Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blues lose first preseason game

Peters goal lone tally in 1-0 Wild win; Halak debuts with 16 saves

By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues got their first look at Jaroslav Halak after the duo battling for the backup job took their first dibs in goal.

The Blues will need Halak to become someone they can heavily rely on, to be the backbone of their netminders and be considered among those upper echelon goalies.

The Bratislava, Slovakia native was strong Thursday night aside from one shot he'd like to have back. That one shot turned out to be the only only goal in the Minnesota Wild's 1-0 win over the Blues at Scottrade Center.
(Getty Images)
Minnesota's Warren Peters (43) is being tailed by the Blues' Danny Syvret 
but scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory over the Blues
Thursday night.

Warren Peters provided the margin of victory with a backhand rooftop shot that somehow beat Halak on the near side with 3 minutes 27 seconds left in the second period.

The shot seamed to handcuff Halak, who thought he had the near side hugged long enough to allow the puck to hit him.

"Honestly, I thought I stopped it for sure," said Halak, who stopped 16 pucks in the game. "They started celebrating so apparently it went in. I have no idea how it went in. I need to see the video and go over it.

"I would rather give up that one now than during the season."

The Blues (3-1-0) outshot Minnesota (2-0-0) 32-17 in the game but were brushed aside by starter Niklas Backstrom, then Matt Hackett, who stopped 14 shots in the third period, including a glove stop of an Andy McDonald shot with 6:24 to play.

"The third period, I thought we had a pretty good push," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I thought the (Ryan) Tesink line really had a couple shifts in there that got our level up. We go the one power play, had some chances, but we just couldn't find that one."

The Blues were 0-for-5 with the man advantage, including four missed opportunities in the opening 20 minutes.

"The power plays we had in the first period kind of seemed to get us into a little different mindset than we needed to through the middle part of that game," Payne said. "They played well defensively, kept things to the outside. I don't think we put enough pucks at the net, just in a manner of generating some momentum."

The Blues used a veteran-based lineup that included McDonald, Alex Steen, Jason Arnott, T.J. Oshie, Carlo Colaiacovo, Roman Polak, Halak, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jonathan Cheechoo (the game's third star), who led the Blues with six shots in the game and had some prime scoring chances.

"A real easy chance to go right up to the top of that list ... he had chances early," Payne said of Cheechoo. "A guy gets his cracks, eventually it's going to go in. ... He's around the net, knows how to get a stick to a spot where he can get it back, has an outlet. At some point, you figure one of these is going to go in for him. Hopefully, that's the one he needs."
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Carlo Colaiacovo (28) is being checked by the Wild's Brett
Bulmer as goalie Jaroslav halak (right) looks on Thursday night.

Halak made some of his best stops in the second period when the Wild peppered shots during a two-minute two-man advantage.

"You can ask your goalies not to give up many goals," Halak said. "That's all you can do. It's tough to win games when you don't score goals.

"Not many shots (faced). They didn't bring many (NHL) guys, but we've got to give them credit tonight. They played good."

Said Payne, "Other than that one goal, I thought it was good. ... Obviously, a backhander down the wing like that, we need to make sure that's a save."

* NOTES -- The Blues are in the middle of five games in five nights and there was little in the way of practice time to work on a plethora of things Payne wanted to get a look at.

Both players and coaches are going on the fly as far as practice time goes, so the leaning curve goes into full bore for those that are not playing on game days.

"You can tell (Payne's) trying to cram as much information as he can into what short time we have before any kind of games," said winger Matt D'Agostini, who sat out tonight's game with a groin strain after originally being in the lineup. "The guys are starting to get into it now and you can tell it's getting into that type of feel where you've got to start soaking things in as far as systems go. I don't think he's looking for too much of that in the preseason anyway. We're just going to go out and work hard and do what you do to showcase your skills and we'll go from there.

"I think everyone's going full bore. Everyone knows this is the time to get ready for the season. You've got to get your legs into it sooner than later. Everyone's going hard and the vets have really been leading the way and working hard. That shows the young guys and the first-year guys what kind of pace it takes to play up at this level."

. . . The Blues have trimmed their training camp roster down by three after assigning forward Cody Beach (Moose Jaw of the WHL), defenseman Brock Beukeboom (Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL) and goalie Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound of the OHL) back to their respective junior teams on Thursday. Beukeboom didn't get into any training camp practices because of an injured back.

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