Saturday, April 28, 2012
Kings: Playoffs veer to St. Louis for Game 1
By Dan Arritt
Western Conference Semifinals
Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, 4:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Back at it – After seven days off for the Blues and six for the Kings, the playoffs finally resume for two teams that haven’t been past the first round in the last 10 years. The long break shouldn’t benefit one side over another, but it will be interesting to see if it disrupts any of the rhythm both developed while winning their openers in five games. The first period should be a good indicator of any mothballs that have built up. A slow start by either team could be enough to put them behind for good in what should be a low-scoring game and series.
2. Road Warriors – Dating back to the 2010 playoffs, the Kings don’t have home-ice advantage for the fourth straight series. That’s not such a bad thing, however, considering how the Kings have played on the road. In the last three seasons, they are 7-2 in road playoff games, compared to 2-6 at Staples Center. Kings coach Darryl Sutter made it clear after practice earlier this week that he would still rather be sleeping in his own bed this weekend, and he knows the longer the series drags on, the more of an advantage the home team has. The Kings have managed to steal away home ice in the opening two games the previous two seasons. If they can do it again Saturday, the Kings will rest better no matter where they're sleeping.
3. Penner’s promotion – Kings left wing Dustin Penner has joined Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the second line, giving L.A. a trio with considerable experience in the postseason. Penner can help erase all the bad thoughts from the regular season with some offensive contributions. He really has no reason not to succeed. If he moves his feet and keeps up with Richards and Carter, he should get a handful of scoring chances. What he does with them could go a long way toward determining how successful the Kings are in this series.
4. Third is a charm – While the top two lines for the Kings figure to get all the attention from the Blues, the third line might be in the best position to steal a victory or two. JarretStoll is coming off his overtime game winner in Game 5, his second goal in the Vancouver series. Trevor Lewis also scored against the Canucks and his takeaway set up Stoll’s golden goal. Dwight King should also feel more comfortable on the third line after trying to keep up with Richards and Carter for most of the series.
5. Bring on the back up – For the second straight series, the Kings will probably see a lot more of their opponent’s back-up goalie than the No. 1 netminder. Jaroslav Halak is expected to miss the first two games with a sprained ankle, but Brian Elliott might be the better of the two, just as Cory Schneider of Vancouver looked to have a leg up on Roberto Luongo in the first-round series. Elliott owned a paltry 1.56 goals-against average in a part-time role this season, and won all three starts against the Sharks in the first round.