Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Players surprised, not disappointed
in postponement; Johnson has surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Even though Mother Nature was unleashing her wrath across much of the Midwest Tuesday, the Blues approached the day in a typical business-like manner.

Even as ice was pelting the downtown area with regularity, the Blues showed up ready to work, preparing to begin the second-half stretch with a game against the Colorado Avalanche later that night following the gameday morning skate.

So when word filtered throughout the team that the league had cancelled Tuesday's game because of severe weather, needless to say, players were somewhat surprised but not totally disappointed.

"We were down here ready to play and then you hear they're calling it," forward B.J. Crombeen said. "I think at that point, there's 10-12 inches in Columbia and they thought it was coming here.

"You kind of understand it. You want to make sure the fans and everyone that works here are safe. You don't want to put that at risk. But it's too bad. I think we were all looking to get going."

Then again, there are some players from the northern extremes that thought this was a fly-by storm.

"I'm definitely disappointed we didn't have a game, but a couple extra days' rest doesn't hurt the body," said forward T.J. Oshie, who grew up in North Dakota and played his collegiate hockey for the Fighting Sioux. "We thought the roads were fine. A lot of us are used to it. But a bunch of people around here aren't used to it and driving around in the snow."

Added forward Matt D'Agostini, who's from Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, "We're used to it. That was nothing. We've battled through a lot worse storms than that."

But ...

"I'm not going to say it was bad for us, because we've got some time to prepare now, maybe give the body a couple extra days," D'Agostini said. "It's never bad. We're working hard in practice, so we're keeping the body sharp and the mind sharp."

So as they made the trek back to their respective homes Tuesday afternoon after some of the toughest driving conditions, many of the players turned into couch potatoes and didn't do much. Some took the added day off and made the most of it.

"I can say I didn't change any of my habits," forward David Backes said. "I was out to Target as long as that was open with my wife and running around, went out to dinner and drove home at 9 o'clock last night.

"I didn't think the roads were that bad, to tell you the truth. But I guess in the interest of safety, it's best to err on that side instead of having everyone trying to go through it and having that ice freeze to the roads and having it treacherous out there."

The postponed game was the first of its kind in team history and first in four seasons for the league. The NHL announced on Wednesday that the game will be made up here on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. It will be a stretch of six games in eight days for the Blues, who host the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 21 in a 1 p.m. matinee affair.

Tickets dated Feb. 1 will be honored for the new makeup date.

* Johnson has surgery -- Blues defenseman Erik Johnson, who lost three teeth Monday after being hit in the mouth at practice, was absent from Wednesday's practice at Scottrade Center.

Johnson was at the dentist having oral surgery performed to remove nerves and have pegs placed in those areas instead.

"You never want to see it happen, but it's part of the game," said Crombeen, who joked, "It definitely makes him look a little more meaner now."

Said Backes, who lost a tooth and had others chipped in a game earlier this season, "Yeah, poor guy. ... Hopefully, Erik can suck food through a straw for a while and not lose any weight and get back in the lineup."

The Blues were working on a power play drill when Andy McDonald deflected a shot from the low slot and caught Johnson, who had no time to react.

Johnson is expected to play Friday against Edmonton.

"You never want that to happen to anyone," Backes said. "But to have it happen in practice, that's tough. Hopefully he's recovering and that pain can subside. I lost one tooth and it was pretty sore for one and having a couple others nicked and chipped."

* Tight finish -- With Tuesday's postponement, that means the Blues will play their final 33 games in a 65-day stretch, more than any team in the league.

But from the sounds of it, the Blues (22-20-7) will gladly embrace the challenge that lies ahead in exchange for the current stretch of eight days without a game.

The rest seemed to come at an opportune time surrounding the All-Star break for a team that has struggled in recent weeks.

"We obviously had a struggle going into the break," Crombeen said. "That wears on you mentally. It's nice to get a break and refresh yourself."

The Blues lost ground on the idle night Tuesday, as they are now seven points out of a playoff position. However, they're going to stay away from the day-to-day scoreboard-watching.

"As a whole, we're going to stop looking at the standings," Backes said. "To get caught up in we're (seven) points out with 33 games to go and we've got six teams to jump over ... I mean all that's for someone else to figure out.

"We need to win games and start winning them at a much better rate than in recent (weeks) and much better than we have all year. ... I think we get too caught up looking at the standings."

* No discouragement -- Despite a 2-8-2 January which includes a 0-3-1 slide, the Blues will tackle the remaining games with confidence.

What looks bleak right now can quickly turn around with a string of victories.

"We're not playing too bad right now," Oshie said. "We've been playing pretty good 5 on 5. We just need special teams to pick up a little bit. Once that happens, we'll get back on track."

The Blues feel like a bounce here or a break there and some of these recent losses could have turned into wins.

"We were playing hard and you could tell we were getting a little fatigued," D'Agostini said. "You can't really say anything about our work ethic. We're going out there, we're trying to do our thing and we just weren't getting the right bounces."

Blues coach Davis Payne has spent the last few days preparing his squad for what will be a rugged stretch of games.

"I think we understand when we play our team game, just exactly what type of results we can get from that," Payne said. "Our focus is on being a better team today and a better team tomorrow. Once we hit Friday, it should be all cylinders go."

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