Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blues' final scrimmage ends in 3-3 tie

Team gears up one final time before season-opener Saturday against Red Wings

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' second scrimmage in three days produced more intrigue with the drop of the puck for the regular season less than 48 hours away.

The Blue and White finished in a 3-3 tie Thursday night before 10,200 fans at Scottrade Center in action that featured good old-fashioned 5-on-5 hockey, some power play time that consisted of 5-on-4 and 4-on-3 as well as some two-man advantages that saw Jeff Woywitka score a 3-on-5 goal.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Matt D'Agostini (right) takes a shot against Jaroslav Halak during
Tuesday's scrimmage at Scottrade Center

The Blues got to work on their special teams, including penalty kill. Both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott got in good work during the scrimmage, as they did in Tuesday's 4-4 tie. Everyone got in a plethora of work except Andy McDonald, who left early with the flu but is expected back at practice Friday.

But with Detroit coming to town for a 7 p.m. puck drop Saturday, ready or not, it's time to put the finishing touches on this season's product.

"It's a short time, but we've packed a lot into a few short days," captain David Backes said. "We've tried not to overload guys mentally or physically. I think we've reached a good balance point as far as making sure we're trying to get our conditioning to where it needs to be and in situations where it needs to be."

Alex Pietrangelo and Roman Polak scored regulation goals for their respective squads. Backes and Chris Stewart added goals during the power play session and Woywitka knocked in a rebound past Elliott after Philip McRae's toe-drag sprung the Blues' defenseman loose.

And in the shootout, Stewart, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Vladimir Sobotka and Matt D'Agostini added goals.

"There were a lot of chances, I thought, both ways," center Alex Steen said. "Good goaltending.

"We're trying to cram as much detail as we can into a week and off we go. We'll have to add stuff as we go along."

D'Agostini, who right now is fighting for a job, got work in on McDonald's spot with Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, Ian Cole got to play on defense with Alex Pietrangelo and Kris Russell and Polak -- arguably the Blues' best defensive pairing against Los Angeles in the postseason -- were back together.

Scrimmages are one thing, but having to play a certain style once the Red Wings are the opponent wearing and different jersey will give a different perspective of how the Blues need to play the game. There were moments when they seemed to back off certain areas.

"Too much letting guys off easy from my point of view," Backes said, describing Thursday's scrimmage. "That's going to be a wake-up call Saturday because we weren't willing to initiate and bring it to that level in our intrasquad game.

"There's positives and negatives to that. We've avoided injury -- knock on wood -- against ourselves, which is a good thing. But it's going to be another level against a team wearing different sweaters that's going to want to do what it takes to win. They're good every year and they'll be good this year as well."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Patrik Berglund (left) and Jamie Langenbrunner battle for the puck during
the team's intrasquad scrimmage at Scottrade Center.

Fans seemed a bit on edge during the 5-on-3 drills, but it was evident the Blues weren't willing to hammer away at pucks with the chance of injuring one of their own. It was about timing and getting the proper combinations on the ice that coach Ken Hitchcock was interested in seeing.

"It is a work in progress, but I think everybody has in the back in their heads, no one wants to hammer that 5-on-3 puck the way we do in a game," said center Patrik Berglund, who continues to impress playing with Stewart and Jaden Schwartz. "Everybody thinks about that. That's why we made some poor decisions out there. No one wants to shoot the puck on one of our own guys and hit someone in the head, but we have a couple options we're going to execute. ... I think we'll be fine."

Those who are on the fringe will find out their fate Friday when rosters have to be trimmed down to 23. The Blues had 31 skaters take part in the scrimmage, including some call-ups from Peoria (McRae, Andrew Murray, Mark Cundari, Evgeny Grachev, and Cade Fairchild) as well as veteran defenseman Colin White, who was invited on a pro tryout basis. Defenseman Taylor Chorney was placed on waivers Thursday and if he goes unclaimed by Friday at 11 a.m. will likely be sent down to Peoria.

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