Monday, February 13, 2012

PK unit gets back to basics in win over San Jose

Unit was successful on all four Sharks power plays
in 3-0 win, will look to improve tonight in Columbus

ST. LOUIS -- Before facing a red-hot San Jose power play that had gone 8-for-17 in five games and 10-for-22 in eight games, the Blues' penalty kill was stagnant, and coach Ken Hitchcock was worried.

"I'm concerned about our penalty killing," Hitchcock said recently after the Blues allowed a power play goal in the seventh of eight games. "I know if we don't get that fixed, it's going to come back and really bite us.

"We've got to be better at killing penalties. We're getting out-battled. We're getting out-battled on the penalty killing. ... If we can get an oh-for, I think that would really help us."

That "oh-for" came on Sunday night in the Blues' 3-0 win over the power play savvy Sharks.
(Getty Images)
Kris Russell (4) and the rest of his Blues teammates kept players like San
Jose's Logan Couture (39) in check Sunday night.

The Blues (34-14-7), who play in Columbus tonight searching for a season-high fifth straight win, slammed the door shut on all four Sharks man advantages with a few simple strategic maneuvers that worked in the past.

We were putting sticks where guys are trying to put pucks through," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who played a game-high 26:05 and tallied his first two-goal game of his career and added an assist. "We have a lot of good guys on our team in terms of skill and PK and guys that are smart and where sticks need to be.

"I kind of thought we got away from that (recently) -- myself included. Once we started doing that, it's tough to score when a power play is facing that type of pressure."

The Blue Jackets, who labor in last place in the NHL at 16-34-6, are 7-for-23 in their last five game with the man advantage, so the Blues will need more of what Hitchcock liked out of Sunday's game.

"Skating ... finally," Hitchcock said. "We skated into coverage -- we skated hard into coverage. We had that little short-pass support that we had before when we were really good. We made short plays to make long plays. We've been guilty of trying to make long plays before short plays.

"All-in-all, both ends of the special teams were great. Five-on-five, we played really well and the goalie was the best player."

* NOTES -- Following his fifth shutout in 10 games and sixth of the season, Jaroslav Halak will start in goal tonight against the Blue Jackets. ... Defenseman Barret Jackman's goalless drought reached 148 games, the second longest active streak in the NHL behind Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank's 164. ... The Blues have allowed an NHL-low 61 goals in 5-on-5 situations this season. ... Winger David Perron has six goals in four games after having only four goals in 26 games. He was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week behind goalie Mike Smith of Phoenix (No. 1) and winger Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh (No. 2). ... Jason Arnott (shoulder) made the trip to Columbus but it is unknown if he will be taken off injured reserve. Alex Steen (concussion) and Matt D'Agostini, who was placed on injured reserve Sunday, are out. Defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) is close to being activated. ... The Blues are 4-for-11 on the power play in the last two games after going 2-for-35 in the previous 12. ... The Blues are No. 1 in the NHL, allowing a league-low 1.91 goals-per game. Their 11 shutouts between Halak and Elliott are also tops in the league and two off the tying the franchise mark set in 1968-69. ... Blues defenseman Kris Russell will go up against his twin brother Ryan Russell of the Blue Jackets for the first time tonight.

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