Thursday, November 3, 2011

When Blues face the Canucks, battles have been tight

Teams have had heated rivalry in years past, clash tonight at Scottrade Center

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- There's something about the Vancouver Canucks that seems to bring out the best in the Blues.

What is it?

"There's a little rivalry we've got going," said winger T.J. Oshie. "I'm not going to say hatred but there's that rivalry feeling when we play them.

"We have (rivalries) against Chicago and Detroit but against Vancouver, they always seem to be pretty physical games. I don't know exactly why but it just plays out that way."
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Alex Steen (right) has 9 goals in 15 career games against the

The 5-6 Blues will put the test to toe forefront once again when the Canucks (who played Thursday night in Minnesota) visit Scottrade Center for a 7 p.m. face-off today. The Blues already own a win this season against the defending Western Conference champs, winning 3-0 on October 26 in Vancouver.

"I know every time we play them, we expect a tough game ... a grinding game," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "For whatever reason, we've had our battles with them over the years, including the playoff series (in 2009), which doesn't sit too well in some of our mouths.

"Maybe it's some of the players they've got on their team. Any time you play a Western Conference team, you've got to prepare yourself for a grind. It's tough-checking, it's making good plays, costly turnovers, great goaltending ... you name it."

The Blues have not lost a season series against the Canucks since the 2003-04 season when they went 1-3. Since then, the Blues are 13-7-5 in the series but the majority of the games have been air-tight.

"I think we know the compete level we have to have against one of the best teams in the NHL," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We've got to treat every opponent the same way. Everybody knows how good they are and how good they've been in the past couple years and I think we just raise our game. Knowing that, we've got to be consistent no matter who we're playing. Hopefully tomorrow night's no different."

Added Blues coach Davis Payne, "They're a good team and we're usually on our toes against that type of opponent."

The Blues, who are 2-1 on home ice, have played only three of 11 games in their home confines. But they get seven of the next nine here.

"We need to respond after our last two games," said Colaiacovo, referring to losses at Calgary (3-1) and Edmonton (4-2). "It's nice to get back on home ice.

"Our record is what it is right now, but we have a lot of home games coming up. If we can be a great home team, we'll be in good shape."

The Blues haven't played since Sunday and after taking Monday off for travel, they have had three days to work on things before playing back-to-back games this weekend. They travel to Minnesota for a game Saturday before starting a five-game homestand.

"I think we've had three real solid days of practice," Payne said. "The pace of our game and how we're getting to it is better than it has been, especially coming out of our Edmonton game. ... The schedule gave us these days, so we took as much use out of them as we could."

In the last six meetings, with both teams winning three times, the winning team has scored three goals, including the Blues' victory this season, which arguably was their most productive game of the season.

"It was a solid 60-minutes of support, puck decisions and pressure to the net," Payne said. "We defended a good group of forwards the way that we're supposed to. We attacked when we had opportunities. It'll be the same kind of mindset tomorrow night."

* NOTES -- Tonight's game will feature honors for the World Series champion Cardinals. Manager Tony La Russa, along with pitcher Chris Carpenter and third baseman David Freese will be on hand. La Russa will drop the ceremonial first puck.

The Blues are offering commemorative ticket prices in the Mezzanine Level for $11.11. There is also a ticket price in honor of Carpenter, who won Games 1 and 7 against the Texas Rangers. Fans can purchase Plaza Level seats for $29 in honor of Carpenter's No. 29.

Fans wearing Cardinals gear to the game can get buy one, get one free hot dogs at various concession stands. There will be highlights of the World Series as well as other Cardinal-themed items.

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