Keaton Ellerby, right, shown battling Vancouver's Mason Raymond,… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
ST. LOUIS -- This being playoff time, NHL coaches are even more secretive than usual about changes they’ve made in their line combinations or defense pairs.
So even though Kings defenseman Matt Greene missed the season finale because of an undisclosed injury, even though he was paired in Tuesday’s morning skate with extra defenseman Alec Martinez and stayed on the ice with Martinez, Colin Fraser and Tyler Toffoli long after the rest of the team had left, Coach Darryl Sutter still wouldn’t confirm Greene’s status for Game 1 of the team’s playoff series against the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.
“We’ll have an extra forward and an extra defenseman in warmup,” Sutter said.
Greene missed most of the season after undergoing back surgery. But Sutter said last week that Greene’s most recent problem was not related to the back injury.
Keaton Ellerby, who has one NHL playoff game on his resume, was expected to take Greene’s place on Tuesday. He was paired in the morning skate with Jake Muzzin; the other pairs were Robyn Regehr with Drew Doughty, and Rob Scuderi with Slava Voynov.
Ellerby’s lone playoff appearance came last season, while he played for Florida. “I got hit into an open bench gate and got a hematoma in my leg,” he said in explaining why his postseason resume was cut short. “It was still a cool experience to be part of the NHL playoffs.”
He said he might be “a little bit” nervous if he gets to double his playoff game total on Tuesday, but that he will try to be calm.
“When you’re nervous you tend to make mistakes,” said Ellerby, who has turned out to be a solid pickup for the Kings since they acquired him from Florida on Feb. 7 for a fifth-round draft pick.
“I’m going to treat it like another game. Obviously, it’s a must-win game. It’s a much bigger game. But it’s still a hockey game. Just go out and play and do what we’ve done to get us here and I think we’re going to be all right.”
Even with one game of playoff experience Ellerby is ahead of veteran Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who will be making his postseason debut on Tuesday after nine-plus NHL seasons. Bouwmeester played 764 regular-season games without appearing in a playoff game, the highest total among active players.
“That’s a pretty discouraging thing to go that long without playoffs,” Ellerby said.
But at last, Bouwmeester is here.
“It’s exciting. It’s the time of year when you want to be playing,” Bouwmeester said. “We believe in our group here and I’m looking forward to getting that first game out of the way.”
The Blues were expected to make one lineup change. Winger T.J. Oshie, who underwent ankle surgery a few weeks ago, was expected to return and skate alongside David Perron and Patrik Berglund. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko was expected to sit out. Coach Ken Hitchcock said Tarasenko likely will play sometime during the playoffs, but he preferred to go with experience in the opener.
“I’ve always believed that the first kick at the can in playoffs is for veteran players,” Hitchcock said.
“You want to give the veterans a chance, unless they’ve really underperformed, to prove they want to take the ball and run with it, and that’s what we’re going to do. If somebody underperforms we won’t hesitate to replace him.”
The Kings' lines in the morning skate were the same as in practice on Monday: Dustin Brown-Mike Richards-Justin Williams; Kyle Clifford-Anze Kopitar-Jeff Carter; Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis; Dustin Penner-Brad Richardson-Jordan Nolan.
We’ll have more Kings-Blues coverage later.
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