Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Blues-Kings sequel Thursday; Oshie 
expected to play; Brodeur to play goal; Ott's versatility

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The sequel between the Blues and Los Angeles Kings will unveil Thursday at Staples Center after the two teams offered up an appetizer Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

The Blues' 5-2 victory against the defending Stanley Cup champs -- at least for one game -- lifted a gorilla off their shoulders.

That's because including the playoffs, the Kings won 17 of 21 games against the Blues going back to the 2010-11 season when the Blues swept four regular season games against L.A.

But to call it a measuring stick. That's yet to be determined.

"We'll see what happens when we go into their building," captain David Backes said. "It's one game, it's two points in the bank. Now we've got to go on a tough little west coast trip here before Christmas and the same team that's been on the road for a little bit, they're going to go home and get some home cooking and we've got to go into their building and show that (Tuesday) wasn't a fluke and start like we did in the middle of the second rather than kind of wade into the game and see what's going to happen."

But it all boils down to if the Blues (21-8-2) are to be taken seriously, they have to stand up to the L.A.'s, Chicagos, Anaheims, and so forth.

"It's really been like that against this team. It's always really hard games," forward Patrik Berglund said Wednesday of the Kings. "I think we made a statement winning last night's game. We obviously want to carry that over to L.A. here tomorrow. It was not just last night's game that was on the line. It's preparations for the next one as well. 

"I think we were just really trying to stick with it. We know they're a really tough team to beat. They're veteran players there that have been really successful lately winning two Cups. They know how to win and they know how to play. In the third, we got stuff going."

"They're really tough. They have a good team," right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who recorded his second-career hat trick Tuesday, said of the Kings. "They won last year. This is a good evaluation for us and a good challenge."

So what brought the Blues back to dictating the pace of the game in the third?

"It was our checking," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Wednesday. "It was those three or four shifts in the second period (from the Backes line with Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz) that brought some energy back to our game. We were playing OK, but we were flat emotionally because we were being discouraged (and) because nothing was happening. We weren't getting anywhere, and then instead of looking for space, we started to get involved in the game a little bit more physically that brought energy to our group and then with the energy came a few scoring chances. But I said last night, when we play reckless, we're a better team. We don't play well when we play conservative or careful. We need to play reckless to be effective.

"Their whole basis of their game is based on checking and you can get really frustrated when you play them because there is no time, no space, there's no room, nothing's easy, and you've got to learn to play through that. It's easy to talk about but hard to do. That's why they're successful. They check and they check hard. The score might be close, but they're controlling the tempo. Offense doesn't control the hockey game; checking controls the hockey game, and when they check, they check hard. They're big, strong and physical. They can skate (and) hard to play against. Learning to play through that stuff is important if you ever expect to beat teams like that on a regular basis. I'm sure that's what people say about us. That's the same as us. When our game's on, it's not our offensive part of our game that's on, it's our checking because both teams are built very similar. Both teams create a lot of chances off of their checking."

Which should give the rematch Thursday at 9:30 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) some flare for dramatics.

"Both teams play with a high level of stubbornness," Hitchcock said. "We have elements in our game that we need to adjust to. It's not so much playing L.A. It's just playing better. The things that we need to do, it doesn't matter who the opponent is. We've got to play better. There's elements in our game that you would have left last night saying, 'Geez, they did this really well and there's elements in our game that we have to improve on.' So we all get one look at it tomorrow, and we'll have to make adjustments in our own game just to play better. There's things last night that certainly need improvement, and then there's things that you really like. We have elements in our game that I think moving forward, we're not going to get away with against good teams. You've got to look that stuff right in the eye and then have the candid conversations in order to get better."

* Schwartz out with injury -- After the team landed in Los Angeles, the Blues announced that forward Jaden Schwartz has been placed on injured reserve with a right foot injury, with the possible source from a blocked shot of the Kings' Drew Doughty on Tuesday.

Schwartz blocked a shot from Doughty in the first period in the Blues' defensive zone, was on his knee for a moment but was able to continue on and finished with a power play goal and an assist. His goal tied the game 2-2 in the third period and he finished with 18 minutes, 24 seconds of ice time.

To make room for Schwartz, who is tied for second on the team with Kevin Shattenkirk with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists), the Blues have recalled Dmitrij Jaskin from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

Schwartz was one of six players (Kevin Shattenkirk, Vladimir Tarasenko, AlexPietrangelo, Maxim Lapierre and Barret Jackman) to play in all 31 games this season.

Jaskin has had a cup of coffee with the Blues this season, playing in six games. He scored in the Blues' 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the season and hasfour goals and 15 points in 18 games with the Wolves this season.

Jaskin has two goals and three points in 26 NHL games spanning three seasons.

* Oshie to rejoin team -- After missing Tuesday's game against the Kings because of a death in the family, right wing T.J. Oshie is expected to join the Blues in Los Angeles and be in the lineup in time for Thursday's game.

Wednesday night, Stacy Ann Oshie (sister of Oshie's dad Tim) lost her battle with cancer. 

"RIP my dear sister Stacy Ann Oshie," Tim Oshie, tweeted Wednesday morning. "You were one of the kindest & gentle human beings I've ever met."

T.J. flew to Washington on Tuesday to be with his family but Hitchcock said Wednesday they felt Oshie will be able to get into L.A. and play Thursday. 

"He's obviously got some personal stuff going on and your thoughts are with him, but he's a big boy," Backes said of Oshie after the win Tuesday. "He'll take care of business and hopefully join us very soon in the road trip. 

