Gasp! Game 2 start time throws off players

ST. LOUIS -- Hockey players are creatures of habit, they’re routine robots.

Game 2 of the Kings-Blues series is slated for 8:30 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. ET) Thursday, which frankly is nothing short of silly, and definitely quite different for the players.

"I don’t know if we’ve done that, but keep the people at the TV networks happy, I guess," Blues captain David Backes said with a shrug after the morning skate Thursday.

"Whatever it is, it is. [The Kings] are playing at the same time."

Anze Kopitar was scratching his head but couldn’t remember ever playing this late.

"I’ve never played an 8:30 game," the Kings star center said after his team’s noon CT skate.

"It’s different, for sure," added Kings veteran Jarret Stoll. "I don’t want to sleep too long today, or else I’ll get groggy. I’ll just hang out and stretch, I guess."

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t hide feelings for the late start.

"It better not get to overtime or I’m going to be asleep on the bench," said Hitchcock after his team’s 11 a.m. skate. "The gap from now to 8:30, I don’t know, there better be some good games on at 6 p.m. [7 p.m. ET] when we’re sitting in the office twiddling our thumbs. It’s a long, long day. I’ve never seen anything like this. This will be interesting."

His counterpart Darryl Sutter was in the same boat.

"Having your meeting tonight at 7 o’clock, ha," Sutter said. "It’s kind of odd. What it affects, quite honestly, is the next part of your travel. We know we’re getting home sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m."

You probably have to go back to players’ minor hockey playing days to remember the last time they played a game that late.

"Second game at the Wonderland of Ice tournament in Toronto, maybe?" Blues star blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It’s strange, for sure. It’s a weird time. We pushed back the morning skate today [by a half hour], pushed back the meal and the rest of it. You just have to try and get an extra hour of sleep. But luckily with the emotion of the series, you’ll be ready no matter when the game starts."

Blues winger Ryan Reaves figured the extra 90 minutes would come in handy.

"It’s really not going to make much a difference in my routine, I’ll just play Xbox for another hour," Reaves said.

Kings mix it up

While the Blues are going with the same winning lineup from Game 1, the Kings shuffled things at their pregame skate Thursday. All four forward lines were redrawn:





And so Colin Fraser, who didn’t play in Game 1, checks in for Brad Richardson on a revamped fourth line with Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. No question that move is Sutter’s way of responding to the Blues’ fourth line, which was extremely effective in Game 1.

"I try to fill a role as best I can, an energy role, a fourth-line role, much like their line did in the first game," Fraser said after his team’s noon CT skate. "Our line is going to have to counter that tonight and be just as good as they were."

Quote of the day

Hitchcock cracked everyone up after the morning skate when asked to compare himself with fellow coach Darryl Sutter:

"In the summer, he talks to cows and I talk to golfers."

Responded Sutter, an hour later: "He’s probably a good golfer, too."