Apr 11, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) celebrates with defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) following the game against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Blues defeated Wild 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
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No. 4 St. Louis Blues (29-17-2) vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Kings (27-16-5)
Story line: Blues finished impressively strong to earn home-ice advantage, while the Kings attempt to become first NHL champion to repeat since 1998.
Season series: Los Angeles won all three games, outscoring the Blues 14-7. The Kings won 4-1, 6-4 and 4-2.
Section: St. Louis Blues
Goalies: St. Louis' Brian Elliott (14-8-1, 2.28, .907) vs. Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick (18-13-4, .2.45, 902). Goaltending was a merry-go-round for St. Louis this season, but Elliott gave up one or no goals in nine of his last 11 starts. Quick can trump that with a championship ring and a Conn Smythe Trophy earned a little more than 10 months ago. But Quick has not been as dominant as he was last season.
Leading scorers: St. Louis, RW Chris Stewart (18-18-36). Los Angeles, C Anze Kopitar (10-32-42).
Who's hot: D Jay Bouwmeester had seven points and was plus-5 in 14 games with St. Louis. Blues were 11-3 with Boumeester in the lineup.
Injuries: St. Louis, D Barret Jackman (ankle) will play, F T.J. Oshie (foot) should be ready, and F Scott Nichol (lower body) indefinite; Los Angeles, D Willie Mitchell (knee) out for the season.
Why the Kings should win this series
1. Although they are the lower seed, they handled the Blues this season.
2. The Kings are a big, bullish team that seems made for the postseason. They have a handful of players who weigh in the 217 to 240 range. They can play a rough, physical series.
3. They know what it takes to win, and they have enough new faces to have renewed hunger. Jeff Carter is an improved player.
Why the Blues could post an upset
The late-season additions of Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold made the Blues' defense more skilled and deeper. The Blues give up fewer shots on goal than any team in the playoffs. St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock likes opponents to feel pressured. The Blues are peaking at the right time. They were playing playoff-style hockey down the stretch, and they presumably learned from last season's loss to LA.
Prediction: Maybe the abbreviated season took the Stanley Cup hangover out of the equation. Kings win in seven games. This could be the best series in the West.
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