Friday, March 21, 2014

(3-22-14) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Blues hit road for three; lineup updates; Miller's new mask; Lindbohm signs

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Coming off one of the tougher losses of the season Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues, who hit the road again for a three-game East Coast swing, were a spirited bunch Friday.

A day off Thursday allowed the players to get reinvigorated after being throttled 4-0 in Chicago.

It was the Blues' first regulation loss in 10 games (8-1-1)

"I think the energy we had to the practice was a lot to the day off and the loss," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think there was a renewed vigor of focus, both by the coaches and players. I think quite frankly we've been sailing along with not a lot of rough water, and it's the first bit of rough water we hit in that game. I think we wanted to play really well, but we found out that wanting to play really well and wanting to do things, you still have to execute. I thought out execution level was down. We amped it up at practice today to get ready for the weekend here.

"... This is not a group that's going to write off that game. ... Other people might just say it's a bad game, but this group doesn't do that. These players are invested in a lot of things this year that are important for them, and one of the things is playing well in big games. They were really disappointed by the way things went. They're not willing to write it off and say, 'Oh, well that's just a bad game.' They don't think like that. They were pissed off, disappointed at the way things turned out. Yesterday was a rest day, today's the first day you can make a difference. The way they practiced, to me, showed how much they care. They care deeply, this team. I think quite frankly that might be the impetus to get us to another level and get us back refocused because things have been sailing along."

Big tests await in visits to Philadelphia on Saturday, Pittsburgh on Sunday and Toronto on Tuesday, all teams in playoff positions.

"Playing in these types of atmospheres like the one that's in Philly, the one that's in Pitt, the one that's in Toronto, this is going to do nothing but help us," Hitchcock said. "I know there's going to be some frustration and I know there's going to be some times where people are going to make comments, but we're at the stage right now where we've got a playoff spot, we know we're going to be in the playoffs. Now what's next is how much can we dial up our game and get ready to play. These competitions and these type of opponents, they give you great measuring sticks for what you need to work on. Our next judgment is going to be moving forward into the playoffs. Getting every significant opponent is going to do nothing but help us."

* Lineup updates -- The only change Hitchcock is sure of is defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will play against the Flyers, a game that starts at noon on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Colaiacovo will replace Ian Cole.

"Yes, I've liked his game," Hitchcock said of Colaiacovo, who has one goal and three points in 14 games. "We've got to see if he can handle it endurance-wise, but one thing about Carlo is he really moves the puck and we're playing against teams that are hard on the forecheck, these next two teams, so we need people who can transition it quickly. We want to give him a go."

Colaiacovo last played on March 9 at Minnesota, where he scored his first goal of the season. There was a stretch from Jan. 2 to Feb. 26 where Colaiacovo didn't play.

"That was really tough," Colaiacovo. "I kept a really good attitude towards it. I've kept my mindset to be ready every game regardless if I'm going or not. To me, the biggest part is working hard off the ice, working hard on the ice when we're on the ice; just trying to stay positive and be ready for my chance when it comes. 

"It's obviously not a fun thing to do. It's a hard thing to be a part of, but to be a part of a group like this, you have to do whatever it takes to be a part of this team. For me and the role I've been asked to play, it's not easy; it's been tough. I'm not going to lie. But they're the opportunities that you've got to wait for and make the most of the chance you get. ... I've been in the league a long time, I've played in a lot of playoff games, I've played in do-or-die games. I've had those experiences where I can use as a positive when I need to look back at this situation. I've played in those areas, I'm confident in myself, I'm confident in my abilities. I know what I can do to help the team win. It's tough it hasn't been every night for me here, but it's obviously something I've had to get used to." 

This is the projected lineup for Saturday's game against the Flyers (UPDATED Saturday):

T.J. Oshie-Alexander Steen-David Backes

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund

Magnus Paajarvi-Derek Roy-Steve Ott

Dmitrij Jaskin-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak

Ryan Miller will start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.

The healthy scratches are Ian Cole, Maxim Lapierre and Brenden Morrow. Jordan Leopold, who was scheduled to play Monday, was back on the ice Friday for the first time. He had been dealing with the stomach flu. Magnus Paajarvi will return from the upper-body injury he suffered at Nashville on March 15. Vladimir Tarasenko is out indefinitely after having surgery on his right thumb.

"Leo's not ready," Hitchcock said. "This is the first day after being sick. Carlo is going to play tomorrow. ... The rest I'll have to sleep on what I want to put in the lineup. I think Paajarvi looked really good. I think he's ready to go. I think in the next two games we want to get both him and Porter in the lineup because of the speed factor. That's the one thing with Tarasenko that we notice. When he goes out, we miss a lot of speed. We've got a couple guys that can really add to that mix."

The Flyers, who are playing much better of late, defeated Dallas 4-2 Thursday. This was the lineup they used:

Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

Vincent Lecavalier-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Steve Downie

Zac Rinaldo-Michael Raffl-Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit-Nicklas Grossmann

Andrew MacDonald-Luke Schenn

Steve Mason is projected to start in goal; Ray Emery would be the backup.

Healthy scratches would include Jay Rosehill, Hal Gill and Erik Gustafsson.

* Miller's new lid -- Ryan Miller sported his new goalie mask for the first time at practice on Friday. It was designed by Ray Bishop of Bishop Designs that has a feel to it of former Blues goalie Curtis Joseph, Miller's favorite goalie growing up with flavors of favorite guitarists Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page as well as a tribute to W.C. Handy's Saint Louis Blues song
(St. Louis Blues)
Ryan Miller sporting his new mask at practice Friday.

"I sit around and I just try to come up with some ideas," Miller said. "This time around, I was pressed for time, so I got some basic sketches together. I pulled up everything I could on Google about the area. I wanted to do something kind like Curtis Joseph, because he was my favorite goalie growing up and something a little more modern. I had the original sketch together. I needed a little more help so I got more help from some of the boys who had a buddy that does some work and does some drawings. I sent some of the basic sketches to Ray. He bounced some back to me and we kind of mixed and matched on a few things and that's what we kind of came up with. It was kind of a collaborative effort this time because we were playing every other day and I didn't have time to sit around and do it like I usually do."

And the finished product? 

"I think it's great. It turned out great. I think it's a fun theme," Miller said. "There's a lot of great guitarists out there. We've got another mask. We've still got a lot of blues to cover. Stevie Ray Vaughn still hasn't made an appearance yet. It's something we can go in a couple different directions and we're going to have some fun with it."

* Lindbohm signs -- The Blues signed defenseman Petteri Lindbohm to a three-year entry level contract on Friday.

Lindbohm, 20, was selected by the Blues in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He played in 37 games for Assat Pori and Jokerit Helsinki of Finland's SM-liiga this season, where he scored one goal and added five assists.

A Helsinki, Finland native, Lindbohm is 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds.

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