Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Players have scattered for rest, coaches to work

Blues won't play until Feb. 2 while rest of league plays 
games through Wednesday, getting much-needed time off

ST. LOUIS -- With the rest of the NHL playing games through Wednesday, the Blues got a much-needed head start on a well-deserved break.

Most players scattered to warmer climates for some rest and decompression of the body.

Players will rest, coaches on the other hand, will rest ... and work?

"They need to get a rest and then we need to address what we're doing here," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, referring to the coaching staff. "One party can rest and the other one can do some resting and thinking."

Thinking about where the Blues are at (28-16-8), and wonder where they need to go over the final 30 games.

At 52 games, the Blues are further along than everyone else except the Chicago Blackhawks, who played their 53rd game on Tuesday.

Last season, the Blues didn't play their 52nd game until Feb. 6, which spread games out for an extra 13 days.

"We've done a good job here in the first 50-something games," captain David Backes said. "We're going to use this break and recoup and come back firing on all cylinders and hopefully with a full register of healthy bodies."

A full set of bodies that they hope includes Jaden Schwartz (franctured ankle), who will skate through Wednesday before taking a couple days himself; Jake Allen (lower-body injury), Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) and perhaps towards the end of the season, Steve Ott (hamstring).

"It's a good time for anyone," center Paul Stastny said. "I think we're battling through injuries, but we've put ourselves in a good position to take advantage of our break and then come back fresh and ready to go."

The Blues won't play until Feb. 2 when they conclude a set of four games at Nashville, where All-Star Vladimir Tarasenko will be waiting for them.

And in the meantime, coaches will try to figure out who will play where and how, because the Blues, despite going 1-1-1 in the first three legs of this trip, have scored three goals. Only Brian Elliott's impressive play enabled the Blues to get three points out of the trip.

"It's the people that are put in that position," Hitchcock said. "It's the power play or whatever, we've got to have more production. How we formulate our lines moving forward, it's going to give us a chance to take stock."

Said Backes: "It's burying pucks when you have chances, no question about it. We'll take that on us. It's just got to be four lines rolling, four lines contributing. We've had different guys stepping up, but two goals in Detroit, one goal in Colorado and then none (Sunday), just not going to win games with that offensive output but we need all lines contributing and doing their part and it was not enough (Sunday)."

Consider it one of those tough stretches.

"You're going to go through spurts like that, especially this time of year," Stastny said. "Whoever scores that first goal, they have a big advantage, whether it's early in the game or late in the game obviously. Goals are at a premium right now. That's what we've got to do, find a way to get that first one."

The Blues were 34-14-4 (72 points) at this juncture last season, so 64 points doesn't look as good, but considering they're fifth in the NHL in man games lost (189, according to mangameslost.com), it's not a bad spot to be in, especially with reinforcements on the horizon.

"Hopefully we'll have more healthy bodies after seven days or resting and recouping and everyone else gets a little time to recharge the battery and make sure we come back with a good practice on Monday, good intensity and then getting into Nashville and play another Central Division (and) hard matchup," Backes said.

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