Power play rises; Huskins on ice; Sweden native Berglund happy for juniors
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- They've spent the majority of the season parked in last place. They were 29th before facing Edmonton Thursday.
Don't look now, but the Blues have catapulted themselves to 24th in the NHL on the power play.
After looking like a 30th-ranked team through four fruitless power plays in the first two periods, the Blues used their man advantage to steal a pair of points from the Oilers.
They finished 2-for-6 on the night and did so by just simplifying their execution and more importantly, just shooting the puck.
"We were trying to make plays," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're trying to make plays when we had opportunities to shoot the puck.
"... Our percentage and our power play's become strong (13.9 percent). We're a very good power play when we're shooting the puck. When we initiate everything off the shot, when we make plays after we shoot the puck, we're a very good power play. But when we go the other way, we're on the outside, we're on the perimeter, we're standing still, there's no movement, there's no chaos ... we're not very good."
* Huskins skates -- Blues defenseman Kent Huskins, who hasn't played since Oct. 28 in Calgary, was on the ice for the first time since suffering a broken ankle. He had surgery in early November and removed a walking boot a couple weeks ago.
Huskins, signed as a free agent over the summer, hurt himself blocking a shot in a 3-1 loss. He was first diagnosed with a fracture, then it was announced it was only a deep bone bruise and then finally the final diagnosis came up with a crack in the bone. Surgery was required to insert a screw.
"It's coming. I've been off the crutches for a couple of weeks," Huskins said Friday. "I tried skating and it's going to be a bit of a process, I think. Hopefully it goes relatively quick, but it's tough to say how it's going to go. But it's nice to be back on the ice.
"I've been through this process before. It's frustrating, but it's fun to watch the guys right now. It's a great group to be around. Definitely looking forward to the day when I get back in the lineup."
* Berglund all smiles -- Not only did a dramatic win have Patrik Berglund smiling from one ear to the next, but seeing his native Sweden win the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship over Russia (1-0 in overtime) Thursday also put an end to 31 years of frustration for the Swedes.
"It's great for Swedish hockey," Berglund said. "I'm really happy that they won.
"I brought my Swedish t-shirt into the locker room, too. I had it on at the morning skate (Thursday) and all that. It's good that we can finally be champions."
Berglund said he won a bet with teammate and Russian Evgeny Grachev but was waiting to hear from fellow Swede Alex Steen, who is also half Canadian.
"I don't know with Steener," Berglund joked. "One day he's Canadian, one day he's Swede and one day he's kind of an American."
* Down a d-man -- With a sudden ejection from the game from Roman Polak in the second period and the Blues spending most of the remainder of the game on special teams, young defenseman Cade Fairchild was sort of on the outside looking in.
It had nothing to do with his play, according to Hitchcock, but more so to the situations on the ice.
Fairchild played only 6:26 as the Blues relied most of the night on Pietrangelo (26:54), Barret Jackman (24:29), Kevin Shattenkirk (27:52) and Carlo Colaiacovo (22:53).
"We got into PK trouble, so then we're killing with four guys," Hitchcock explained. "All of the sudden, you come out of it and now you're on the power play playing another four guys. ... That's hard for a guy like Fairchild because he doesn't kill penalties, so then all of the sudden he goes out there on a 5-on-5, which wasn't very much in the second half. When you're sitting on the bench for 15 minutes, the game's already moved by you mentally. You're doing all the thinking and not the reacting. It's hard for a guy to do that.
"When Romy went down, we got caught. We got caught playing with four guys. We were making hard decisions at the end of the game."
* Avs come calling -- The Colorado Avalanche, who own a shootout and regulation wins over the Blues this season, make their first trip to St. Louis tonight.
After Friday night's 4-0 win at Chicago, the Avalanche have won 10 of the last 12 and 13 of 18 to vault back into the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
"They have got our attention (from) the two games we played in Colorado," Hitchcock said of both 3-2 losses. "We played really well in five of the six periods in Colorado and that still wasn't good enough, so for us, we're the team that has to change.
"It's got to go up another level from us. I think our players understand that they're a tough match for us because of their speed and their size on the backend. We're going to have to dig in a lot deeper than we've done in the first two games if we expect to get points."
The Blues will look to build on a league-best 16-3-2 home mark.
* NHLPA says no -- In a rather surprising move, the NHL announced Friday evening that it will not move forward with realignment and the modified playoff format, which was approved recently by the NHL Board of Governors, because the NHLPA has refused to consent to the plan itself.
"It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a league statement. "We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season.
"We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the league’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate."
The NHL will maintain its current alignment and playoff format for the 2012-13 season.