Oshie makes trip to Toronto, continues to
improve; Tarasenko helps Russia win WJC gold
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues got back to work Wednesday after spending the day off Tuesday, recuperating a day after one of the more intense skates during Davis Payne's tenure.
Payne put the Blues through an army-like skate on Monday, a day after a dismal 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars that saw the Blues' five-game winning streak go by the wayside.
Sounds a little harsh after a solid stretch of games, eh? Well, in what is a fiercely competitive Western Conference, falling into a losing streak can quickly knock a team down in the standings. And the 20-13-5 Blues, who play at 14-20-4 Toronto today at 6 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), want to squash any sort of losing ways quickly.
And the players understood a swift kick in the pants is sometimes necessary during the course of a season.
"It was a good opportunity for us to make sure we nip this in the bud," center Jay McClement said. "... We've had four days in between games, so it was a good opportunity to make sure we take care of the problem and not continue a downward trend."
Said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo Wednesday, "Monday wasn't a lot of fun, but it wasn't our best game on Sunday. We know that. But we had a pretty good practice today. We did a pretty good job. We brought our energy out there. It's going to be a good one tomorrow night."
Payne said the pace and work ethic was what he was expecting.
"I thought we were attentive," he said. "We tried to put a few things in as far as extra options go. They paid their best attention. Execution wasn't crystal clear, but for the most part, guys were ready to go today to have a sharp day."
* Oshie practices again, travels with team -- Forward T.J. Oshie, out since Nov. 10 with a broken left ankle, was back on the ice after a couple days off to give his surgically-repaired ankle some down time after getting after it hot and heavily for the better part of a week.
Oshie, who made the trip with the Blues when they face the Leafs tonight, skated well again on Wednesday and continues to progress towards a return to the lineup, which the team continues to say is the end of the month.
"Not too bad. It's another positive day," Payne said of Oshie's progress. "He seemed to get a little bit more involved in situations ... it's one thing to be out there and be skating and be in control of the whole situation and then all of the sudden, you get into different traffic situations. He skated backwards there a little bit, falling down a time or two and understanding that it's not going to hurt. These are all things he's got to go through. So we'll see how the ankle responds to today's work, and we'll see where tomorrow brings us."
Oshie, who had 10 points (nine assists) in 13 games before departing the lineup, is impressing his teammates with his work ethic and overall ability to work his way back so quickly.
"I still find it amazing that he can look that good after not skating for so long," McClement said of Oshie. "... It'll be exciting to see him back. I don't know what the time-frame is, but it makes us better when he gets back."
* Welcome home guys -- A number of Blues players are coming home of sorts tonight in Toronto.
Not only is Carlo Colaiacovo a Toronto native, but so is winger Chris Porter. And then there's guys like defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (King City, Ontario), who was born and raised 45 minutes away, Brad Boyes (Mississauga, Ontario), who comes 25 miles to the west, McClement, who hails from Kingston, Ontario, which is roughly three hours to the east, injured center Andy McDonald from nearby Strathroy, Ontario (two-plus hours away) and winger B.J. Crombeen, who was born in Denver but was raised 40-45 minutes from Toronto in Newmarket, Ontario.
"There's six or seven of us that will have quite a few people there," said Pietrangelo, who will have his parents along with grandparents and other family and friends in attendance. "It's going to be exciting to go home and see the grandparents today."
Pietrangelo, the Blues' top pick (fourth overall) in 2008, remembers his last and only regular season visit to Toronto. He took a hard hit from behind from the Leafs' Ryan Hollweg, which drew a five-minute boarding major and subsequent three-game suspension for Hollweg.
"I've learned a lot since then," Pietrangelo said. "I've come a long way since then. I think everybody can agree with that.
"You learn a lot. You learn something new every day, every game. This year, I've felt like I'm learned a lot and come a long way. Little things you pick up here and there."
* Welcome to the road -- The Blues will play on the road tonight for the first time since Dec. 21, a 4-2 victory in Atlanta.
It's a stretch of games where the Blues will play 12 of 15 games at Scottrade Center, which included the previous five contests.
"Our last road game in Atlanta was a good hockey game," Payne said. "We focused in on doing the types of things that contributes to road success. I thought we played a pretty complete game. We were ready to go. Obviously after our last game and the dissatisfaction we all felt from that, we should be ready to go tomorrow night."
* Russia, Tarasenko win World Junior gold -- Russia won the World Junior Championship gold medal game Wednesday night with an improbable 5-3 victory over Canada after trailing 3-0 heading into the third period.
Blues' No. 1 pick in 2010 (16th overall) Vladimir Tarasenko netted a goal and picked up an assist in helping the Russians to a five-goal third period.
Tarasenko, who had four goals and 12 points in seven games, helped Russia to its first gold medal since 2003.
Also, Jaden Schwartz, the Blues' other No. 1 pick (14th overall) in 2010 who suffered a broken ankle on Dec. 28, received a silver medal with Canada. Schwartz had one goal and two assists in two appearances.
Prospect Sebastian Wannstrom (second round, 44th overall in 2010) played for Sweden and scored two goals and three assists in six games. Sweden lost to the United States 4-2 in the Bronze Medal game earlier Wednesday.