Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blues scrimmage ends in 4-4 draw

Tarasenko, Schwartz shine, impress coach

ST. LOUIS -- Sitting atop and watching his players go through their first scrimmage, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was able to get a little bit of everything: the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly.

The Blues split two groups into Blue and White teams, and after three 25-minute periods, two shootouts and six two-minute power play groups, the game finished in a 4-4 tie before more than 8,000 fans at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night.

If anything, with some of the guys that have been around the NHL level for some time, a pair of 2010 first round draft choices continue to make strong cases to remain mainstays when the season opens Saturday here against Detroit.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Tarasenko played in front of the home crowd Tuesday
"We all know we're going to be a good team, but we've got work," Hitchcock said. "I think what we come out of this thing with is right now, unless things change, it looks like (Vladimir) Tarasenko and (Jaden) Schwartz can more than keep up."

Tarasenko played with Alex Steen and Andy McDonald, while Schwartz continues to shine playing with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart. Both lines stood out, according to Hitchcock.

"I thought the whole three white lines were effective," Hitchcock said. "Even the line that came in and played from Peoria (Philip McRae, Evgeny Grachev and Andrew Murray) had some great continuity. A lot of good work.

"Berglund's line was very effective, Schwartz was on the hunt and created a lot of issues for (the) defense, and obviously McDonald's line with their skill and puck support was very effective."

Goals in the game came from Mark Cundari for the Blue and the White got goals from Andy McDonald, Chris Stewart and Schwartz. Goals in two rounds of shootouts -- shooters were 6-for-20 -- came from McDonald, Alex Steen, Stewart, Jamie Langenbrunner, David Perron and David Backes, who also got into competitive but playful scrum with defenseman Roman Polak. Perron also scored a power play goal.

"I did," Backes said laughing when asked who got the better of the tussle with Polak. "We'll have to figure that out over a little sushi on the road.

"It's always good to get back into a battle and get into it a little bit. These guys have been playing (in Europe) and he's got that adrenaline flowing. It's a new feeling for me in the last eight months. It's good to get those feelings back."

The two got into a bit of a bear hug scrum near the Blues bench and were able to laugh it off afterwards.

"It's two guys that like to play hard in a little bit of a battle," Backes said. "We hugged it out and life goes on. That's the good thing about hockey. You can buy him a cold beverage tonight and we'll laugh about it."

The Blues, who will practice again Wednesday, scrimmage on Thursday and practice again Friday before hitting the ground running against the Red Wings, have a better understanding of where they stand.

"We saw kind of what we thought we saw," Hitchcock said. "We had some lines with good continuity ... they had continuity at practice and then they showed up in the games again today. And then we had guys ... you can see they didn't play. There was a lot of rust at times from people who haven't played. We've got plenty of time to get up to speed.

"We needed to look at today and decide, 'OK, these are the areas that we need to work on,' and I think we got that. We know the areas that we need to work on, we know the players that we need to talk to to pick up their pace, we know the team part of our game we need to work on, we know what works and what doesn't work and then we'll just make some tweaks and changes tomorrow to what we want to get done and then keep moving forward."

As any team looking to get ready in a hurry, the pace was good at the beginning of the scrimmage but tailed off as the game progressed.

"The first 16 minutes of the first period was as any league game you're going to get into," Hitchcock said. "It was fast and hard-played with great tempo. And as people got tired, you saw mistakes or when people got tired, you saw the lack of polish because they haven't played. We've got three more days to get ready to play, which is plenty of time."

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