Blues will try to buck the odds and remain alive in the NHL playoffs

News-DemocratMay 9, 2013 

— There are several factors that will be working against the St. Louis Blues as they try to remain alive in their first-round playoff series.

They trail the best-of-seven series against the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 with Game 6 set for 9 p.m. Friday at Staples Center.

* The Blues last win in Los Angeles was a 4-0 victory on March 17, 2011, and they have lost seven straight to the Kings at Staples Center. That includes Games 3 and 4 of their current playoff series.

* The Kings are 21-4-1 overall at home this season and have won four straight home playoff games against the Blues counting last season.

* The Blues have won only one playoff series since 2002, defeating San Jose in the first-round last spring.

* In their last seven playoff elimination games, the Blues are 0-7. The last time they avoided being eliminated was a Game 6 victory over San Jose on April 23, 2000 in the conference quarterfinals.

* The Kings have won their last nine home games and are the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Even faced with those facts, the Blues and coach Ken Hitchcock seemed awfully optimistic Thursday despite being only a few hours removed from a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 5 the night before.

"Bring it back home, that's why we worked so hard for home ice," Blues center Chris Porter said. "Lock up Game 6 and come back home for Game 7."

Hitchcock offered a similar assessment.

"I think we're going to play really well," Hitchcock said Thursday. "I really do. I said that after yesterday and I feel the same way today. You can't determine the outcome as a coach because you can't score goals for people and you can't stop pucks.

"All you can do is determine whether you're going to play well --and the feeling I have right now is we're really going to play well tomorrow."

The first five games were all decided by one goal, two of which reached overtime. According to the NHL, the Blues and Kings have been tied or separated by one goal for 98.4 percent of the series.

It's been that close.

However, the Blues -- who have played right with and at times better than the Kings for much of the series despite losing the last three games -- have been forced into elimination mode.

"For our team the message is just whatever's happened, let it go," Blues winger Andy McDonald said. "You really have to have short-term memory in the playoffs, realize that it's the game in front of you."

While the Blues are in a desperate situation --one loss and they're done -- Hitchcock doesn't want his team playing "desperate hockey."

"That's the most misused word in sports," he said. "Desperate is usually chaos that usually ends up in the back of your net. Whet we need to do is play with competitive control and a high level of intensity."

Porter said the Blues are capable of bringing the series back to St. Louis, but it will take better execution in all phases of the game.

"I think we're more hungry than anything," Porter said. "We have something to prove. Obviously we haven't fared so well in L.A., so we're looking to go out and put a 60-minute effort together, no roller-coaster this time.

"They're playing with confidence. They're the Stanley Cup champions so they know what it takes to win."

Hitchcock said the Blues' problems against the Kings at Staples Center have nothing to do with the rink or the atmosphere.

"It's the team," he said. "They're built as a very competitive, physical group. They've learned their lessons four years ago, five years ago. They play hard, they play tough, they play physical, they forecheck hard. You've just got to be ready for the level of competition.

"I don't care if we played them in the street. They've learned how to play this way, it's a very effective way of playing. It wears you down if you're not ready for it."

Hitchcock and the Blues have a lot of respect for the Kings and what they have accomplished. Now they have to find a way to continue their season.

"Any team that didn't have their experience, to get down 2-0, wouldn't have come back," Hitchcock said. "They know how to win, they've been through this before. They were in a lot of these battles for a few years before they figured out what to do."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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