Tale of the Tape: Blues vs Kings

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On Sunday, the Los Angeles Kings will host the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal (12:30 pm ET, NBC). The Kings lead the series 3-0; here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Leading scorers

Los Angeles: Dustin Brown (4G-5A-9PTS) | Andy McDonald (5G-5A-10PTS)

Starting goalies

Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick (7-1, 1.62 GAA) | Brian Elliott (3-3, 2.43 GAA)

Head-to-head

Los Angeles won season series 3-1

Oct. 18: At Los Angeles 5, St. Louis 0
Nov. 22: Los Angeles 3, at St. Louis 2
Feb. 3: At St. Louis 1, Los Angeles 0
Mar. 22: At Los Angeles 1, St. Louis 0, SO

Game 1: Los Angeles 3, St. Louis 1

How bad have the St. Louis Blues been in this series? Well, David Backes scored the first goal of the series at 9:16 of the first period and Slava Voynov tied the game 7:52 minutes later. That is the only length of time that the Blues have ever had the lead in this entire series.

Matt Greene scored the game-winning goal while the Kings were shorthanded. Dustin Penner sealed the deal with an empty netter at 19:45 of the third period.

Brian Elliott has taken some heat for his play in this series, but he held his own in Game 1. However, things only went downhill from here for the Blues…

Game 2: Los Angeles 5, St. Louis 2

This is the first time in the playoffs that Jaroslav Halak’s ankle injury became a big problem for the Blues. Elliott allowed four goals on 16 shots in the first period.

Under normal circumstances, that’s bad enough to warrant a goaltender swap. Even if you want to argue that, given how one-sided the first period was, Elliott doesn’t deserve all of the blame, switching netminders might have sparked the team. However, with Halak gone, the Blues had no alternative with NHL experience.

Goaltender Jake Allen actually did end up getting a bit of time between the pipes, but it was a mere 1:07 minute cameo and he didn’t face a single shot on goal.

St. Louis did significantly better over the final 40 minutes, but they couldn’t get much by Jonathan Quick. With that, the Kings improved to 5-0 on the road in the 2012 playoffs.

Game 3: Los Angeles 4, St. Louis 2
For a team already down 2-0 in the series, the Blues couldn’t get much done in this game. They only managed four shots over the first 20 minutes and it was the Kings’ Justin Williams who scored the first goal of the game.

The Blues were beaten in almost every conceivable way as the Los Angeles Kings established their second straight 3-0 series lead.

The Kings got help from unlikely sources, including Dwight King, who netted his first goal of the postseason. However, a number of their best players, including Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty carried the brunt of the load.

Quick only needed to stop 18 shots to earn his fourth straight victory. He has allowed three or more goals in just one start in the Kings’ postseason run.

Injuries

St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak (ankle), Jason Arnott (lower body)

Los Angeles: Simon Gagne (concussion), Kevin Westgarth (hand), Scott Parse (hip)

Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

AP
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When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

NJ Devils on Twitter
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The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
• For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

• Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

• The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

• Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

• In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

• Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

• Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

• How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

• Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

• Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

• Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

• Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

• The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

• Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

• Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck