Monday, April 14, 2014

Blues feel injured will return, help against Blackhawks

Team took Monday off, refocusing for first round series with defending champs

ST. LOUIS -- Now that the regular season mercifully has come to an end for the Blues, turning the page and looking ahead to a first round matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks is on the horizon.

And for the Blues (52-23-7), who finished with the most wins in regular season history, having at least a portion of their healthy wounded heading into a Game 1 matchup on Thursday (7 p.m. on FSN, KY 98-FM).

"They've got guys that were banged up that they're trying to bring in," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Blackhawks' top two players, Jonathan Toews (upper body) and Patrick Kane (lower body). "We'll have guys that will be coming back, but I would imagine during this series at some period of time, every player that was out for both squads is going to be a participant. I don't think that is going to change."
(St. Louis Blues)
Despite less-than-expected numbers down the stretch, Blues goalie Ryan
Miller (39) likes his team's chances with a healthier group.

For the Blues, that means eight players that missed the season finale Sunday, including David Backes (foot), T.J. Oshie (upper body), Vladimir Sobotka (lower body), Patrik Berglund (upper body), Brenden Morrow (foot), Vladimir Tarasenko (thumb), Barret Jackman (undisclosed) and Alex Pietrangelo (undisclosed) will at some point play in the series.

Of the aforementioned listed, Berglund, Morrow and Tarasenko are the likely candidates to not start the series. All others are likely to suit up Thursday.

"You want to see them back in the lineup, they've worked all year for it," said goalie Ryan Miller, who went 0-5 over his final five starts. "Whoever's in the lineup, we have to have the mindset we have to make it work. We have to push through and find ways."

"I think overall for the most part of the year, we've been pretty lucky with injuries," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "I mean we've had a few guys out here and there, but it sort of catches up in the end I guess and obviously you don't want it to all happen at once. 

"I think we'll get guys back for sure. It just is what it is. Every team goes through it. It just happened to us at the end of the year."

Both teams will try to work their best players into the series. The difference is the Hawks, who finished 46-21-15, were able to get depth scoring from players asked to fill in the gaps. The Blues, on the other hand, were not. They scored five goals during their season-ending six-game losing streak, two goals or less in nine straight and 10 of 12 games to end the season.

"The offense goes when you get the people that have coordinated us all year coming back in. It's pretty simple," Hitchcock said. "This is a perfect example of try like crazy, try hard, battle away but you need your best players in the lineup to be going. When you start dropping guys out, it's hard to create. We're asking a lot of people who normally either haven't done it (and) aren't known to do it but work hard. 

"For us, just get the players back in, get the thing coordinated, get guys back playing with people that played with each other all year and see where it goes from there. But it's not rocket science, and it's not like we don't know them and they don't know us. We know how we're going to create offense, they know how they're going to create offense. But I think both teams are anticipating some of their top players coming back in the fold here that have helped them get the records both teams have got."

The Blues will have no choice but turn the page and embark on a new endeavor. They went 3-2-0 against the Blackhawks this season, but Chicago won the past two games, outscoring the Blues 8-2.

"There’s no point in dwelling on stuff, nothing's going to change," said forward Alexander Steen, who led the Blues with a career-high 33 goals. "We don't get better by feeling sorry for ourselves, it's the way we finished the season.

"There’s 16 teams left and we don't have anything, we've got to go and get it. We've got to go and grab it. We'll be looking to get ourselves body and mind prepared for Chicago. It's going to be fun."

The Blues took Monday off, and considering the players that are on the wounded list, a day to get away from the rink and get refocused may be the best medicine.

"I think it will be good to just get a couple days break here," said Bouwmeester, the only Blue to play all 82 games, the ninth time in his 11-year career to accomplish the feat. "I think since the (Olympic) break in February we've been a pretty busy team, especially busy right at the end of the year. Obviously it didn’t end — the little streak we had at the end isn’t the way we wanted it to (end) but I think just a couple of days just get away, forget about hockey for a little bit, and then come back refreshed. Regardless of the last couple weeks we've still put ourselves in a pretty good position. We've got home ice. I think that's how you have to approach it."

Miller, who will be in his first postseason since 2011 with the Buffalo Sabres, said the Blues will compete and give the Hawks their best shot.
(St. Louis Blues)
Jay Bouwmeester (left) played in all 82 games for the Blues this season.

"We're going to go out and compete," he said. "There's always adversity that pops up in a season. I don't think any team avoids it. 

"Chicago is the big bad team. They almost got bounced by the Red Wings (last season), they were down and had to find a way to come back from a 3-1 deficit. Same thing with the Bruins last year, the Bruins actually had a very similar look to the way we finished the season and took 7 games and a third-period comeback to come back against the Leafs. There's always going to be things that make you doubt what can happen, there's going to be things that make you believe in the worst kind of situations, that you're not going to be able to do it. But this group and our fans and everybody around us needs to understand we're going to have to have perseverance and have to have a good attitude about facing those situations and doing it the right way."

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