Payne puts team through rugged practice;
franchise honors four greats to wear No. 7 tonight
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- "We need to urge people to lay aside everyday tasks once a week for a day of rest." -- That's what Sunday's are meant to be. There's a biblical meaning to such a connotation.
But for the Blues, Sunday was anything but a day of rest.
And the team figured that coach Davis Payne would put them through a rugged workout following Saturday's 5-2 loss at the New York Islanders.
"I think the guys knew it was coming," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "It was kind of a wake-up call. Gotta bear down here in the next 15 or 17 games, what ever it is.
"No matter what time of the season it is, there's going to be some repercussions for losing. We weren't great yesterday and gotta make sure that we noticed it today."
The Blues (28-28-9), who entertain the Columbus Blue Jackets at 8 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), have 17 games remaining on their schedule. They've dropped four in a row and are now 1-7 in their last eight games. They remain in 13th place in the Western Conference but are far removed from the playoff race.
No, they're not mathematically eliminated from the chase, but after dealing away five regulars in the past three weeks, the Blues are just as close to eighth place Los Angeles (11 points back) as they are ahead of last-place Edmonton.
"Sure, there's been adversity but people have adversity all the time," forward David Backes said. "They make their way through it. They become better for it. In this business, the sooner that happens, the better off we'll be.
"It's about finding ways to win. It's out-battling, out-competing, out-committing ... just doing more than your opponent to get two points. It obviously hasn't been the case, and obviously losses are piling up fast."
The Blues have not been below .500 all season long, but a loss here tonight could very well put them there for the first time this season.
The Jackets (31-26-7) are playing well and won here the last time these two teams met, 5-2 on Jan. 22.
"We don't expect to lose. We expect to win," Backes said. "We expect to put 20 guys on the ice that are gonna get a job done. When that doesn't get done, we're disappointed that it didn't happen. Things have got to change until it does."
The Blues can certainly use a boost, and maybe they'll get one when the franchise honors four players in a 'Salute to 7' night honoring four greats that wore jersey No. 7. Red Berenson, Garry Unger, Joe Mullen and Keith Tkachuk will be honored in a pregame ceremony.
"That should get the guys going," D'Agostini said. "You know who's in the building. You don't want to let everyone down. Regardless of what's going on tomorrow, the boys will get it going. We know we've got to be better.
"I grew up watching a guy like Keith Tkachuk. To play with him last year was an honor. It'll be good to see him again."
Berenson, who wore No. 7 from 1967-71, ranks 12th all-time in Blues history in games played (519) while slotting seventh in goals (172) and eighth in both points (412) and assists (240).
Now in his 27th season as head coach at the University of Michigan, Berenson also served behind the bench for the Blues from 1980-82. In three years, he led the Blues to a 100-72-32 record and ranks second all-time among Blues coaches with a .569 points percentage. In addition, the six-time NHL All-Star holds two NHL/franchise records as he scored six goals in one game on Nov. 7, 1968 at Philadelphia including four in the second period.
Unger, who was the next player after Berenson to wear No. 7 (1970-79), is the fourth longest tenured Blue in club history. In 662 games, the Calgary, Alberta native accumulated some of the franchise’s top career offensive numbers, including fourth all-time in goals (292) and points (575), sixth in assists (283), third in hat tricks (seven) and game-winning goals (40) while remaining the club leader in game-tying goals (19).
In addition, the seven-time All-Star’s 662 career games came in consecutive fashion, a club record, and he remains one of two players in Blues’ history to record seven points in one game.
Mullen, who wore No. 7 from 1979-86, played 301 career games for the Blues and ranks 11th all-time in goals (151), 20th in assists (184) and 13th in points (335). A veteran of 16 NHL seasons, Mullen is one of seven players in franchise history to have averaged over a point per game while with the club.
The New York, New York native was also one of the NHL’s most prolific U.S.-born players becoming the first to score 500 goals and record 1,000 points. Overall, he finished his 1,062-game career ranking sixth all-time among U.S.-born skaters in points (1,063), fifth in goals (502) and 11th in assists (561). A three-time NHL All-Star, Mullen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.
Tkachuk, who was the last player to wear No. 7 (2000-10), retired last season after an 18-year NHL career that included parts of nine seasons in the BlueNote.
A five-time NHL All-Star, Tkachuk ranks 11th in club history in games played (543), fifth in goals (208), 13th in assists (219), seventh in points (427) and tied for fifth in game-winning goals (29).
In addition, the Melrose, Massachusetts native finished his career as one of the most productive U.S.-born players in NHL history ranking third in goals (538), fifth in points (1,065) as well as first all-time in power play goals (212).
"I know of the history and the great accomplishments they've all had," Backes said. "It'll be a special night and hopefully that's the incentive and the boost that we need to get going.
"It's the NHL. You shouldn't need extra motivation, but if that's what it takes, we'll have a great Monday."
* NOTES -- Goalie Jaroslav Halak participated in a full practice for the first time since the Blues placed him on injured reserve following a 3-1 victory over Vancouver on Feb. 14. Halak could be back in the lineup tonight but is listed as questionable. ... Defenseman Roman Polak (lower-body) was absent from practice Sunday and is also questionable for tonight. ... Also missing practice Sunday was winger B.J. Crombeen but it is unknown at present time why and if he's available for tonight's game.