Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Payne receives game puck after 1st NHL win; Blues already in playoff mindset

ST. LOUIS -- The start of Davis Payne's night in Los Angeles was one he never visualized, but the end of it was more than the Blues' head coach bargained for as well.

As the Blues were set to face off against the Kings on Saturday night, Payne's starting lineup that was reported to the official scorers was not the lineup that was on the ice at the time.

Instead of having Brad Boyes on the ice as was listed on the starting lineup, it was David Perron on the ice instead with Patrik Berglund and Brad Winchester. So when the Blues scored 14 seconds into the game -- and it was Winchester getting the goal -- if Perron had scored, the goal would have been disallowed.

So instead of fretting at what happened at the outset, the 39-year-old Payne was celebrating his first National Hockey League victory at game's end -- a 4-3 Blues win that concluded a 1-1-1 trip -- but it was in the locker room that gave the coach a humbling moment as well.

The Blues, led by captain Eric Brewer, honored their week-old coach by presenting him with the game puck for the accomplishment, which Payne accepted and gave him a perspective on just how tight-knit the team is.

"I would say more humbled when I screwed up the lineup," Payne joked. "... It's something I haven't done and certainly we'll stiffen the checkpoints on that situation when we go forward.

"After the game, we all felt good about getting that game and certainly it was a long road to get here and you want to get that first one out of the way. It was an awfully nice moment for the guys to recognize that for sure."

Blues defenseman Erik Johnson said it was only natural for the team to pay homage to their coach.

"Any time if a player or coach gets a milestone like that, it's pretty cool," Johnson said. "It was nice for him to get his first win. Hopefully, there's many more."

* Playoff mode is here already -- It must be a feeling of deja vu for the Blues this season.

They went through it a season ago, where the team used the second half of the season to charge into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

So as the Blues get set to face Columbus tonight with an 18-19-7 mark, which is good for 43 points, they are in a similar situation once again this year.

In 14th place heading into Monday's games and 10 points in back of eighth-place Los Angeles, the Blues know it's a now-or-never attitude they must have with each and every passing game. Another big run must be in the cards.

"Of course you look at the standings to see where you're at, but what's going to get us into the playoffs is a game-by-game focus (and) not looking beyond that," winger Paul Kariya said. "Even at that, just focusing on the way we play and the process and the work ethic that we need to have success is what's important. If we do that game in (and) game out, then we're going to have success."

The message seems to be contagious in the locker room.

"You treat each game with importance whether you're up 10 points in the standings or you're down 10 points," Johnson said. "We treat every game like it's the last game we're going to play.

"I don't think you can really worry about the standings. I just think you have to worry about your own game and keep going forward."

Going forward should entail winning at home, where the Blues are a league-worst 6-14-3.

"Whether it's home, road or neutral site, we want to play the same way, and we want to play the way we've been defining and that's direct, solid, physical, five guys at a time and making sure the play and our possessions end up all the way at their net," Payne said. "I don't think you define it any different. I don't think you look at what's gone on in the past or what's going to go on at the end of (tonight).

"We're going to go forward and get ourselves back into this playoff chase. It's going to be a collective effort and that's a great starting point when you look at our room our way."

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