Friday, December 12, 2014


Steen's offense coming around; Allen in goal; 
Cole appears set to return; Gunnarsson skates

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Alexander Steen's first words during his postgame interview after the Blues' 6-3 victory was that he didn't feel like he had his legs.

Not bad for a guy who had a pair of goals, including the go-ahead tally in the third period, and three points.

What would Steen have done had his legs been up to par?

Hard to think he would have done any more after missing two games with a groin injury.

Playing on a line with familiar linemates David Backes and T.J. Oshie, the trio dominated play to the tune of seven points, as Oshie also had a three-point night.

"I thought 'Backs' and 'Osh' played really well and helped me along," Steen said, when Patrik Berglund walked by and playfully chimed in, "Bergy too."

"And Bergy too," Steen said, laughing. "They (Backes and Oshie) really helped me along, both of them. The second goal was just an unreal play by 'Osh,' a really smart play."

Steen, who played 17 minutes, 7 seconds Thursday night, initially was injured against the Nashville Predators a week ago and didn't participate in the morning skate Thursday. He was deemed fit after a strenuous practice Wednesday.

"Pretty good, considering," Steen said. "But I think I expect more out of my legs than what I had yesterday. I obviously feel like I've had a lot better games this year, but kind of walked away from the game with really nothing to show for it.

"Then yesterday, things just seemed to find you. I could have had four or five, six goals. I had some really good chances. I've got to find a way to score some more and not let New York linger around like they did had I put a couple of other chances away, the game would have been over."

Steen, who has seven goals 19 points in 27 games, has picked up his production has picked up in recent games, with eight points in eight games.

Steen has 18 shots (six in each game) in the past three games.

"I don't know if it's so much my shot as it is actual chances," Steen said. "Last little while even before the injury, I felt like I was getting a lot more chances again."

The chemistry with Backes and Oshie cannot go unnoticed. The trio has a history, and it's no secret that the line is able to produce.

"We have chemistry from last year," Steen said. "We had a shift, I can't remember, it was an away game. We started together and right away, you sense the chemistry you have from playing with the same guys all the time. Everybody knows what to expect, not just in the details, where you place pucks and stuff like that, but what time of the game it is, who's on the ice. It's just a different presence. You kind of look at each other on the ice, and you're like, 'Ok.'"

Oshie said it's up to all three to keep the line in tact.

"It's nice to stay on the same line for a little bit," Oshie said. "The way we're going to keep it together is by all playing the same way, and that's hard working, very direct, very north hockey and playing smart and the way we check. In the past, we've tried the other way, the fancy way, and us three together, we just can't get it done that way. You know 'Backs' is going to play that way. It's up to me and Steener to follow him."

* Gunnarsson skates -- It was the first step, but defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (concussion) was able to take the ice and skate under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Ray Barile.

Gunnarsson, who took an elbow to the head against the New York Islanders' Anders Lee, is not nearing a return, according to coach Ken Hitchcock.

"No, no good," Hitchcock said. "We haven't even entertained thoughts of putting him on the ice (with the team) yet. He's not even ready to skate or participate, even in an optional skate yet. He's out."

* Allen to start -- Hitchcock made the announcement that Jake Allen, who stopped 25 shots in the 6-3 win Thursday against the Islanders, will get the nod against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

There was some speculation that perhaps Martin Brodeur, who's won two straight games (one in relief of Allen) his previous two times out, would get the start, but Hitchcock is staying with the 24-year-old Allen, who is 9-3-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

"He really gave us an opportunity (Thursday) when we were killing the penalty early in the game and when we were killing a penalty late in the game," Hitchcock said of Allen. "I think he did a heck of a job. We want to reward that."

* Cole to draw in -- Ian Cole, a healthy scratch Thursday, appears set to rejoin the lineup against the Avalanche after being chosen over Petteri Lindbohm and Chris Butler.

Hitchcock has Butler, Cole and Lindbohm as an axis of three, and all are part of a group of seven until Gunnarsson's return.

"We're a group of seven until (Gunnarsson) comes back and all seven guys are going to play," Hitchcock said. "So in Colorado, you might see one guy that played last night sit out. Whether it's Cole or Butler or Lindbohm, we're going to rotate those three guys. They've all played well, so we want to keep them part of the team.

"Cole was a sit-out. he'll probably come in and play in Colorado and then we'll sit somebody out and then we'll do the same thing (against) L.A. As long as those guys are contributing and playing well, we're going to keep everybody part of the team. Until Gunnarsson gets to be upright and playing, we're going to rotate all those guys to keep them all engaged."

The Blues are assigning Lindbohm to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, likely for the weekend, since the Blues won't play again until Tuesday. Lindbohm will likely be back on recall then.

* Captain quiet? -- After taking a deflected puck to the mouth on Monday against the Florida Panthers, a shot taken originally by Oshie, Backes had been in much discomfort.

Despite missing two practices, Backes was back in the lineup Thursday after taking part in the morning skate prior to facing the Islanders.

Backes had an assist in the game and played with a full face shield. Communicating with familiar linemates Oshie and Steen might have been a little difficult.

"He came up to me yesterday morning and he goes 'Hey, if you don't hear me talking tonight, it's because I can't — it's not because I'm mad at you or anything,'" Oshie joked. "I said, 'Thank you, thanks for telling me that. 

"Taking a puck to the mouth, you're not going to look your best. But he's definitely gotten a lot better over these past couple of days and he's definitely a warrior for getting in there."

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