"He's a big part of our team, brings a ton of energy to us. We missed him tonight and hopefully he's back in the lineup sooner than later."

* Versatile Ott -- With Oshie out of the lineup, it created all sorts of havoc with the coaching staff and trying to assemble line combinations against the Kings.

And although he didn't start with them, Steve Ott was a fit for the 'STL Line' with Jori Lehtera and Tarasenko, who had four points.

With Jaden Schwartz moving up to Oshie's spot with Backes and Steen, it created avoid, and when that happens, the veteran Ott is the guy that typically fits the bill.

"For me with Ott, where you play him is not as relevant as how he plays," Hitchcock said. "When he plays in straight lines, he's a very effective player. ... He was with Backes and Steen last year; he was very effective. It doesn't matter who he's with. When he plays in straight lines, man, he's really, really effective. 

"He manages the game properly. He keeps the puck in front of him, he's brings physical play, he brings energy, but he knew to advance the puck and get it into other people's hands and he did a good job there for us."

Ott began the game with Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves on the fourth line but slowly moved his way up. He set up Tarasenko in the high slot for the Blues' first goal in the second period.

"We start him as a fourth-line player on a regular basis, but then he always winds up playing third line," Hitchcock said of Ott. "At the end of the night, he winds up with third-line minutes every game. Sometimes it's because there's a few penalties and sometimes he gets moved up on the line, sometimes the game's on the line and we play him extra minutes, but he always ends up in third line minutes every game. Not much chances at all. If you look at all the third-line players in the National Hockey League, his minutes are the same as theirs are."

Ott has been in this situation before, when the Blues were banged up against the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs last season.

"I've been in those type of situations obviously before," Ott said. "If I'm on the fourth line or one of the different lines, you try to keep your game simple and responsible. I more or less told them I obviously know I'm more of a forechecking type of player. Hopefully, things can spill out towards them and they can do what they do and hopefully I don't get in the way. I think that's what happened. They had the puck and Vladi knows what to do with it when it's on his stick."

* Brodeur to start -- Goalie Martin Brodeur, who last played Dec. 8 against the Florida Panthers, a game in which he recorded 32 saves in a 4-2 victory, will get the start against the Kings on Thursday.

Brodeur, who is 2-1-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, played in three games in five days (came on in relief once) but will go 10 days between games, and by his own admission, he needed some practice time.

He got plenty of it, and with a schedule that has the Blues playing six games until the end of the calendar year, Brodeur will be relied upon to get games along with Jake Allen. Brodeur is 10 wins shy of 700 for his career.

"I think the practices are important," Hitchcock said. "You start, you come back in and you play on emotion and then you've got to play on technique, and I think he's worked hard on some things here. I think he's ready. 

"You're just looking until January 1st, we've got what, seven or eight games left. He's going to have to play games. So he gets Thursday in L.A. and then we'll see from there, but he's certainly going to play some games here now. We get the little three-day break, then we come roaring out of the gate playing a lot of hockey again, so he's going to have to play some of those games, too."

* Gunnarsson in limbo -- Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who missed his fourth consecutive game Tuesday, still needs time to condition himself (particularly his surgically-repaired hip) in order to return to the active lineup.

Gunnarsson, who sustained a concussion against the New York Islanders following a hit by Anders Lee on Dec. 6, was medically cleared to resume on-ice activities but from a conditioning standpoint, he's not there. Plus, the time off with no activity is more detrimental to the hip injury that needs all the work it can get to continue to be mobile.

"Gunnarsson is not game-ready," Hitchcock said. "The same seven guys that we were rotating through are the same seven guys we're going to stay with. He's not ready to be a full participant in a game yet. He's a guy that's going to need some practice times here before he's ready to play. We figured that out after today that he's just not ... the combination of the injury and then the rehab that he went through before, he's not going to be ready."

"Any time off would be bad. It's approaching (two) weeks now. When it's significant like this, it's not great. It's not a setback, but this is like anything else. We had just got through all of the body work that you have to get through to figure it out, and now we're back dealing with the bodywork again. We'll go back and fix it to where it's nothing but the conditioning and training and working and strengthening. The problem for us was it wasn't like an injury, so he didn't do anything. The atrophy from that has made it to where we've got to work it back up again. If it was an injury to some other part of your body, he could continue to work that stuff, but it's not, so he couldn't do anything for (two) weeks, and now we're back up to working it back up again. I can't really give you a time-frame on it now. What is it, one, two, three, four practices before he's ready to go? He's going to be able to tell us that."

One of the rotating seven (Petteri Lindbohm) passed another rugged test Thursday when the Kings decided to target the rookie sixth-rounder of 2012.

"He pushed back, which was good," Hitchcock said of Lindbohm. "That's what we needed. He pushed back. They went after him, and he pushed back. He's the new kid on the block, they went and challenged him and he pushed back, which was a nice sign."

* Quick criticism -- Kings coach Darryl Sutter questioned Jonathan Quick after the goalie allowed four goals on 22 shots, including three on seven shots in the third period.

Sutter, who said the Kings needed "to get a save in there somewhere," during the Blues' four-goal third period, liked the team game.

But Quick's USA Olympic teammate was -- no pun intended -- quick to defend the Kings' goalie.

"He's a helluva goalie, no question. World class," Backes said of Quick. "I played with him at the Olympics. You could see what he's capable of, but we've got to get bodies in front of him, get some pucks moving laterally, he's typically out on the angle, he'll make the save if he can see it. He's as good as they come. We've just got to make plays and find ways to beat him. We did that enough (Tuesday) night."

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