Kings defenseman Drew Doughty collides with Blues winger TJ Oshie in overtime… (Bill Boyce / Associated…)
ST. LOUIS — From being overwhelmed by the Blues' frenzied forechecking at the start to losing on a stunning misplay by Jonathan Quick at the end, the Kings know they must improve in several areas to leave Scottrade Center on Thursday with a split of the first two games of their opening-round playoff series.
Speaking after an optional practice Wednesday, the morning after the team's 2-1 overtime loss at St. Louis, Coach Darryl Sutter was clear about who must step up. Asked how the Kings can counter the Blues' energetic fourth line of Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves and Adam Cracknell, Sutter was blunt: "Some of the boys that play on our fourth line have to play like big boys."
He also indicated he won't reunite top-line center Anze Kopitar — who has no goals in 17 games — with long-time winger Dustin Brown. It's likely Brown will stay with Mike Richards and Justin Williams, putting Kopitar with Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner in anticipation of the Blues again matching burly David Backes against Kopitar. Carter ranked fourth in the NHL with 26 goals.
"Jeff and Kopi play really well together, and they play a lot of power play time together. They have something there," Sutter said. "So that's the reason we did it. And quite honest, Mike and Brownie really were our best line by a long shot [Tuesday] night. So it's really more on Kopi to play better, not putting somebody with him to help him.
"I wish I got to play with the leading goal scorer in the Western Conference."
It seemed likely defenseman Matt Greene will be scratched again, and that's after Sutter acknowledged playoff newcomers Jake Muzzin and Keaton Ellerby "had trouble early in the game" that put pressure on the other four defensemen.
One of that quartet, Robyn Regehr, suffered a broken nose when he was hit by Backes' skates during a scramble behind the net early in the third period. He bled profusely but missed only a few shifts.
"I think the first skate came in and the blade barely missed me. And then the second, I just kind of got hit by the back of the heel," said Regehr, whose nose was swollen and purple Wednesday. "I was very lucky I didn't get sliced."
Sutter's decision on Greene hinges on the defenseman regaining his timing after playing only four games following back surgery.
"You don't just put him in the lineup because he's Matt Greene. Matt Greene has to be able to play, to perform," Sutter said. "We were hoping to get more games from him, and he got banged up. We'll see. I'm quite happy playing those two kids because they're both very capable too."
Sutter and players repeated their support of Quick in the wake of Alex Steen's winning goal, the first playoff overtime short-handed goal since Edmonton's Fernando Pisani scored against Carolina in Game 5 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
If Quick could be faulted for anything, it might be for turning and exposing the puck to the forechecking Steen instead of keeping the puck between the boards and his body. Steen darted in, took the puck away and scored on a wraparound backhander.
"It's a tough play for Quickie," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I'm going back on the left side and their guy's kind of with me. I don't think [Quick] had an out on the other side. I was calling for a rim around the boards, and I can see why he doesn't want to rim it, because that creates a battle for me. So it was just a tough bounce.
"He tried to make the right play. He drew the guy in and tried to bank it to me, and I would have been able to take off because that guy would have been low. It was the right play to make. It was just unfortunate how it panned out. ... No one is blaming him for that loss."
To avoid another loss, Doughty said the Kings must counter the Blues' forecheck better and get their own forecheck going.
"We have to be quicker," Doughty said. "They're coming hard on their forecheck. They're banging bodies. They're creating those little turnovers, and I think a lot of times when they created those turnovers we kind of went into panic mode and tried to make up for that mistake quickly, and I think that's the wrong thing to do."