Blues not dwelling on squandered chances; Schwartz OK; Hitch mum on lineup
By LOUIE KORAC
LOS ANGELES -- The Blues had the majority of their team on the ice for a brisk skate Sunday at Staples Center on the heels of a tough loss in Game 3 to the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night.
The Kings' 1-0 victory did not come without some missed golden opportunities for the Blues to lay a serious stranglehold in the series. But as they prepare for Monday's Game 4 (9 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), the Blues will not dwell on the lost opportunities of Game 3 but rather look ahead of doing more of the same things, but finishing what they started.
"I think everybody saw that we had good chances to score not one but a couple goals," said center Patrik Berglund, one of a number of regulars who skated Sunday. "Still, it's up to us to put the puck in. ... I think everyone's got to keep going and have a good feeling. We're playing with them, we're doing a good job getting the chances. We've got to keep going at it and they will come.
"We can still get more, but I think we've had some real good chances every game. When we get in on the forecheck too, we're creating a lot of chances."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock liked the effort, not the result.
"I think I'm sour at losing like anyone would be," Hitchcock said. "I thought we absorbed a lot of blows early in the first period. They came at us hard, and then I thought we really played well. We played well in the second and third period.
"I don't know if it was missed opportunities or unlucky or whatever, but I think it's two teams with not much difference in their games right now. I'm sure they felt the same after Game 2. They had lots of good looks in Game 2 and then we absorbed some blows. They came back in the third period. The series is what it is. It's just great hockey played by two teams pouring everything they've got into it. Who knows where it's going to go? ... I don't see either team giving in much right now."
Some of the terrific chances at goals came from David Backes (a shorthanded breakaway in the first and a one-timer stopped by Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in the second), Andy McDonald (a whiffed attempt on a rebound of Chris Stewart's shot in the second), Alexander Steen (missing an open net in the slot during the second period) and Jordan Leopold (missed the net on a third-period breakaway and the Kings' Justin Williams poking the puck away in the waning seconds of an empty side of the goal).
But as winger T.J. Oshie put it, worry about what you can control anymore and not what you can't.
"I think those guys just need to let those go because the tighter they grab their sticks, the more it's going to fumble on us and the more we're going to miss the net in situations," Oshie said. "I think we can take a lot away from yesterday that were positives. The major thing we've got to do is have a better first period."
However, for a team that's not accustomed to scoring a lot,
"I don't think we're a team that gets that many chances so it was weird to get those and not score on them," Blues winger David Perron said. "I don't know if it's because we're not used to it in our style of play obviously is more on preventing the other team to get scoring chances rather than trying to get as many as we can. It's definitely weird and guys probably aren't used to it. Maybe that's what happened there, and if we get the chance, we've got to put it home."
With the chances the Blues did generate, one feels good that the puck will eventually go in at some point Monday night.
"It's a one-goal game and we certainly generated enough chances in the game," forward Andy McDonald said regarding Game 3. "They're a tough team. I think we're a little down in here on ourselves, but reality is they're playing hard, too. They do the same things and want to do all the same things we do. The teams are similar. ... You can say we're a little unlucky. There were a couple opportunities where the puck was right there (and) we don't bury it. That's the difference a lot of times. We had our fair share if not more than they did. ... Hopefully we can get a little bit more upbeat about tomorrow and not so down about the last (game)."
* Schwartz OK -- Blues rookie Jaden Schwartz, who took a spill in the third period of Saturday's loss and reportedly hobbled off the ice, was back at the rink Sunday and participated in Sunday's drills.
Schwartz, who has taken a role on the top line with Backes and Steen, skated fluently and without reservation Sunday and looks like will be fine enough to play Monday.
"Everyone's going to get a little banged up eventually, but it's a hard-fought series," Schwartz said. "It was tough again last night. It was good to go for a skate today, feels a little bit better, but I feel fine."
Hitchcock said his lineup from Saturday is still in tact.
"I think we're healthy," he said. "We got everybody that played last game available to us, so we'll just see from there."
* Tarasenko close to return? -- Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series, could very well re-enter the lineup for Monday's Game 4.
With the Blues having only scored four goals in three games, getting a boost from a rested Tarasenko could provide an offensive spark.
However, Hitchcock wouldn't divulge any lineup changes, if any, for Monday.
"I haven't gotten that far yet. That's tomorrow's decision," Hitchcock said. "I'll have to sleep on a lot of that stuff just to see what we need.
"He looks hungry and ready to play. I'm sure he's going to play well when he gets in, but you're not really sure if you want to screw around with the lineup right now when we're playing so well either, so I've got to balance that out right now."
During Sunday's skate, Hitchcock pulled Tarasenko off the ice and sat with him on the visitor's bench. It was a good opportunity to pick Tarasenko's brain a bit and see what he's learned about playoff hockey.
"That's why I talked to him today. I wanted to know what he learned, and he was right on the mark," Hitchcock said. "I said, 'What's the difference? What do you see?' Then I asked him about a couple players on our team and what he sees in their games. He's very astute. He's right on the mark. His evaluation was right on the mark. That's what I wanted to see was how much he had to observe, what he saw, what he thought he saw, how it would fit into his game and stuff like that."
* Tight-knit series -- How tight has the Blues-Kings series been? Well consider that the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have also played three games. The two teams have combined to score 11 goals in the first period alone. It would equal the equivalent of one game.
The Blues and Kings have combined to score seven goals ... in three-plus games.
Even though chances have been had by both sides, goals have been tough to come by.
"We're two teams that play a defensive style to begin with," Blues winger David Perron said. "I think on both sides, we've been getting chances that we don't put in. That's why it's such a weird series so far, yet we're up 2-1. But it could be the other way around right now.
"We've just got to keep playing through it, and on some of the certain chances that we get, we've got to put them in. Yesterday there were at least four or five that have got to be in, no question."
Added Oshie: "We're not going 3-on-2 back and forth. We're going 5-on-5 down the ice. We expected this, but we're getting our chances. It just comes down to burying them. Hopefully that will open up the doors a little bit."
The Blues' Brian Elliott (0.93 goals-against average with a .962 save percentage) and the Kings' Jonathan Quick (1.22 GAA, .959 save percentage) have had plenty to say about the low-scoring series but the teams with the lowest shots against in the Western Conference simply don't give up much in quality opportunities either.
"We're both teams that work very hard defensively," Schwartz said. "Both have great goaltending. I didn't know what to expect. I guess you never know when playoff time comes, but teams that don't give up a whole lot in their net and teams that take pride in their defense, that's the main focus on both teams. I'm not surprised to see the low scores.
"We're getting shots. There's no doubt about that, but you want to make sure they're quality shots. You want to make sure you're shooting with a purpose, you're getting traffic on net. You might get a little unlucky at times, but I think we can generate a little more as far as getting traffic."