Kings' Greene still waiting for return;
Blues' breakthrough feels good

Matt Greene sure would like to get back on the ice, but that will take some time. Harry How/Getty Images

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Greene’s absence was certainly felt in the Los Angeles Kings' opening loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

The big, physical defender, such an important part of last season’s Stanley Cup champion team, practiced again Wednesday, but at this point, his availability to play isn’t quite clear.

“I’m doing whatever they tell me here, that’s it,” Greene said after practice, not wanting to reveal much.

Greene is the type of warrior who would play on one leg if the team let him, so clearly whether or not he plays, or when, is not his call.

“No, it’s just the way it’s going right now,” Greene said. “That’s the way our lineup is. And that’s fine. … They’re going to put me in when I’m healthy to go and ready to go.”

Head coach Darryl Sutter shed a bit more light on the situation Wednesday, saying it’s not simply about Greene’s condition.

“It’s not just [being] healthy, but he’s got to be up to speed,” Sutter said. “He needed about 10 games, to be quite honest. You just don’t put him in the lineup because he’s Matt Greene. Matt Greene has to be able to play and perform. We were hoping to get more games from him before, [to be] quite honest, and he got banged up. So we’ll see. I’m quite happy playing those two kids because they’re quite capable, too.”

Greene missed two months recovering from back surgery before returning recently to play four games. Then, he got hurt again.

So for now, it’s Keaton Ellerby in for Greene on the third pairing along with Jake Muzzin, the two kids Sutter was referring to.

Those two kids looked a little overwhelmed at times in Game 1, as they were hammered by the Blues’ forecheck.

“As the game went on they both played better, but at the same time, it put pressure on the other four guys early, and it was a big reason why we spent so much time in our own zone, was those kids having trouble early in the game,” Sutter said.

Blues know what's coming

The Blues aren’t resting on their laurels. They know the Kings will come hard Thursday night.

But at the same time, they’d be lying if they didn’t say finally beating L.A. after eight straight losses dating back to last season didn’t feel good.

"There's a lot of areas we need to improve on,” veteran Blues forward Andy McDonald said after practice Wednesday. “Certainly, they've taken it to us in the regular season and in the playoffs last year. Hopefully, it builds confidence in our room that these guys are beatable -- and they're the defending Stanley Cup champions -- but if we play our game, we can play right there with them.

"But my point is it's Game 1, and I think we had the adrenaline going, being excited, home opener in the playoffs, a lot to prove, and we just [need] to be sure that we match that tomorrow night and maybe even bring it up a notch, because I know that they're going to come out a little harder."