Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Line tweaks produce results; Oshie skates
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's only natural, right? When a team has trouble scoring goals like the Blues have, changes needed to be made.

Coach Davis Payne made some tweaks to his lineup for Tuesday night's game in Atlanta.

The result? A 4-2 victory that had Payne pleased with all four of his forward lines.

Matt D'Agostini took Brad Boyes' spot on the top unit with David Backes and Vladimir Sobotka, while Boyes took a spot on Jay McClement's line with Brad Winchester. Alex Steen moved up and played with Patrik Berglund and B.J. Crombeen, while the fourth line remained the same with Adam Cracknell flanked by Chris Porter and Cam Janssen.

"I thought we had a good balance on each group," Payne said. "In particular, the McClement line seemed to have some complimentary elements to it with Jay and the defensive side of things, with Winny, the energy and the physical side (and) I thought Brad Boyes got engaged in his puck play and his positional play. Some great plays on the wall late in the game. That's the type of game we need."

Steen scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season that gave the Blues a 2-1 lead late in the second period, a lead they would not relinquish again.

"I thought the Steen-Crombeen-Berglund line was good all night long," Payne said. "I thought Bergy and Steener were able to play a two-man game and reading off each other. ... You take a worker guy line Beener is, a determined worker, a guy who's sharp in the details positionally and he finds a way to compliment those guys and that's exactly what I thought we had there."

Porter picked up an assist on Brad Boyes' first goal in 10 games that gave the Blues the lead five minutes into the game.

"The fourth line with Ports, Cracknell and Cam I thought were very effective, not only were they in times starting shifts in their own end, they executed, they were good positionally, they found their way to the offensive zone and they ground down and had a couple scoring chances," Payne said. "I thought that they were very solid, even against some lines where they got put out there with matchups that might have been overmatched, but they handled it extremely well."

Matt D'Agostini, although he didn't score, appeared to have some legs back under his game, something Payne thought would jumpstart him playing with Backes and Sobotka.

"I thought Dags was skating," Payne said. "I thought Backes was on his regular game. I don't know if he was as clean on the puck as we normally see, but he and Sobe are kind of the two guys that click and see each other. It's important for us to try to continue to have those guys mesh together. Dags with speed and skill, I thought not only did he add that but there was some firm intention in his own end along the wall as well."

D'Agostini, who has gone pointless in six straight and one goal in 19 games, felt re-energized.

"I felt a little better last night and it started coming around a little more," D'Agostini said. "You don't want to get too caught up in the goals and assists right now. I just keep working on my game right now and the chances will come.

"Two good players, two crafty guys to play with. I thought we did a good job for the most part."

* Oshie on the ice; Berglund, Backes OK -- Blues winger T.J. Oshie, who suffered a broken left ankle on Nov. 10 at Columbus, skated on Wednesday morning by himself before the Blues held an afternoon practice at St. Louis Mills.

A source said Oshie, who had 10 points in 13 games, did some light skating and nothing hard for roughly 45 minutes. He is still on target to be re-evaluated in early-to-mid February.

The Blues did not confirm or deny the report.

"We're not talking anything about the rehab process that T.J.'s going through," Payne said matter-of-factly.

As for Patrik Berglund, who left Tuesday's game in Atlanta late in the third period with an upper-body injury, Payne said Berglund "is fine" and will play tonight when the Blues (16-12-5) host Detroit.

Backes apparently took a stick to the mouth and needed stitches under his lower lip but also needed some dental work done as well.

"He doesn't have a full set of ‘chiclets’ anymore, but he's OK," Payne joked.

* Nothing new on Perron, McDonald -- No news is apparently bad news as far as forwards David Perron and Andy McDonald are concerned.

The Blues' forwards, each sidelined with concussions, have not skated and Payne says there's nothing new to report.

"No updates. It's status quo," Payne said. "Everything's staying the same. What those symptoms are and the different symptoms that a guy has, they still have them."

Perron has been sidelined since Nov. 4, while McDonald has been out since Dec. 4.

* Key face-offs -- The Blues, who won 4-2 Tuesday, scored twice as a direct result of winning two important face-offs in the offensive zone.

The first one was by Berglund that led to Steen's go-ahead goal in the second, and the next one came early in the third period from Sobotka that allowed Alex Pietrangelo to give the Blues a 3-1 lead.

"It's the one area on the ice where you have a lot of stuff choreographed," Payne said. "If you can get clean possession, then you can attack in certain areas. We did that a couple times last night.

"Petro's goal was more of just win-traffic and find a hole. Great job by Sobe on that face-off win. The next one, Bergy with a clean win and we execute to an area where we normally feel we can take our play to the net and Jax made a great decision to find one more play for us.

"They're deflating to a team when they happen against you. A big boost (for the offense) because it's instant offense the second that puck drops."

* Conklin strong -- Ty Conklin won his second start in a row by backstopping 37 shots.

Conklin has rebounded nicely after allowing seven goals on 24 shots Nov. 30 in Chicago, a 7-5 Blackhawks victory.

"I thought he was really good," Payne said. 'I thought that any of the scramble stuff, he was able to (move) laterally and stay not only square but keep his feet involved. I thought he made some great saves in tight. He was composed when we broke down in coverage and we had some (Atlanta) guys walking down some good ice. Conks held good in those areas. His puck touches were excellent as well. That was the exact type of performance we needed from him and used to seeing from him."

With Jaroslav Halak going 0-3-1 in his last four starts, it merits the question whether Conklin did enough to pick up another start against the Red Wings.

"We will look at what our situation is in goal based on not only performances but the guy who is supposed to get the job done for us," Payne said, being noncommittal about who starts tonight. "Conks played a great game (Tuesday). ... Jaro's played some great hockey for us, too. We have expectations of guys and their jobs and their roles. We're not going to stray from that."

* Blues-Red Wings battle again -- Eight days after the Red Wings pasted the Blues 5-2 in Detroit, the teams will meet for the third time this season but first in St. Louis today at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Late word out of Detroit Wednesday night, where the Red Wings (21-8-4) downed Vancouver 5-4 in overtime on Henrik Zetterberg's sixth overtime game-winner, is that Pavel Datsyuk suffered a broken bone in his right hand/wrist and is will miss at least four weeks, according to coach Mike Babcock.

Datsyuk has been a Blues killer in his career, netting 60 points in just 51 career games. He has 39 points in 33 games this season.

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