The series opens with games in St. Louis Saturday and Monday, before shifting to L.A. for a home game Thursday night. That’s a three-day break between Games 2 and 3, but it still isn’t as bad as the opening round against Vancouver, when the teams played a Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday schedule mid-series because of building conflicts in both venues (NBA at Staples, Coldpay concerts in Vancouver). But it’s another reason why the hockey and basketball seasons go on and on.
Dealing with scheduling quirks is a fact of life of playing in Los Angeles, according to veteran centre Jarret Stoll.
“You’d prefer to have it the other way around, where you play every second day,” said Stoll. “We’re like machines at this time of year. There’s game day and then there’s non-game day. There’s two days a week for us, and that’s it.
“It’s a weird situation, with three teams in the playoffs here in L.A. It’s a great situation, but it’s going to be a scheduling nightmare.
“For us players, you just have to remain focused and come to the rink and have good practice days. You can’t let your practice days slip. Those are important keys. Coaching – making sure we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves, if there are two games in a week, or three in eight days. It kinda sucks, but you’ve just got to roll with it. It’s out of our control. That’s one thing you can’t control, so try to handle it the best way possible.”
SCHEDULING ISSUES (2): You’d think you’d seen it all if you’re New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur – all those years, all those records – but when the Devils took to the ice to decide their opening round series against the Florida Panthers, they were scheduled for an 8:30 puck drop – just so the NBC television network could stagger its schedule that night. The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators drew the more familiar time slot – 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. "I have never started a game at 8:30 though," Brodeur told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "This will be a first."
HOME OR AWAY: Road teams have had a massively good run in the opening round, but there’s a difference of opinion over whether than will carry on. Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter was adamant the other day – given a choice, he would be starting at home, rather than on the road, and playing a St. Louis team that won 30 games in their building this year. “I know from experience,” said Sutter, in an interview prior to the Kings’ departure. “The less travel you have, you want to be in your own building and you want to be in your own bed. That does have a big psychological difference for a player. It’s very simple. I’d rather have players getting treated in our treatment centers, and not in a hotel and not on an airplane, and getting practice in your own building. We’ve talked about it enough. You want to play a deciding game in your building, always.”
But Sutter’s counterpart with the Nashville Predators, Barry Trotz, is OK with starting on the road against the Coyotes in Phoenix on Friday night.
“From our standpoint, I’m actually glad we’re starting on the road this time,” Trotz said. “It gets us focused and we’ve had a lot of time at home here. Getting on the road to start the series, I think, really benefits us.”
The Predators were the only team to defeat Vancouver twice on the road last year (L.A. won three games in Vancouver this year); and Nashville also won both games in Detroit this year in the opening round.
BLACKHAWKS WATCH: The Chicago Blackhawks are an interesting case study, heading into the off-season, because they’ve followed their 2010 Stanley Cup win, with two consecutive years in which they’ve squeaked into the playoffs and then bowed out in the opening round. Lots of teams would accept a 101-point regular season, which Chicago had, especially in the light of injuries to Jonathan Toews (down the stretch) and Marian Hossa (in the playoffs). Funny how it goes around. The Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith probably did more to undermine Vancouver’s playoffs hopes by concussing Daniel Sedin with weeks to in the playoffs and Chicago’s depth was sorely tested when Hossa was clobbered by Raffi Torres on a very similar sort of play. But for all that, coach Joel Quenneville put the problem down as chemistry, in his post-season remarks to reporters: "Every year is a different sort of mix and team chemistry is something going forward that should be a concern, a priority.'' It would suggest that the Blackhawks won’t make goalie Corey Crawford the fall guy for the season, but that they need to add some bulk on the lower lines. Maybe the loss of Daniel Carcillo early was more of a blow than they could imagine.