Monday, February 16, 2015


Berglund injured at practice; Hitch to make 
lineup tweak; Porter close; Florida aftermath

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A day after 70-degree weather and playing a game against the Florida Panthers to the flying into St. Louis to teen temperatures and the biggest snowstorm of the season, the Blues held a spirited practice on Monday at the Ice Zone.

They almost got a scare when forward Patrik Berglund crashed into the boards during a drill and needed help off the ice favoring his right leg. But coach Ken Hitchcock said Berglund will be fine and expected to play Tuesday against the Dallas Stars.

"I guess he just lost an edge going back for a puck," Hitchcock said. "Those things happen at practice; no big deal.

"... Bergy will be fine. He fell into the boards there, but he'll be fine for tomorrow." 

Forwards Alexander Steen and Jori Lehtera were absent from practice because of what Hitchcock called "maintenance days," but both are also expected to play Tuesday.

"Maintenance on both guys," Hitchcock said. "... Right now looking at it, we should be status quo. We may make a couple line combination changes, but roster-wise, we've got the chance to be the same again."

Those roster changes include centers Paul Stastny and Lehtera. Stastny centered the line with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko and has regularly, when everyone's healthy, centered Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin.

Look for the Blues' coach to flip the centers at the start on Tuesday.

"We might look at a couple different combinations," Hitchcock said. "We're looking at maybe flipping Lehtera and Stastny and see how that looks. We'll see what's going on. We haven't had the chemistry that we expect at times. Maybe the time now to see if we can get some new energy from those two lines and might work for us."

Is it more the way Stastny, who has 19 of his 32 points in the past 22 games, has been playing? Hitchcock said no.

"The strength of our team is our depth," Hitchcock said. "We'd like to see more balanced production offensively and defensively. We're looking at maybe making a couple minor tweaks and changes and see if we can get a new energy with it."

* Florida aftermath -- The Blues got the coveted two points Sunday in a 2-1 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers, but were not happy with how everything developed as the game progressed.

Leading 1-0 and playing exactly the way they wanted, the Blues seemed to lose their grip and allowed Florida to dictate. The Panthers eventually scored with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game before the Blues salvaged the one point in the shootout.

"I think it was more us," said Hitchcock, whose team allowed a season-high for shots in a period with 21 in that third period. "We just stopped doing the things we were doing. We weren't giving them anything and then we just started giving them everything. That's a hard track to get off of. Once you start giving up odd-man rushes, and once you start becoming too puck-focused and not checking-focused, we were diving into messes that weren't necessary and things like that. It wasn't a healthy last half of the game for us at all; not at all.

"... I didn't like the way we played the second half of the game at all yesterday. I think as a coach you know when you watch that stuff is ... the feeling you had and what you saw you have to be careful because it's almost overwhelming when you looked at it. On purpose, I never looked at the game tape. I told the guys, 'Don't even file it into my iPad; I don't want to look at it because I know what I saw.' I think if you looked at something like that, it even gets you more upset. ... I think the part that bothered me more than anything was the tying goal. The tying goal was a lack of execution that allowed it to be an icing and then we had won a faceoff and got it turned over because we didn't protect our defensemen. I didn't like that at all. But you've got to be careful because we play another game two days later."

Said captain David Backes: "They score with, what, a minute left in the game? Those are just times where we've got to bear down and get a job done. Not particularly happy with that, but in the end, we got two points. We've got to bury that and look to have a great performance tomorrow because there's nothing we can do with the ones that's already in the books. We can just only get better from it and learn from our mistakes, learn what went wrong on that goal and how we're going to defend and get pucks out so we can get fresh bodies on the ice and close that game out."

* Porter healthy -- Left wing Chris Porter, who's missed 20 games after sustaining a left ankle injury on Dec. 29, took another healthy turn at practice Monday and appears set to come off injured reserve at any time.

Porter was skating in Steen's spot with Backes and T.J. Oshie and was buzzing around the ice showing no ill effects of what looked like a bad injury when he fell awkwardly into the side boards trying to make a hit in front of the Blues' bench.

"He's at that 100 percent range and eager to get in," Hitchcock said of Porter, who has one goal and one assist in 14 games. "I think we're going to put him in here pretty quick. He brings a real energy to our team and he brings a real tenacity with speed that I think we're going to be needing here in the next two or three games."

And where will Porter fit in?

"I don't know. We'll find a spot for him," Hitchcock said.

* Dallas Stars four-game homestand -- The Blues (37-15-4) begin a stretch where the schedule is either home-heavy or road-heavy.

When the Stars (26-22-8) visit, it begins a four-game homestand that will also see Boston, Pittsburgh and Montreal visit before the Blues play five on the road, three at home and six away from Scottrade Center in the next 18 games.

But considering the Blues went 7-2-0 during a nine-game stretch in 15 days, they seem to be handling the tough schedule fine.

"A couple setbacks during that stretch, but you have to be happy with the amount of points we've gotten," said goalie Brian Elliott, the star in Sunday's win with 40 saves. "The way we've gotten then, we've had some domination games, we've had some battle games, we've had some tired games where we still come out with two points. Those are the ones that really mean a lot to keep up with our conference and our division, you almost have to win every night."

The Stars are in a battle for one of the two Western Conference wildcard spots. They're without star center Tyler Seguin, who is out 3-6 weeks with a knee injury sustained Friday after a clipping major for Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov was suspended by the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday.

"They're a quick team," Elliott said of the Stars, who handed the Blues one of their five regulation losses at home. "I think they look to to strike pretty fast on the rush. They've got some guys that can score. Like we say every game, our game is to battle down low, put pucks in and kind of wear teams down and get our offensive chances off of that. I don't think our game plan is going to change all that much, but we have to be prepared for the quick-strike offense they have."

Elliott will get the start Tuesday.

* Hitch jokes (again) -- For the first time following the All-Star break, the Blues had two days in between games, and following their 6-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, the Blues had the day off Friday. They spent it in Fort Lauderdale before facing the Panthers on Sunday.

A reporter asked Hitchcock what he did on his day off and if he spent a day at the beach in a Speedo, to which the coach replied, "Do you know what I would look like in a Speedo? I don't want to scare everybody in Fort Lauderdale," Hitchcock joked.

"We have our ways of getting away," he added. "To me, doing anything different other than hockey, taking a day away is a good thing."

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