Game 3 Preview: Blues and Kings
After two strong performances on the road, the Los Angeles Kings return home to take on the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center. In Game 1, the Kings fell behind early on a tip-in goal by David Backes, but were quick to respond with a goal by Slava Voynov and a shorthander by Matt Greene. Dustin Penner added the empty net goal to seal the 3-1 victory. In Game 2, Mike Richards started off the scoring just 31 seconds into the game, closely followed by a shorthanded goal by Anze Kopitar, a snipe by Jeff Carter and a redirection by Kopitar that was followed by a shower of boos from the hostile St. Louis crowd. The Blues answered quickly in the second period, scoring 18 seconds in on a goal by Andy McDonald. Justin Williams then scored for the Kings just a minute later to make it a 5-1 score. The Blues would add another goal in the third period that would amount to nothing more than a consolation prize as the game ended with the Kings winning 5-2 and taking a 2-0 series lead.
The St. Louis Blues decided to switch up their forward lines once again for Game 3, this time with the combination of David Backes, Andy McDonald and Matt D’Agostini on their top line. When asked about the possibility of Alex Pietrangelo playing in Game 3, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said that if Pietrangelo “feels OK tomorrow and wants to give it a go, we’ll let him go.’’ Their stellar blue liner did practice on Wednesday with the team. The keys for the Blues going into the game on Thursday, is to keep up the hard hitting, up tempo pace that they have played with this year, but to also focus on their defensive game, which led them to the #2 seed in the Western Conference.
While maintaining their perfect record on the road in the playoffs this year, the Kings also proved that they can play a lock down style of defense or can open up the game into the offensive side of things. After riding Jonathan Quick through Game 1, the Kings took much of the pressure off of his shoulders in Game 2 and placed it squarely on Brian Elliott, who gave up 4 goals in the first period and a season most, 5 goals against in the game. It appears that no changes are imminent to the Kings line up for Game 3, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a different approach. Darryl Sutter had the team stay at a downtown hotel in advance of a rare morning skate at Staples Center. The keys for the Kings are to stick to their game and continue to build off their strong defense and goaltending. If the team continues to get contributions from the top two lines, along with some secondary scoring help and strong goaltending from Jonathan Quick, it is reasonable to believe the Kings can take Game 3.