Friday, January 1, 2010

Blues try to stay positive during trying times

They'll host Chicago tonight at 7 p.m.

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Andy Murray likes to break up the team's season into five game stints. And after just completing another Thursday against Vancouver, the Blues were 1-3-1 in those five games.

Not good by any stretch, right? That's only a possible three out of 10 points obtained in those five games, including the last four which is currently a season-worst four straight losses (0-3-1).

But as the Blues prepare to host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), instead of dwelling on the ever-lingering negatives, Murray and the Blues feel like they're right there and prefer to look at the positives.

Wins and losses are the bottom line, but as Murray pointed out, instead of going 1-3-1 in the last segment, it's a play or two away from being a 5-0-0 run.

"We won the first one in Calgary, and I asked them, 'Were we in a position to win in Minnesota?' They said, 'Yes we were.' Were we in a position to beat Buffalo? And they said, 'Yes we were.' I said, 'Were we in a position to beat Nashville?' And they said, 'Yes we were.' I asked them if we were in a position to win (Thursday) night, and they said, 'Yes we were,'" Murray said. "And we got three points out of the segment. We have to be better.

"We've been winning our segments of late and in this last segment, out of a potential 10 points we got three."

A case of closing out games, along with the putrid home record, has been a hot topic regarding this squad, which is 17-17-6 with tonight's game being the halfway point to the season.

The Blues are 1-7-2 in their last 10 home games (6-13-3 overall, including 5-13-3 at Scottrade Center). Out of their last eight home contests, they've lost third-period leads in four of them.

Playing well at the outset, only to falter in the end, and coming out of the gates slow, only to finish strong and come up short is what this team desperately craves. They must bridge that gap.

"We have to close out games," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "We've talked about playing a 60-minute game this whole year and we can't close it out. Giving up the lead, especially in your own building is so tough. We've got to make this a tough place to play. You have to have a great home record to be in the playoffs. We've got to do at home what we've done on the road.

"Hopefully, we can come out and beat a great team like that (Chicago) and get something started here. We know they're a great team and we can get on a roll here."

Case-in-point, the Blues' game Thursday in a 4-3 overtime loss to Vancouver was also the second in six games they've lost a game here when leading by three goals (a 5-3 loss to Edmonton on Dec. 11).

"It's a product of not getting the job done," Murray said. "When we have a lead in the third period, it's our job to get the job finished. You do that by playing in the offensive zone and managing the puck and keeping the puck out of the hands of the team that wants to have it and wants to attack you. Our first-touch passes out of our zone have been poor in crucial situations in the game, and our puck management in the offensive zone has not been good enough. To me, it's just a matter of not getting it done. ... Just play better."

The Blues, who have 42 games remaining and are in 12th place in the Western Conference, have no other choice but to play better.

"We've got the right guys in this locker room to put wins together, to get up on a team and stay up and I guess finish them off," forward T.J. Oshie said. "It's frustrating that we haven't done that yet, but it's coming."

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