Sunday, March 29, 2015


Steen, Oshie questionable for Monday, both day-to-day; Blues looking to 
raise intensity; Shattenkirk's debut; Berglund on the scoresheet; Elliott in goal

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues may have dodged a bullet when it comes to one of their top forwards.

Alexander Steen, who left the 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets with 11 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the first period following a knee-on-knee collision with Blue Jackets defenseman Cody Goloubef to the right of the Columbus goal, did not practice on Sunday and is listed as day-to-day.

Coach Ken Hitchcock said Steen and T.J. Oshie, who sat out Saturday's game with flu-like symptoms, are both questionable for Monday's game against the Vancouver Canucks.

"We'll see tomorrow, see if he's ready to go tomorrow," Hitchcock said of Steen on Sunday afternoon at Scottrade Center. "He'll be questionable for tomorrow right now; I'd put him at questionable, day-to-day.

"We'll have to see how (Oshie) is, too. I would say both are questionable. Both were here today. We'll see how both of them are tomorrow morning. If they skate, they'll both play."

The play was missed by some after Steen's shot hit teammate Chris Porter in the chest.

"I honestly didn't see it. I was just on the 2-on-1 with 'Backs,' kind of got pushed into the net and trying to stay out of the goaltender in case," Porter said. "I knew the puck was coming in behind the net and didn't know if they were going to try and make a play on net. I was just trying to stay out of the way. Next thing I know, I have sharp pain in my chest. Got me just under the ribs. We all know how hard 'Steener' can shoot. It stabbed me for a second."

Hitchcock said Steen tried to return to the game but was rebuffed by team doctors.

"If he could have played, he would have played," Hitchcock said. "I didn't pull him out; the doctors pulled him out. I didn't pull him out, but he couldn't go back in yesterday. He tried to go back in but couldn't go back in yesterday. We'll see. Better today; we'll see how he is tomorrow."

* Raise the intensity -- Seven games remain on the regular season schedule for the Blues. There's still much on the line even after a 4-2 clunker Saturday against the Blue Jackets.

And with five of those games on home ice, the Blues (46-22-7) could learn a lesson from playing against the Blue Jackets, who aren't going to the playoffs but are causing havoc for anyone that doesn't take them seriously.

It's as simple as ratcheting up the intensity and match that of the Blues' opponents. Otherwise, it'll be more of the same the Blues went through on Sunday: a hard practice to refine some of the areas of the ice that have failed them.

"There's a whole other level," Hitchcock said. "Yesterday's game ... that's not even close to the level we played at on the road. Not even close.

"It's not just the neutral zone; all of the stuff today was puck-management stuff. Too much indecision, too much hesitation, not enough straight-lines. At this time of the year, everybody's packed in defensively. Yesterday's game was a perfect example. When we played really strong and really smart with the entries and decisions, we had good results. When we were loose and careless, we had bad results. Today's not reinforcing how we play; it's really enforcing how you have to play at this time of the year. It seems to be a given on the road and a struggle at home right now. I think we're just too loose and for me, we're giving the opposition too many freebies. We worked like crazy to get the puck back and then we were giving them freebies, so we're exhausting our energy when we already had the puck. It's not like we're chasing the puck; we already have it. Then we're exhausting our energy by giving it up so easily and having to work to get it back again. I think that's the biggest thing. It's the same on the power play, it's the same 5-on-5 and I don't think you can create offense if you give up the puck so easily."

And instead of enjoying a day off before facing the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, the Blues were forced to break a sweat ... or two, or 10.

"I think everyone this time of the year's realizing points are critical; whether it's for seeding or getting into the playoffs," captain David Backes said. "Every game seems to be up a notch, up a notch, up a notch and if you don't keep pace with the other guys, you've got practice on Sunday.

"We reached maybe the high water mark of the season on January when we really had four lines clicking and everyone was producing and everyone was putting in the work and team first. We've hit a little bit of some rumble strips here and slowed us down a bit. It's not too far to resurrect and get back to that standard and really hit our stride going into the critical time of the year."

The Blues' disposition, when at its highest peak, can be as good or better than any other team in the NHL. It's those lapses that tend to leave some scratching their heads.

"We should play on another level," said forward Patrik Berglund, who had his first two-point game (one goal, one assist) since Jan. 6. "I think we're making it really hard on ourselves. We just don't play the way we should. That obvious feeds the other team."

The Blues seem to get themselves in trouble trying to play East-West. And according to Hitchcock, this time of season, it's extremely difficult.

"It's the time of year; there's no more East-West," Hitchcock said. "There is no more East-West. You're not going to get East-West plays. You're not going to get the next play like you did in October, November, December ... you're not getting that. Teams are boxed in as far as ... they're packed in. They're packed in the inside of the dots. 

"Even the teams that are not going to make the playoffs, they are so focused on checking right now because it's that time of year. They don't want to get embarrassed, they want to make a good impression and the teams that are fighting for points and a playoff spot, they certainly want to make a good impression. So everybody's packed in. You look at the three goals we scored in Pittsburgh, perfect examples of all three goals how you have to score in this league right now. And then you looked at what we tried to do yesterday was we tried to play the whole game making the next play again. That's too loose, too loose for this time of year."

"It's a little bit of a wakeup call," Porter said of a Sunday practice. "We're not happy with the way we're playing at home, especially in front of our crowd. Instead of creating energy for the arena, we're sucking the life out of it. We're turning pucks over and we're not going to score every first period but not scoring in the first takes a little bit of the excitement away from the game. I think if we can just stick to what we do best and how we were playing earlier in the year at home, we'll get back to that and get the crowd into it real early."

* Shattenkirk's re-emergence -- Kevin Shattenkirk's 21 minutes, 34 seconds may be more than what the Blues bargained for when sliding him back into the lineup for the first time in nearly eight weeks, but the defenseman came through just fine.

"It was what we expected," Hitchcock said. "There was some stuff where you can see how he's really going to help us. There was some stuff where you can really see how he's going to help us. Give it another couple three games, he's going to be fine. We've got plenty of time with him, but I think there' some timing things I think he needs to continue to work on. Today was a good day for everybody, but it was especially a good day for him. This was really focused."

Shattenkirk amassed more than six minutes on the power play (6:47). 

"I didn't look at the minutes," Hitchcock said. "I was too busy looking at the forwards. When you're missing two of your top three guys, you're going to be scrambling. I was more in scramble mode myself."

* Berglund's strong game -- Berglund's two-point game was his first in 31 games but his goal in the second period 52 seconds in that tied the game 1-1 was his first in 13 games.

With two of the team's top forwards down, the Blues needed others to step up and pick up the slack.

Berglund may have played arguably his best game of the season in playing 18:12 and was the only player on the plus side (plus-1).

"I'm just trying to help out and do what I can," Berglund said. "I caught a few breaks yesterday obviously on the 2-on-0 and stuff like that. 

"I'm just trying to work hard every day. Hopefully I can get more of those. ... I'm just trying to work hard and the chances show up."

* Goalie update -- Hitchcock said that Brian Elliott, who gave up three goals on 16 shots against the Blue Jackets, will start against the Canucks on Monday.

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