Payne irritated at practice; Blues rivalry with Blackhawks renewed
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- For those that know Davis Payne, he's pretty much even-keeled.
The Blues' coach doesn't show much emotion whether happy or upset.
Monday was the exception to the rule when it comes to being a bit hot under the collar. Or steam rising from under the coach's hat, which was the case at practice.
Payne was a bit edgy as the Blues opened practice. And he let the players know about it.
Let's just say his team had him feeling perturbed.
Payne didn't like what he was seeing and could be heard yelling across the rink when he pulled his team over near the bench at St. Louis Mills for a little talk by the dry board.
"I wouldn't know if I was feeling a burr or a lack of execution, that's all," Payne said. "Those things happen."
So was the message delivered loud and clear?
"I would assume that it was heard," Payne said. "I think we have to be better in certain areas. That has to be our intent. We had to get to that intent a little bit quicker today. If that's how it has to get there, that's how it has to get there."
The players were not at all confused at their coach's mood change.
"We obviously weren't sharp today," forward Andy McDonald said. "That happens when things don't go well and obviously losing the other night. We came out (Monday morning) and weren't executing and that's the response. It was deserved."
Added winger Brad Boyes, "I think there was some validity to it. We kind of messed up the first drill a little bit. But after that, it was pretty good. It was quick. The passes for the most part were on the tape and guys were working. Execution was pretty good. He made his point pretty clear."
Do the players need to hear it from time to time?
"Yeah, you need to," Boyes said. "He's not shy to do it. He's coached for a while, he knows what to do, when to do it."
"Any time the coach feels he needs to say something to get us going, we definitely need a kick in the pants," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "Practice was better as we moved on. That's the coach's job to do that.
"It's kind of both ends of the spectrum with him. It's fine. If we need that, then we'll get it."
The Blues, who play at Chicago tonight before hosting Washington on Wednesday, are coming off back-to-back losses against the Dallas Stars, in which they lost third-period leads in both games.
"Everybody was disappointed with the way we finished," winger Alex Steen said. "I think we played a couple pretty decent hockey games, but there were a couple mistakes that cost us the games. ... Yesterday was tough having the day off. I wanted to play again."
* Rivalry renewed -- The Blues and Blackhawks will meet for the third time this season, with each winning on home ice.
The Blackhawks won 3-2 in overtime in Chicago on Oct. 18, a game in which the Blues led 2-0 with under eight minutes remaining. The two teams met again in St. Louis four nights later, and the Blues won that game 4-2.
The Blues will try to prevent their third losing streak of the season of three games or more.
"We did a lot of good things in the two games (against Dallas)," Steen said. "Those are tough ones to swallow. Dallas is a team that we should be beating on both nights, but we didn't. You move on. The sun comes up, you've got to look at the next opponent, which is Chicago and that's a tough one. A fast-paced team just like us. It's going to be a great game, good atmosphere. I'm looking forward to getting to Chicago."
Added Johnson, "I love playing Chicago. It's probably my favorite (road) building to play in. They have a good, young team too. We obviously want to replicate what they did last year. I love playing up there. It's always a blast."
It's small margins, but that's the way hockey is. You've got to be focused and complete the 60 minutes. If you don't do that, it can cost you. Some nights you can play great for 59 minutes and end up losing the game, and sometimes you can play 30 minutes and end up winning. You don't want to make a habit of those games. You want to play that consistent 60 minutes throughout the game and overtime if it calls for that.
* D'Agostini quiet -- After scoring six goals in 14 games, forward Matt D'Agostini has been relatively quiet for the Blues.
He's tallied two assists (both against New Jersey Nov. 20) in the last eight games and has been stuck on those six goals since scoring against Nashville Nov. 11.
D’Agostini, acquired by the Blues from Montreal for Aaron Palushaj last season, was tinkering between the third and fourth lines at practice on Monday.
Payne said it's just a matter of getting the young forward back to doing what he does best.
"Just a little more consistency," Payne said. "It's nothing that we haven't sat down and discussed between him and the coaches. There's areas in his game on both sides of the puck that have to get back to where they were early. It's making sure that he's aware of that, making sure that the work is put into the right areas and is effective. We feel that he'll be able to jump back in here and contribute quickly."
* Getting more goals -- In the last four games, the Blues have seven regulation goals, including only four in the previous three games. They are 2-2 in that stretch, so Monday's practice was spent working on what Payne calls "attacking the right areas."
"Teams nowadays defend so well that we have to make sure we can't be five feet off, we can't be 10 feet off," Payne said. "We've got offer the right support at the right time in the right places.
"I thought we played a pretty decent game Saturday night against Dallas. I think defensively, we did our jobs. Offensively, there were some moments where we attacked the right areas and we executed and there were some times where we kept ourselves to the outside. We've got to make sure we're giving ourselves interior options to go with the puck.
"Scoring's a funny thing. It's a combination of every little bit being off, whether it's guys out of the lineup, whether it's schedule-based, whether it's execution-based, positional ... it can be a whole slew of things. When it's just a little bit of each one, it can be tough. And when you have a guy like Kari Lehtonen coming in and playing like he did the past two nights, good pitching overrides good hitting every single time. That's a lot of what was happening.
"We had some good looks on Saturday night. (Lehtonen) was equal to the task. If that's going on, how do we define ourselves positionally, how we define ourselves with the areas of the ice that we're going to, to apply constant pressure, to apply as much pressure as we can so we do give ourselves strength in numbers in volume as far as chances towards their net."