Blues have spirited, productive practice on heels of bad
loss; Bortuzzo close to returning; Fabbri's bounce-back game
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- After the whipping they took not just in an 8-4 loss to Columbus on Saturday, but at the tail end of a 3-1 loss at Nashville last Thursday, the Blues were on the ice whipping around with a purpose on Monday
A near-hour long practice was sharp, crisp, with purpose and with lots of pace, one coach Ken Hitchcock said, "Best one we've had in a long time; it was really good."
And the 64-year-old knew it would be.
"I knew it was going to be good when we were getting on the plane in Columbus," Hitchcock said. "I knew we were going to make some headway.
"There's building times and this is it. We've got a real opportunity right now. We're in the quagmire (in the standings) with everybody else. It's an opportunity that starting today, the players really took advantage of with a combination of what happened, the day off, getting through the five (games) in eight days ... I don't want to say unscathed but going 2-2-1 in the last five games in eight days, getting through that, today was a real good day. I told the coaches it's the best one I've had here in almost two years. The focus, the energy, the communication, disposition, compete level. It was really good."
And that's all that the Blues (7-6-3) can do that this point is look ahead and fix what is not right.
"I thought we had a really good practice today," said forward David Perron, who had three assists Saturday. "I think that's the way the competition needs to come up to. We need to practice really hard against each other, show the type of battle that we can bring in practice and it's just going to fall in the game. That's what we need to look at right now. We have the guys in this room to turn it around and I think it's normal. I think I'd rather go through this right now than in March or February. I think every team goes through a patch during the year when you don't score as much. We've just got to go back to our system, go back to trusting the coaches and trusting ourselves in here."
The Blues have lost three games in the past two weeks where they've lost by allowing five or more goals, something unheard of in a system that's been consistently air-tight.
"Yeah, it's obviously frustrating," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "There's spots in games where we're doing everything we want to do, then all of the sudden, things turn the other way and it's going negative. It's got to come from within this room. Nobody's going to help us.
"Everything's getting magnified. We're not being as assertive as we usually are. You identify a check, you know that's you're guy anf you're going to play him hard. If someone makes a mistake, you're there to help your teammate out right away. We're getting spread out in our end, we're not communicating the way we need to communicate, and that's resulting in glaring opportunities whereas in the past, if those were there, it didn't seem like they were obvious opportunities. I think when we get more assertive and play teams harder, be tougher to play against, it's gonna work in a positive direction."
A lot of it comes from the lack of scoring in the early going, which leads to mistakes in the defensive zone because of over-compensation trying to do multiple tasks.
"You're getting frustrated when you're only scoring one goal a game, you're going to start pushing the envelope and trying to find ways to score," Pietrangelo said. "For years, we've scored on good defense. That's how we've created our offense by stopping the puck in our end and transitioning the other way and going down and scoring. When you're not doing that, it's going to be tough to score the way you want."
* Bortuzzo close -- Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, out since Oct. 27 when he sustained a lower-bod injury, was a full participant in Blues practice today.
Bortuzzo has missed the past eight games, but appears to be on the cusp of rejoining the team.
"Bortuzzo will be a player this week, yes," Hitchcock said of the three-game homestand. "When? I don't know, but he'll be a player. He skated on his own for two days and then this morning early, joined us for practice, got through it fine.
"'Eddy' (Joel Edmundson, upper-body injury) skated on his own today, but he won't join us for a few days yet. We'll evaluate 'Borts' tomorrow and then give you a better clue tomorrow."
* Rattie returns -- Forward Ty Rattie, recalled from a conditioning stint with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, was on the ice Monday skating with fourth-line forwards Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves.
Rattie had one assist in three games with the Wolves while getting some games in after playing in only one with the Blues and being a healthy scratch in the rest.
"It doesn't hurt to play, but he's going to have to wait his turn and then when it's his turn, he's going to have to jump all over it," Hitchcock said of Rattie. "There's a lineup at the door to play, and he's going to have to join the lineup and when it's his turn to play, go like hell."
* Fabbri bounces back -- One game after being a healthy scratch for the first time in his career, left wing Robby Fabbri returned against Columbus and scored two of the Blues' four power play goals.
"Huge difference," Hitchcock said. "Dynamic, tenacious, in your face hockey player. He's was dramatically different. That's another really good sign for us."
* Allen to start vs. Sabres -- When the Blues begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, Jake Allen, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 12 shots against the Blue Jackets, will be in goal.
Allen and Carter Hutton, who allowed four goals on 18 shots in relief, were on the ice roughly 30 minutes before practice getting extra work in with goalie coach Jim Corsi. But Hutton said they do that a lot and is a routine for the duo.
The best thing both can do is forget the game just played and park it, work harder and move forward.
"Sometimes coming off the bench for me, it's like catching a moving train," Hutton said. "I thought in the third I played good. You get some more time to settle in.
"Obviously I need to be better, but at the same time, I'm pretty immune to it. You lose 10-1, you lose 2-1, you still lose. It goes on, it's a new game. You never want to be on the losing end like that, but we're in the position where we're under the spotlight. You're either the goat or hero. Many nights, we're on the other end of it. We're the difference-maker, right? It's one of those nights where both of us weren't good enough, but I think we know it. We kind of left it in Columbus and we get back to work here. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs throughout the year, so I think for both of us, it's something (to) experience, it helps. For me, it's something when I was younger, it would hang around a bit more, but for now, it is what it is. It'a a loss and life goes on and we get back to work. I think as a whole, this team needs to get back to what we do right and chip away at the little things and leads to ultimate success."