By LOU KORAC
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Blues understand that Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild on Monday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, CNBC, KMOX 1120-AM) will bring with it a boisterous crowd at Xcel Energy Center.
But the Blues, who had the third-best points ratio in the NHL during the regular season (24-12-5), have been good at taking the emotion of the home team and its crowd out of the what fuels their intensity.
The Blues keep their game plan simple and execute it accordingly.
They'll need that if they're going to grab back home ice advantage with the best-of-7 series tied 1-1.
"We've got to obviously maybe play a bit more simple on the road," said right wing Patrik Berglund, who scored a goal in Game 2. "Obviously they're going to come out and play really physical and have a lot of energy in the beginning of the game. I think it's really important that we stay really calm and we play the simple north game and let that (emotion) kind of die down a bit, and then we go to work. To win series and stuff like that, you've got to steal some wins on he road. Obviously, it's a big two games here."
Is there a reason why the Blues tend to keep it simpler on the road?
"There's always a need in your own building to create a little bit more energy," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "You almost feel like you have to put on a show and entertain fans. On the road, you just go out there and you keep everything simple. Really, he mindset we have on the road should be at home, too, but I guess it's kind of hard to break that mold."
Center Jori Lehtera agreed.
"At home, we put the skill before the work and on the road, we put the work before the skill," Lehtera said. "That's a big thing."
"I don't know why. We should do it at home, too," Berglund said. "When we play our best, I think we do keep it simple at home, too. But it's more of maybe the other team's home barn, they come out with a little more energy and their crowd is helping them out. It just kind of helps us out, too, if we not feed their transition instead of for them to go home and get their own pucks."
So when the puck drops Monday, the key for coach Ken Hitchcock is, "The start. Simple, smart, straightforward, not wrapped up in emotion of event, understanding in order to get what want you want, not get wrapped up in the emotional part of game. That's key to winning on the road at any time, but especially true in the playoffs."
The Wild, who won 22 games on home ice, which is two fewer than they won on the road, are eager to feed off the home crowd.
"It’s always exciting, especially at playoff time," captain Mikko Koivu said. "We talked earlier the way the fans are more into it. The building is loud and you can really feel them when you go out there and play the game. We’re excited for that and want to enjoy it."
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Hitchcock will keep the same lineup from Games 1 and 2 in for tonight's game. That means no Robert Bortuzzo, who fans have been clamoring for his insertion into the lineup.
So Hitchcock was asked what goes into his decision to make lineup changes, if he chooses to do so.
"Mostly how guys play. Impact in the series changes," Hitchcock said. "After two games, they have different players who have had impact in a positive way, we have different guys who are there, but I think you're also prepared to coach with a very short leash.
"We changed in the third period (of Game 2) because we were having other guys who were having a bigger impact in the game. I think you look at it game-by-game impact. They have a couple players that have surprised us and I'm sure we have a couple guys that have surprised them on their impact on the game. Not necessarily on the point total, but in the impact on the game. You have to be prepared to make rational judgments early and know that what a guy did in the regular season, some guys at this time of year do more and some guys do less, some guys are a little overwhelmed early so you have to make those adjustments."
With fewer changes, the players who do play tend to have a greater appreciation for a consistent lineup.
"Most players think coaches are nuts anyway as far as making adjustments on lines, and I don't think there's many teams that want to see changes being made, but we stayed true to form," Hitchcock said. "One of the things we've been consistent with all year, we've made in-game adjustments, just like Mike (Yeo) has with his staff. He's changed out combinations, but at the next day's practice you go back to what you think is working, knowing that it's not a permanent thing.
"We like what we've got, but there's guys we need to get more from so we'll tweak it during the competition. It's not that we don't trust it, we trust that this is a good combination that we have, at times during the actual event, we need more from."
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Lehtera comes into tonight's action leading the NHL in faceoff winning percentage (76.9 percent) in the postseason among skaters with at least 10 attempts. He's won 20 of 26 through two games.
Lehtera, who finished the regular season winning 51.2 percent, places a lot of emphasis on winning faceoffs.
"For me usually, I think every faceoff, every puck battle, every blocked shot, everything means -- especially these games -- a lot," Lehtera said. "So I try to win every puck battle to help the team."
Of course, there's a pride factor in winning faceoffs.
"Of course. When you lose the puck, you want to get the next one," Lehtera said. "It's always easier when you win the puck right away. Then you don't have to start to chase right away."
Hitchcock calls faceoff wins important, especially on the road.
"It's going to be really important moving forward, especially in this building," Hitchcock said. "We haven't had great faceoff success in this building. They're a more determined group there, but it has helped us maintain possession of the puck and keep it away from top two lines on their team. To me, where I think we've been good is in our own zone, whoever put out. And (Paul) Stastny helps a lot because when we flipped (Maxim) Lapierre for (Marcel) Goc, we only had one right side guy. 'Stas' has been able to win a lot of right side faceoffs for us."
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The Blues will attempt to snap an eight-game losing streak on the road in the playoffs tonight. They've been outscored 25-11.
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Dmitrij Jaskin-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Patrik Berglund
Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Boumweester-Zbynek Michalek
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Olli Jokinen, Chris Porter, Chris Butler, Robert Bortuzzo, Ty Rattie and Niklas Lundstrom.
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The Wild's probable lineup:
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Chris Stewart
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek-Charlie Coyle-Nino Niederreiter
Sean Bergenheim-Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Jordan Leopold-Matt Dumba
Devan Dubnyk will start in goal. Darcy Kuemper will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, Matt Cooke and Niklas Backstrom. Keith Ballard (concussion).