Thursday, April 5, 2012


Blues liked game against Wings despite loss;
Reaves speaks; Elliott, Halak to split final two games

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Even though they succumbed at the end and allowed Detroit steal two points with a couple simple mistakes, the Blues learned something about themselves.

If they can put together the kind of effort they got against the Red Wings Wednesday, it bodes well for the playoffs, which begin in six days.

"That's very good. If we can play like that, that's exactly what we need," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Thursday of the 3-2 shootout loss that dropped the Blues to 3-3-4 in their last 10 games. "We did a lot of things really well against a really good opposition. I was really happy with our effort, I was really happy with the composition of our game in general ... a lot of things. We'll see if we can take it against a different opponent tomorrow, but if that's the game we're bringing into the playoffs, I'd be pretty happy.

"We played very well. We played one of our better games in the last month. We made three mistakes and two went in the net. The third one right after second one didn't go in the net, but we made three mistakes in the third period and the best player in the planet made us pay for it."

That would be Pavel Datsyuk, who set up both Johan Franzen goals in the game's final six minutes that helped erase a Blues 2-0 lead.

Detroit would go on to win the shootout on Todd Bertuzzi's goal and keep the Blues (48-21-11) from getting to within a point of both Vancouver and the New York Rangers for the Western Conference lead and Presidents' Trophy. The Blues are two points behind both and will finish out the regular season with a home game against Phoenix Friday and at Dallas Saturday.

"We pretty much played 54 minutes of hockey (Wednesday), defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We let them back in the game in the last six minutes there. I think we just got a little too comfortable with those two quick goals there. There's still a lot of positives we can take out of it.

"This is why we have these last three games here. It's better that we do this now instead of next week."

Goalie Brian Elliott, who saw his franchise record and personal best 241 minutes, 33 seconds of shutout hockey stopped with Franzen's first goal with 6:05 remaining, played another solid game and will get the start against the Coyotes Friday (Jaroslav Halak will start the season finale in Dallas).

"I think for 50-plus minutes we played unbelievable," said Elliott, who leads the NHL in both goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.943). "That's the way we want to play all the time. We kind of had a little lapse when we got the lead. What good teams do is not have that lapse. We have to keep getting better and can't hang our hat on playing almost a full game. It's a tough way to lose a game when you battle that hard.

"I got two wins (2-0-2) out of that little stretch (during the shutout streak) and that's what you worry about. It doesn't really feel the same. It's a good run, but we've had a couple losses here that put a damper on things. We'll try to start it again and have that stingy defense that we've had and bury the opportunities."

* Hitch blames himself -- Hitchcock blamed himself for Detroit's tying goal following Wednesday's game and he wasn't backing off after Thursday's practice either.

The Blues' coach said the team got caught in a line change, one in which Detroit kept the Datsyuk-Franzen-Bertuzzi line on longer than anticipated.

The Blues had Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott and Chris Stewart on the ice at the time, with Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Pietrangelo the defensive pairing.

"They extended a shift and we didn't get a change," Hitchcock said of the Wings. "That's on me. ... We got caught. They stayed on the ice when we anticipated a change.

"I think we played good enough until it got comfortable. It's 2-0, it's pretty comfortable and then we started to go revert. We reverted back to not hard enough on the forecheck, casual with the puck. It's not all the way there, but we're at the 50-minute mark."

And as Hitchcock pointed out, it takes 60 minutes to win.

"We got 60 against Nashville where it was great, we got 60 against LA where we played great," Hitchcock said. "We get 30 against Chicago, We get 20 against Columbus and then we get a 50 last night.

"If we're going to get 50 minutes on that type of performance, we've got something to build on. But against a team like Detroit, it's got to be 60. If we would have stayed on the program for 60 minutes and managed the puck the right way and stayed on the forecheck and stayed on the hunt, we would have won the hockey game for sure. It wasn't like they jumped into the game, we let them in the game. We let them in the game by backing off too much. You can't do that against that team."

* Reaves talks -- Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves, who was given a five-minute boarding penalty and game-misconduct for his check on Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart, will not get any further disciplinary action, according to the NHL.

Reaves was given the major penalty and the boot from the game by referee Brad Watson on a very questionable call at best, a call Hitchcock said he didn't like after the game.

Reaves spoke about it after practice and said his track record -- albeit short in the NHL -- proves he's not a dirty player.

"If you look at my track record, in a season and a half I don't have any of those (offenses)," Reaves said. "No 10's except for my first game, which was a jersey tie-down.

"There was no head contact, I didn't touch him in the numbers. I think it was just more of how he went into the boards. It was kind of an awkward turn. It's unfortunate, but hockey's a fast game. Calls are going to be made in a split second like that."

Which is why Reaves wasn't critical of the call but didn't necessarily agree with it either.

"I thought it was cleaner than a five, that's for sure," Reaves said. "I looked at it again and I kind of caught him in the back of his shoulder, he kind of went (into the boards) awkward.

"I would agree with a two-minute penalty. A five and a 10, I don't know. The ref has to make a call in a split second ... it's tough on him, so it's tough to argue.

"He wasn't square on to me, so I wasn't going full speed at him. You could see my feet were planted. I didn't really drive through. I just kind of clipped him on the shoulder. ... It wasn't (a) full potential (check)."

Reaves said the hit won't change who he is or how he plays.

"I had to shake that off 10 minutes after it happened because I've got to go back out tomorrow and play the exact same way," Reaves said. "That's what I'm here for. If I get off that game, I'm kind of useless out there. I'm just a floating body. I shook it off last night. Luckily no suspension, no fine and thankfully back to work."

* Shuffling forwards -- Thursday's practice lines included the Alex Steen moving back up with David Backes and T.J. Oshie; Andy McDonald, Patrik Berglund and David Perron together again; Langenbrunner, Arnott and Stewart and the fourth line consisted of Scott Nichol centering B.J. Crombeen and Chris Porter. Extra skaters included Reaves, Vladimir Sobotka, Matt D'Agostini and Jaden Schwartz.

Although Friday's lineup hasn't been determined, Hitchcock was asked about Crombeen and Porter, who have been scratched for six and five games, respectively.

"The decision's further up the food chain for me," Hitchcock said. "It's 'what do I do?' We're trying like heck to speed up the clock on certain guys to see if they're up to speed. If they are, then great."

D'Agostini is another one of them. While Hitchcock acknowledged Steen and McDonald are up to speed following their concussions, D'Agostini is still catching up.

D'Agostini is an interesting dilemma because he's a guy for me from the red line in really brings an element that is necessary for us," Hitchcock said. "From the red line back, he's missed so much time, his awareness isn't up to speed. That's why we're working on the things we're working on in practice, to try to get him up to speed.

"There's going to be a time when we have to make a decision on what we're going to do with him. He's showing improvement. I just hope we don't run out of days."

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