Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WHY NOT US: Blues want to end Hawks' streak

Chicago on record-setting 19-game streak (16-0-3)
with points to start season; St. Louis next in line

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Nineteen teams have tried, including the Blues early in the season, but now that they're next on the Chicago Blackhawks' hit list again, the Blues are asking: 'Why not us?'

The Blackhawks, who come to St. Louis for a 7 p.m. puck drop Thursday night (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), have set a National Hockey League record for consecutive games to start the season with at least a point at 19. They come to St. Louis with a 16-0-3 record and the Blues (10-6-2) are far and beyond playing the best team in the league.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Kevin Shattenkirk (pictured) and the rest of the Blues will
be looking to give Chicago its first regulation loss.
"They're a really good team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Hawks, who beat the Blues 3-2 on Jan. 22 in Chicago. "Winning is a feeling. When you have the right feeling going, you win all the close games, you get the goal at the end, you win in overtime, you win in the shootout. It's a feeling, and they've got the feeling going right now. Somebody's going to have to break the feeling. Might as well be us."

The Blues will have to do it without Andy McDonald, who injured his left knee towards the end of Tuesday's practice during a drill, and could be without leading scorer Alex Steen, who was also hurt in the same drill moments before McDonald.

McDonald was placed on injured reserve and will be out week to week, while Steen is listed as day to day.

"Any time of the season this happens, it (stinks)," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We'd love to have our full lineup going into tomorrow, but that certainly can't be our excuse going into the game that we lost because we didn't have those two. We are more than capable of beating them and beating them with the guys that we still have in this locker room now."

That means guys like Chris Porter and Andrew Murray (recalled from Peoria in recent days) could get an opportunity to try and halt history.

"With our structure and our fundamentals that our team is based on, we can create scoring through that," Shattenkirk said. "It doesn't matter who it is. It doesn't matter if it's an Andy McDonald or if it's Scott Nichol. If we play the right way, our scoring chances are going to come. It's just a matter of guys putting the puck in the net. Now is the time for guys to shine. Now is the time to realize the opportunity here. Some of the young guys, hopefully Schwartzy (Jaden Schwartz) can step in here and have a big day for us."

But the Blues have the respect factor going into the game against the Hawks, who jumped to a 3-0 lead against the Blues on Jan. 22 before withstanding the Blues' third period rush.

It would be great," Blues defenseman Ian Cole said. "Obviously it would be icing on the cake, but I think that first and foremost, we have to get two points any way we can.

"Would we rather want to go out, dominate them and impose our will on them and really show we can be a really elite team like they are? Absolutely. But they're obviously a good team. They're not going to let us step on the ice and beat the (heck) out of them, right? It'll be a little harder than that."

The Hawks understand that until somebody does it, they'll get everyone's best game.

"I'm sure every team probably wants to be the first team to beat us in regulation," Hawks forward Patrick Kane said. "It seems like we're getting that.

"It seems like a new challenge every night. You want to be the guy to extend that streak or have the big game to keep the streak going to be part of this. It’s seems like it’s a new guy every night. It’s fun to be a part of. We’ll just keep it going as long as we can."

The Hawks broke the former record, which was held by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, who started the season 12-0-4 and won the Stanley Cup that season, a team that McDonald was a part of.

"They're the best team in the league, but it doesn't matter," Blues winger David Perron said. "For us, it's playing our game and frustrate them by having the puck as much as we can. If Kane has to play in the d-zone and (Jonathan) Toews has to play in the d-zone and all that, it's not going to be a fun night for them."

Added Blues winger Chris Stewart, who could find himself playing with Schwartz and Porter Thursday: "That's a team that we want to beat. That's a heated rivalry. Any chance we get to stick it to them, we definitely want to."

Chicago is No. 1 in the league in goals allowed per game (1.97), their goaltending with Corey Crawford (8-0-3) and Ray Emery (8-0-0) has been scintillating, their power play is 13th and their penalty kill is 2nd. They're getting contributions from all four lines and former Blues coach Joel Quenneville's team had been winning the close games. They're 10-0-3 in one-goal games, including winning five in a row by one.
(St. Louis Blues)
The Blues' Chris Porter will likely make his season
debut Thursday night against Chicago.
"Their overall five-man group up and down the ice, offensively and defensively," Hitchcock said of the Hawks. "They're like a pack of five. That's how you win. There's no gap in their game. There's no offensive gap and there's no defensive gap.

"I think every team in the league's beatable, but like I said, winning's a feeling and when you're on the right side of that feeling, you feel like you're going to win all the close games, you're going to get the goal at the right time, you're going to get the save at the right time and then you just ride it out. It's like a hot streak. You ride it out for as long as you can. That's what they got going. They've played really good and any of the close games, they've found ways to win or get points. It's a pretty remarkable story to be honest with you."

But Hitchcock took a lot out of that loss in the third game of the season.

"When we played our game, they couldn't play with us, and when we played their game, we couldn't play with them," Hitchcock said. "It'll be interesting."

* NOTES -- Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal for the Blues Thursday. From reports in Chicago, Crawford was named the starter for the Hawks.

Halak, who is 4-0-1 on the season, is 3-0-0 at home this season with a 0.33 goals-against average and .979 save percentage, allowing only one goal. He's 3-0-0 in his career at home against Chicago, including a 1.00 GAA and .959 save percentage.

Hitchcock indicated that Brian Elliott, who took the loss for the Blues early in the season in Chicago and who hasn't played since Feb. 11, will get one of two games either Friday at home against Edmonton or Sunday afternoon in Dallas, which will be the Blues' third game in roughly three-and-a-half days.

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