blues by a wide margin. Next were defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (21:36) and Barret Jackman (20:40), the only two in excess of 20 minutes. The Kings, in contrast, had six players averaging 20-plus minutes per game, led by Doughty's 24:53.

The Kings seemed surprised there were questions raised about supplementary discipline. Coach Darryl Sutter said that King was "not a player" who does that, in terms of questionable hits.

"It's a tough game, right?" Sutter said after practice in suburban Chesterfield, Mo. "That's a fact. If you guys want to take hitting out, then see how exciting it is."

Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said he would put defenseman Ian Cole in the lineup if Pietrangelo were unable to play.

"It's [about] taking on the minutes," Hitchcock said of allocating playing time. "Just don't be writing him off yet."

The Blues lost the opening game to the San Jose Sharks in their first-round series, at home in St. Louis, and took the next four.

At least one of the Kings preferred not to dwell on their ability to win away from Staples Center. The Kings have not lost on the road in four playoff games this postseason, and the road winning streak is six games, dating to 2011.

"We want to act like it hasn't happened," said left wing Dustin Penner, who had a goal and an assist in Game 1, setting up defenseman Slava Voynov. "…We've been playing every game like it is a one-game season."

Four goals in one game between the Kings and Blues represents something of an offensive explosion for these defense-minded teams. At least based on what happened in their final two games in the regular season.

"If we score one tomorrow and St. Louis scores three, then I'll guarantee you that somebody just looks at the stats and is asleep on the East Coast when our games are on, they're, 'Oh, that team can't score goals,' " Sutter said.

That got him going and merely paved the way for him to take the conversation and tweak it, turning it to Kings center Mike Richards and his impact. Richards and his hard work along the wall against Jackman helped lead to the Kings' first goal, by Voynov, on Saturday late in the first period to tie it, 1-1.

"The guys talking about our team, they are either sound asleep or they didn't watch," Sutter said. "They get the [summary] sheets and they go, 'Oh, we need more out of Mike Richards.' Mike Richards and [Vancouver's] Ryan Kesler was as big a battle as I've seen in a series in all my years.

"It was huge. We had no chance of winning if that didn't happen. ... The best way I always look at it with those guys: Take them out of your lineup and see how much you like your team."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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