Wednesday, April 1, 2015

No rift in locker room with coaches, players say

After day off, it was back to work for the 
Blues, who have six regular season games left

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- T.J. Oshie was long gone from the locker room area after a Wednesday practice at the Ice Zone. However, his teammates weren't.

After Oshie created what some fans viewed as a firestorm with comments following a 4-1 loss to Vancouver that implied that perhaps there's an information overload by the coaching staff and players were perhaps being overwhelmed with information, fans were immediately left to wonder if the Blues -- who have 46 wins this season and 99 points and on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- were creating a rift between themselves and coaches.

You couldn't tell walking into the locker room Wednesday that there was any leftover residue from the past couple games that have left the Blues (46-23-7) looking to reverse a trend of a couple poor losses.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Paul Stastny (26) said he was unaware of what
teammate T.J. Oshie said after a loss on Monday night.

Coach Ken Hitchcock never addressed the issue regarding the comments publicly. If anything, players and coaches talked about certain things before taking the ice Wednesday without injured stars Alexander Steen (lower body) and Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body). But as the old saying goes: what's said in the room, stays in the room.

"I think some things get taken out of context sometimes and it's easy from a frustrating loss for everyone to read into things," veteran forward Steve Ott said. "We've got a tight, tight group all the way down from coaches to management, all the way down to the players here. There's no smoke and mirrors. We wouldn't be this successful of a team if that was the case. For sure, we're all putting in this hard work for the final goal. When you do so, it's going to be all worth it."

According to center Paul Stastny, there was never anything taken seriously from what Oshie had to say.

"I didn't even see Osh's quotes," Stastny said. "I heard he said something, but I didn't hear it. I'm sure it was something that wasn't too major or something you say when you're frustrated after losing. We've just got to find a way to kind of get back on that winning track. We've had some injuries, haven't played our best hockey."

It starts Thursday with another desperate hockey team in the Calgary Flames, who are fighting for one of the last few Western Conference playoff spots available.

And the Blues used the CBA-mandated day off Tuesday to get away from the ice and get refreshed.

"Days off are always nice," left wing Jaden Schwartz said. "Rest up and kind of get your mind away from the game. Come back refreshed and re-energized. 

"You've got to have that confidence back. It's a long season; there's going to be some ups and downs. Nothing can go perfect. It's a matter of sticking together and knowing that we've got the character to get back on track and do things like we were doing before. We haven't been quite playing where we want to be and with five, six games left, there's no better chance than to step up and do it now."

"At this time of year, it doesn't matter whether you're winning or losing," Stastny said. "This late in the season, guys have bumps and bruises. Any time you get a day off, physically but also mentally it's nice to get away and hang out with friends or family and get some sun on you."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz said it was good for the Blues to get away from the game
with a day off Tuesday to get re-freshed, re-organized.

The Blues are 1-3-2 in their past six games and they've lost six of nine at Scottrade Center. Those black and white numbers cannot be erased, and they came as a result of turning pucks over, losing them, allowing odd-man rushes and poor defensive coverage, among other deficiencies.

But instead of looking at the recent string of games, Ott said look at the entire body of work.

"I came in today and looked up on the wall that's over there by you media guys and seen we have 99 points sitting in third place in the Western Conference," Ott said. "That's pretty impressive in itself. The biggest thing right now is we've got a heck of a team in here. We know that. We'll get squared away here. We'll finish out these last six and put it down before we head into the playoffs."

* NOTES -- The Blues made one roster move on Wednesday in light of Steen and Tarasenko being listed as day-to-day. They recalled forward Ty Rattie, who has 21 goals and 42 points in the American Hockey League, from the Chicago Wolves. It's unknown if Rattie will play Thursday against the Flames.

Also, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, a healthy scratch the past two games, will re-enter the lineup against the Flames in place of Carl Gunnarsson. 

"We really think we need a guy like Bortuzzo," Hitchcock said. "'Borts' for us ... he didn't deserve to come out based on his play. He deserves to come in based on his play. Bottom Line. It's a competitive cauldron in our hockey club right now; we've got good players. We took a good player who was playing really well out to take a look and we want to put him back because we think he adds to the group right now.

"When we've used him and (Petteri) Lindbohm ... when those two have been on the ice, we play a different game, a more robust game, and we think that has real value."

Bortuzzo has been nothing but a solid player since he was acquired along with a draft pick for Ian Cole at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline.

"Yeah, that would be an accurate statement, 100 percent," Hitchcock said.

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