The surprising Los Angeles Kings will try to advance past the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history when they take the ice today at the Staples Center.
The eighth-seeded Kings will also aim for the first sweep of a best-of-seven series in franchise history when they host the St. Louis Blues this afternoon in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Kings shocked the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the opening round, eliminating last year's Western Conference champions in just five games. Los Angeles currently holds a 3-0 lead over the second-seeded Blues and can punch its ticket to the Western Conference finals with another victory today. The only time the Kings made it that far was in 1993, when Wayne Gretzky led LA to the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose in five games to Montreal.
The only time Los Angeles has swept a playoff series was back in 1976, when the Kings claimed the first two games of a best-of-three preliminary round series with the Atlanta Flames.
Meanwhile, the Blues will have to become the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series if they want to make the conference finals for the first time since 2001. The Philadelphia Flyers were the last team to pull off the improbable comeback when they rallied from three games down to beat Boston in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.
St. Louis has been dominated so far in this series, getting outscored by a 12-5 margin over the three meetings. The Kings recorded a 4-2 victory in the most recent encounter this past Thursday in Los Angeles.
Drew Doughty posted a goal and two assists to lead the Kings to Thursday's Game 3 victory in the City of Angels.
"A lot of guys in this locker room have elevated their game," said Doughty. "It hasn't been easy for this team. We've had a lot of adversity this season. But the guys have stuck together and we're all playing really good at the right time."
Vezina Trophy finalist Jonathan Quick stopped 18 shots, while Mike Richards added a goal and an assist for Los Angeles. Richards also had a fight in the game to complete the "Gordie Howe" hat trick.
Chris Stewart scored both goals for St. Louis and goaltender Brian Elliott continued to struggle, giving up all four goals on 22 shots for the Blues.
"We thought it might be seven games when the series started and that's what it's going to take now," said Stewart. "We still feel we're a better team than they are."
Although he has stopped only 60-of-71 shots for an .845 save percentage in this series, Elliott is expected to get the start again today. With Jaroslav Halak ruled out for the remainder of this series the Blues are left with Jake Allen, who has never started an NHL game, as the backup netminder.
Halak began the playoffs as the No. 1 goaltender, but he hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 2 of the Blues' first-round victory over San Jose, Halak and Elliott essentially split time between the pipes during the regular season, with the former making 46 starts and compiling a 1.97 goals against average and Elliott posting a 1.56 GAA over 38 games.
Veteran forward Jason Arnott sat out Game 3 with a lower-body injury and is questionable for today's game. Arnott has one goal in seven postseason contests this spring.
If the Blues are able to stave off elimination tonight then they will host the Kings in Game 5 on Tuesday.
Los Angeles is 2-1 at home in the playoffs this spring after going 22-14-5 at the Staples Center during the regular season. The Kings are 7-1 in the postseason overall.
The Blues were 19-16-6 on the road in 2011-12 and are 2-1 as the guest in the postseason.
This is the third time these teams are meeting in the playoffs. The Blues swept the previous two series in 1998 and 1969.