Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blues continue to persevere under adverse conditions

Playing without key players, Steen nets
game-winner late in 6-4 victory over Kings

ST. LOUIS -- With a tired group that played in Detroit 24 hours earlier and a Los Angeles Kings group ready to make a strong third-period push, the Blues were looking for a good push of their own. Two huge points were at stake.

The Blues, who got some relieving news earlier in the day when they found out that defenseman Erik Johnson is listed as day-to-day with a mild right knee sprain, once again shook off the adversity that they've faced with the rash of injuries they've suffered.

The guy who's stepped into one of those scoring roles enabled the Blues to secure two points as Alex Steen's goal with 2 minutes 53 seconds remaining snapped a deadlock and the Blues went on to top the Kings 6-4 Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (15-10-5) have had to plug different people into different roles as key components have dropped off in rapid fashion. They all continue to step in and embrace the challenges that face this hockey squad.

Vladimir Sobotka, relegated to a fourth-line role at the start of the season, thrived on the top line again with David Backes and Brad Boyes by matching his career-high in points with three on a goal and two assists, Backes tallied three points and leads the team with 23 and Carlo Colaiacovo, one of the key veteran defensemen not hurt at the moment, picked up three assists as the Blues improved to 10-2-1 on home ice with a big win.

No matter if it's David Perron, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Polak or Johnson currently missing from the lineup, the Blues understand that they must soldier on.

"It shows a lot of the character that we have in the room," Steen said, who tallied his team-leading ninth goal of the season. "I think you look around the room, there's not one player who didn't play a good game tonight."

It was Steen, who now has points in five straight and seven of eight games, that grabbed a loose puck off a broken play and snapped a shot high over the right shoulder of Kings netminder Jonathan Quick.

"Fortunately, the puck just happened to slide over to me and I was able to bang her home," Steen said.

The Blues thought they had control of the game when they scored three consecutive goals by Sobotka, Brad Winchester and Eric Brewer to grab a 4-2 lead. But the Kings (17-11-1) knotted things up when Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Brown scored goals 1:27 apart late in the period off Ty Conklin to send the game into the third period tied 4-4.

"I really liked the way we started that hockey game. I like the push we came with in the second period," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "A couple mistakes and all of the sudden, we found ourselves in a new game in a game that probably felt a little more in control of."

"We came in after the second when we gave up that two-goal lead and we weren't happy," Steen said. "We regrouped. Conks played real well in the third, made some key stops at some key times.

Conklin, who allowed four goals on 17 shots through two periods, stood his ground in the third. He stopped all 12 shots he saw from the Kings and gave the Blues an opportunity to win.

"Conks was real solid," Payne said. "He held his ground, he made saves and in that third period, he got whistles that were real important to our hockey club.

"We felt that (the Kings) would certainly give us (a push). ... The start of that period, we had some situations where a little bit deep in our decision-making as far as out third forward and our return not quite as sharp. That contributed to a little bit of play coming at us."

The Blues, who also got goals from Jay McClement and Backes' empty-netter with 58.4 seconds left, needed the points desperately Thursday.

The Western Conference seems to be an ever-changing merry-go-round that cycles teams on a minute-by-minute basis. Picking up points is the only way to stay afloat.

"We needed this," Sobotka said. "We need to work hard like we worked today and play 60 minutes."

"It was a good win for the guys," said Brewer, who leads Blues d-men with five goals. "I think we really stuck with it and found a way to win tonight where in some other games, we kind of let it slip away. Tonight, everyone was committed in making it work and obviously the points are what matter.

"Every team is ready to give you a push. When the Western Conference is so tight, you're constantly looking to make headway and constantly chip away at that. We were able to find a way to win, which is important."

* NOTES -- The Blues recalled defenseman Nikita Nikitin from Peoria to replace Johnson in the lineup. ... Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (upper-body) sat out his second straight game but skated Thursday morning. He is day-to-day. ... The Blues have now lost 109 man games due to injury.

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