Hitchcock and Sutter are familiar foes

News-DemocratMay 3, 2013 

— St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter have been rivals for years.

Their Western Conference coaching battles have included Hitchcock's Dallas Stars against Sutter's San Jose Sharks, among other rivalries.

When asked to compare himself to Sutter, Hitchcock thought a bit before responding.

"In the summer he talks to cows and I talk to golfers," Hitchcock said, with a nod toward the legendary Sutter family farm in Viking, Alberta, in Canada.

"He's one hell of a coach," Hitchcock said. "The best description I've ever heard in coaching was in the Phelps-Bowman story about creative conflict. That's what both of us have been able to create, creative conflict.

"That's part of coaching, you're getting the players to go into places that they don't want to really want to go into or don't know how to get there. Your job is to help them and along the way there's some conflict, but at the end of the day the reward's worth it. Darryl's had success because of that formula and I've had success because of that formula."

That success has helped the veteran coaches combine for 1,066 regular-season victories and 133 playoff wins before Thursday. Both have one Stanley Cup championship to their credit.

One formula that Hitchcock and a lot of other folks didn't seem to appreciate was the 8:30 p.m. start time for Game 2.

"Better not get to overtime or I'm going to be asleep on the bench," Hitchcock joked Thursday morning. "The gap from now until 8:30 ... there had better be some good games on at 6 o'clock when we're sitting in the office twiddling our thumbs.

"It's a long, long day. I've never seen anything like this so this will be interesting."

Ready for the storm

While storms were forecast for the St. Louis region on Thursday, even they may have trouble matching the intensity between the Blues and Kings for Game 2.

Using strong forechecking and a physical style, they fired 42 shots at Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in Game 1, although Quick stopped 40 of them.

"If Game 1's the high-water mark for us, it's not good enough," Hitchcock said. "It's not good enough to win the series. We're going to have to play better than we did in Game 1 if we expect to win the series.

'To me it's just keeping better. As long as you get better, you push the competition out. If you stay the same or you go backwards then the other team's going to have an advantage."

The Kings had won eight straight against the Blues before losing Tuesday. Last season they led every playoff series 3-0 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.

"They've been pushed to the limit and they've responded every time," Hitchcock said. "Even when we lost four straight last year I thought in three of the games we pushed them right to the limit and they responded.

"We're trying to gain that knowledge on the run here --and the only way you can gain it is by playing better and better every night."

Improved defense has been key

One of the biggest differences for the Blues during their 13-3 run has been the revamped defense featuring veterans Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold.

Besides replacing one-third of their defense late in the season, the Blues also aided numerous aspects of their overall game.

"It's just a matter of getting in the room and finding some chemistry and working with your partner, being able to work into the philosophy," said Leopold, who has meshed well with Kevin Shattenkirk. "That's the biggest thing for Jay and I. The guys have been real accepting. They're happy we're here and it makes things a lot easier."

Shattenkirk, like Leopold, is a strong puck-mover with an offensive edge to his game.

"I think initially just playing with each other we did seem to mesh well," Shattenkirk said. "The ability to talk and communicate is huge. It's a matter of picking each other's tendencies up. ... It's just allowed us to be more successful and have more offensive zone time."

Get out of jail

The last place Shattenkirk wanted to be Tuesday night was in the penalty box during overtime following his four-minute high-sticking penalty that left the Kings with a power play.

But Shattenkirk's agony turned to ecstasy when teammate Alexander Steen scored the short-handed game-winner.

"I just went for a stick lift ... and it's tough break in the game, especially to draw a four-minute penalty there," Shattenkirk said. "It was hard to deal with, hard to sit there and have to worry about letting your teammates down.

"That's obviously what hurts you the most and to see another teammate pick you up like that is huge. It just shows everyone that we're all in it together."

After Steen scored, Shattenkirk's main focus was getting out of the penalty box to join the celebration.

"I think I got out before Steener brought the scrum up to me," Shattenkirk said. "I was out and in the scrum early enough."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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