Sunday, November 20, 2011


Blues recall Sterling; Oshie (wrist) day-to-day;
top line producing; shootout auditions

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues have recalled forward Brett Sterling from Peoria as a precaution in case T.J. Oshie (wrist) will not be able to play Tuesday.

Oshie, who has eight points in the last eight games -- including a goal and assist in Saturday night's 3-2 shootout -- hurt his wrist in the first period Saturday in what coach Ken Hitchcock called a collision on the half wall near center ice.

Oshie returned and finished the game after briefly leaving the bench but was not on the ice for practice Sunday afternoon.

"We're just being cautious with it right now," Hitchcock said. "We're hopeful that he plays on Tuesday.

"He played good. He played really hard (Saturday). That line's been good. They've competed. They've had a major assignment on our team. ... We need to get more than one line up to speed if we can get going on it."

The 27-year-old Sterling, who the Blues signed to a one-year deal this past summer after spending last season with the Pittsburgh organization,
is second in the AHL with 22 points. His 12 goals in 18 games are tied for the league lead for the Rivermen this season.

"Don't even ask me what (Sterling) is," Hitchcock joked. "I don't know. Never seen him play."

The 5-foot-7, 175-pound forward has 26 games of NHL experience, posting nine points (five goals, four assists).

* Top line magic -- The Blues have found something with their top line, as Hitchcock mentioned.

Oshie along with winger Alex Steen and center David Backes have combined for 38 points in 19 games and they're the top three-point leaders on the team.

Steen and Backes each have four points in four games. They had six points Saturday and accounted for all the scoring.

"We're working hard," Steen said. "Last night, both Backs and Osh go to tough areas to get goals."

Added Hitchcock: "They score because they just outwork you. They have skill, and they have ability, but they outwork you.

"It makes for a good combination. When you're willing to work for your chances in this league, you usually get love. And they've been able to finish. When you look at most of their goals, it's from checking turnovers. The second goal (by Oshie in the third period Saturday) they got was a checking turnover."

* Shootout audition -- With their second shootout loss under Hitchcock -- the Blues' only two losses in six games for their new coach -- the Blues will come to practice this morning auditioning for the opportunity to represent when shootout attempts present themselves.

Hitchcock has relied solely on his assistant coaches when it comes to the two shootout games and would like to know his personnel more in that regard.

"Tomorrow, we're having tryouts, because I don't know these guys," Hitchcock said. "I want to see what people can do. We're going to start focusing on that stuff.

"I'm getting the information of the coaches, but I haven't seen anybody in action. I want to start seeing what guys can do putting lunch or dinner or something on the line, so there's a little bit of pressure."

The Blues have gone 1-for-6 in two shootouts this season, while the opposition has gone 1-for-5.

"Every goalie in the league can go post-to-post," Hitchcock explained. "We've beaten goalies and not put (the puck) over 18 inches. Every team that has good shootout people puts it over 18 inches. That's the height of the pads.

"To me, we've beat them. Then we put it back in the pads. The focus has to be the back of the net, not across the goal line but the back of the netting."

* Shattenkirk wants the shootout -- Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who took his first NHL shootout attempt Saturday night, beat Josh Harding on the Blues' third try but the puck rolled off his stick and Harding had his pad in the right spot to make the save, giving the Wild a 3-2 win after winning the shootout 2-1.

"I really wanted to put it in," Shattenkirk said. "... I took three (previous) in the AHL.

"It was something that I wanted to prove to the guys that I can do it. Everyone was giving me a pat on the back saying, 'Don't worry about it. Tough break.' I definitely welcome the challenge to come in and hopefully show them that I can be one."

Hitchcock said he went with the coaches' decision on using a defenseman in a third opportunity.

"I was told he was good," Hitchcock said. "He beat (Harding) clean. It either went off the stick or he didn't get it up.

"Any goalie just goes post to post and hopes. If you look at the goals that got scored ... if you look at (Mikko) Koivu's goal, you look at these goals that got scored, you get scored in the top half of the net."

* One that got away -- Hitchcock and the Blues players called Saturday's loss at Minnesota one that got away, considering the Blues had a 2-1 lead with under two minutes to go.

"There's some (shootout) games like the Toronto game that felt like a win, but it was a loss because we played so well and we came back," Hitchcock said. "Yesterday felt like a loss. Yesterday was the feeling everybody had. That was kind of garbage in, garbage out. We gave them the game."

The Blues have played flawless hockey, especially 5-on-5, but did some things that they haven't done since the coaching change two weeks ago.

"Yesterday was the first game we played without the precision that we've played with before," Hitchcock said. "We were making mistakes that we haven't made. We've got to address that and we'll go from there."

"We gave up odd-man rushes off of fore-checking mistakes and puck-management mistake and we haven't done that. Some of the credit goes to their team, too. because they check well. But both teams gave up scoring chances off of mistakes. We gave up the scoring chances ... we had them limited down to nothing. They had very few quality scoring chances after two. We gave them six in the third period, which is way too many."

Added Shattenkirk: "We played well, but we had a few breakdowns there with the power play. We got a little lackadaisical. It's a marginal call I think that the end there (on Jason Arnott, a slashing penalty that led to Koivu's game-tying goal). A tough one to call on Arnie. But they executed well and it's tough to give up a goal like that, especially a little flutter puck like that.

"So far, (special teams have) kind of been the theme of the year for us. We really need to pick it up in those areas, especially on the road. If you get three power plays, you need to get one and not give up one."

The Blues have only allowed two 5-on-5 goals since Hitchcock's arrival and have been among the league's best in even-strength situations.

"We're doing a lot of good things as of late, especially the last six games," Steen said. "Special teams can't be losing us games like it did yesterday."

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