Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blues must become stingier hosts

They play host to Edmonton tonight with worst home mark in West

ST. LOUIS -- It remains the biggest mystery in all of hockey: how can a team be among the league leaders on the road -- where it's even more difficult earning points -- yet be so putrid at home?

That's the defining question the 13-11-5 Blues face as they entertain the hot Edmonton Oilers (14-13-4) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

After Wednesday's thrilling 1-0 win in Detroit over the Red Wings, the Blues improved to a scintillating 8-2-3 road mark. Judging by that mark, one would think the Blues sit pretty in the standings, right?

Well normally, one's home record is better than it's away mark. But not in this case.

The Blues' 5-9-2 mark at home, including 4-9-2 on Scottrade Center ice (they played Detroit in a "home" game in Sweden) is the worst in the Western Conference. Only Toronto and Florida (four) game fewer home losses, but taking away the Blues' "home" win over Detroit in Sweden, they're all dead-even in home victories.

"We have to pick up our home record," forward Brad Boyes said.

Yes, it's unthinkable. But more than anything, it's unfathomable.

"We've definitely got to fix this home thing, no question about it," forward Keith Tkachuk said. "It's just a matter of being mentally stronger and playing harder. I'm not saying (Wednesday night) was our best game, but the bottom line in this league, it's all about results."

And right now, the Blues are getting the results on the road, which has not been the case in recent seasons.

Even thought it's still early in the season, the Blues have not finished with a better than .500 mark is when they went 18-13-7-3 in 2002-03.

"It's no different (on the road)," forward David Backes said. "The ice sheet is the same, the crowd is a lot louder when you score at home. It's time to show our fans what we've been doing on the road and bring a good effort."

One reason the Blues can't seem to win at home? How about the last of finish. And even though they didn't burn the lights out at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night winning 1-0, as Tkachuk said, the results is all that counts.

"We've just got to go out and play," Tkachuk said. "You can't worry about whatever situation it was. We've just got to build. We've got to get a 60-minute game. ... We've got to get everybody on the same page. We have the players here to do that. We've just got to go out and show it."

Are the Blues doing anything differently on the road as opposed to at home? That question was posed to a number of players here in recent weeks. Do they change anything when they come back to the home confines? Not so, according to defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo.

"Structurally, we're doing a lot of things well. We're creating a lot chances, so there's really not much you can change," said Colaiacovo, who assisted on Boyes' goal 1 minute, 56 seconds into Wednesday's game. "We're creating a lot, but we've got to grip the stick a little harder and bear down a little more and make sure they go in the back of the net and make sure we get more than they do."

That has been an issue here.

Of the Blues' 16 games at home (including one in Sweden), they've lit the lamp 33 times, but only 28 in 15 games at Scottrade Center, which rounds out to 1.87 goals-per-game.

"In this building, we've struggled getting points and finishing teams off," said defenseman Barret Jackman. "Right now, it's a battle every night and we don't expect it to be any different than that. Coming off the success we had last year, teams are playing even harder against us because they expect that from us and we expect that from ourselves."

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