ST. LOUIS—Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team will face the Kings on Thursday night, offered compliments Thursday to both Southern California NHL teams.
He praised the Kings -- who have eliminated the Blues from the playoffs each of the last two seasons -- for playing “a really honest game,” and said the Ducks have become formidable this season because of several factors.
The league-leading Ducks have won 18 of their last 19 games and are 1-0 against Hitchcock’s Blues this season.
Hitchcock said his familiarity with the Kings has given him respect for them.
“We played them two years in a row in the playoffs so there’s not a lot of change in personnel. There’s very little change in each other’s game,” he said when asked whether his team needed to do anything different Thursday.
“I’m thinking from our standpoint, we need a better start. We’ve been outplayed pretty badly in the first half of the first period of both these games so we need a better start. And I’m sure in their point they need to capitalize on the chances they do get early in the games. But not a lot of secrets.
“Our meetings now, when we play this team, are short now and brief. Just get ready it’s all about your competitive level. Both teams play a really honest game so we’ll expect tonight, both teams will play a real honest game.’’
He said the Ducks’ excellence stems from several factors.
“Speed without the puck. It’s consistent. It’s hard to play against,” he said. “I think what really is fun to see, hard to play against, is when [as] the opposition, when you have the puck, all their players look the
same. And when you look at Anaheim, all their players look the same. They all hunt the puck, they all forecheck, they all play physical. They all have great support. When you have the puck, they hound you. You get no space, no time. You’ve got to be really sharp.
"And if you’re lazy or slow moving the puck they jump all over you and create turnovers. And to me, they come at you in waves. Their offense is a direct reflection of how many turnovers they create. There are games, quite frankly, when you watch them play, you can turn it off halfway through. They may be up a goal, or the game’s tied, but when they’re dominating that way, you just know the end result is going to be in their favor. And that’s why they’ve been able to win so many second halves of games. They’re relentless in their pursuit and they’re relentless in their game and it’s hard to play against. They’re going to be a challenge for everybody for the rest of the year if they keep playing this way. When you have the depth they have and you’re able to sit out the players they’re able to sit out, I don’t see this changing.”
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