Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Blues look to build off WInter Classic win, avoid hangover; 
Rattie claimed by Carolina; Schwartz sick, Gunnarsson day-to-day

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues were back on the ice at the Ice Zone Wednesday, two days after an impressive 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2017 Winter Classic.

Now the big question is can the Blues shake the emotional hangover left behind by such a victory in the settings that have not been seen in these parts?

"Oh yeah. We've already moved on," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Yesterday looked at Carolina and then watched Carolina play last night, so it's game on. We're ready to go. We've got three home games left. Three really important home games before we really go to play a lot of road games. I think that really gets your attention. I think having the extra day allows us to have a quality practice today. Obviously we get ready to play tomorrow."

The Blues (20-13-5) resume their season-long six-game hometand by hosting the Hurricanes on Thursday, Dallas on Saturday and Boston on Tuesday before playing eight of the next 11 on he road.

"We've definitely been able to enjoy the high of winning that game," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Today was a chance to come back down to earth and get back to work and I think we did a pretty good job in practice of keeping focused."

"Everyone had families in town and it was a long week," defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "It kind of wore on the guys, but I thought we had a good skate today and we've reset our minds. We're looking forward to Carolina."

The Hurricanes (16-14-7) have been playing some decent hockey lately despite a 3-1 setback on home ice to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

"It's always tough after a big, emotional game like that and the big event they threw on," Edmundson said. "But I think our team is a bunch of pros in here. We know what's on the line. It's another game with two points. We obviously want to win it and it's going to be a good game."

The Blues are banking on using the Winter Classic as a springboard moving forward, but that's entirely up to them.

"I think we can. The next part's up to us," Shattenkirk said. "We have to treat tomorrow's game with as much respect as we did on Monday. We have a chance with three home games here to really build something. 

"We felt like we played well against Philly (on Dec. 28, a 6-3 win), we let one go against Nashville (4-0 on Dec. 30), but if we can put one together tomorrow, we'll be fine."

Hitchcock said this is where the leaders will play a vital role.

"You've got to work this thing together," he said. "Guys are going to be in various stages, so guys really have to work this thing together. They'll really have to push each other. The quicker you do it, the better we'll play. This is when you really need your leaders. Right now is when you really need your leaders. They really need to step forward and really energize the room, help guys get focused and get ready to play because that was a four-point game, this is a two-point game, but these are just as important points. We don't want to give any ground up and we started to make up a little bit of ground above us and we want to keep going.

"... I think it's up to us. I think to me, the event and all that stuff, that's done with, but the way we played two of the last three games, that's the stuff you can grow from. We really played well against Philadelphia and we followed the same game plan against Chicago. We did a heck of a job in following the similar game plan that we used against Philadelphia. I think there's recipe we cam have success with. Hopefully we get it out there right away."

* Practice updates -- The Blues skated without left wing Jaden Schwartz (illness) and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (lower-body injury) on Wednesday.

Hitchcock said Schwartz, who missed practice at Busch Stadium on Sunday but played in the Winter Classic, will play against the Hurricanes but Gunnarsson, who was injured Monday, won't. Brad Hunt will step back in for Gunnarsson.

"Yeah. He's gonna play tomorrow, but we asked him to stay home," Hitchcock said of Schwartz. "He basically came from bed and played and went back to bed and that's where he's been since so we asked him to stay home and get as healthy as he can, but he'll play tomorrow for sure.

"'Gunny's day-to-day and we'll give you a better evaluation in a couple days on his time frame. He's not gonna play tomorrow and then we'll see for the weekend."

Gunnarsson played two shifts in the third period and finished with 8 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time.

Jake Allen, who made 22 saves in the win Monday, will start in goal against Carolina.

"I don't think there should be any hangover," Allen said. "It lived up to its expectations, lived up to the hype. We got the win, couldn't have written a better script to be honest for ourselves, for our city, but it's still a lot of games left. We knew it wasn't the end of the season after that. I think we feel fresh and rejuvenated. I think it carried a lot of energy for us and hopefully we can carry that energy back into Scottrade and keep things rolling.

"... No game is going to be like that the rest of the year, maybe the rest of our lives. There was a lot going on, a lot of hype, it was fun, we're going to get back to the grind, back in our building with half as many fans, we still love playing there, we get a test against a team we haven't played yet this year that's young and quick and really fast. It's going to be a good test right out of the gate."

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) was also part of practice but isn't quite ready for active duty yet; he's missed 13 games.

"He was a three-quarter practice guy today," Hitchcock said of Bortuzzo. "We'll push him up here in the next two days, bring him into contact the next few days and then we'll be able to give you a better evaluation, but he's getting much closer. He was able to go right through until the very last drill on practice today, which is a great sign."

Forward Nail Yakupov returned to practice after falling sick, which forced him to miss Sunday practice at Busch Stadium and the game Monday.

"I was there the day before and watched the alumni game, but at that time I wasn't feeling so good," Yakupov said. "I'd seen everything and I'll remember the people made a good (Atmosphere) for a few days where players and old guys can enjoy the games and have some fun and top teams played and it was a good game. It was really fun to watch, I watched on TV, kind of sad but nothing you could do."

* Blues lose Rattie -- The Blues placed forward Ty Rattie on waivers Tuesday and coincidentally, the Hurricanes claimed him today.

Rattie, 23, has only played in four games this season and 30 in his NHL career after the Blues picked him in the second round (32nd pick) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

"Guy's got to have a chance to play," Hitchcock said. "He's a good player, he's been a good soldier here, part of the organization for four years now. He's got to get a chance to play, and if he wasn't going to play here on a regular basis, then give him a chance to play somewhere else. Hockey's competition. All you've got to do is look around the Chicago Wolves right now and go look at the scoring in the American Hockey League and there's three in the top 10. There's players down there (Kenny Agostino, Wade Megan and Ivan Barbashev) that have earned the right to play. They're chomping at the bit. There's three guys down there that want the chance to play here, and they're earning it every day. They're playing great, they're playing well, they're collecting points, they're scoring, they're playing hard minutes every night. They want a chance to play here. We can't lose sight of that either. There's a lot of guys down there that are having great years offensively and it hasn't gone unnoticed up here."

Agostino leads the AHL in scoring by a wide margin with 46 points on 15 goals and 31 assists; the next closest to Agostino in the AHL scoring race have 34 points. Megan (17 goals, 13 assists) and Barbashev (14 goals, 16 assists) are tied for seventh in the AHL scoring race with 30 points each.

Agostino has an eight-game point streak ( six goals, 12 assists for 18 points) for the Wolves and has a point in 15 of 16 games (nine goals, 22 assists for 31 points), and Barbashev has three goals and four assists the past three games.

Rattie had four goals and four assists in his 30 NHL games; he had no points this season and didn't play more than 8:02 in a game.

"He told me it's all positive for him," Edmundson said of Rattie, a close friend. "I think he's a player that deserves to be in this league. Me and Fabs were actually talking about it this morning that if he got picked up by Carolina, we could play him on Thursday. It's pretty exciting and I think he's pretty pumped.

"I think he handled it really well. He's never a guy who complains or anything, but as the year went on, it kind of wore on him and it kind of got old. He was looking f or a new start and now he's got one."

It was a convenient move for Rattie, who remained in St. Louis and waited for his new teammates to arrive.

"If he's in that lineup tomorrow, we're going to be dealing with a pretty angry guy with something to prove," Shattenkirk said. "Good for him for hopefully getting a chance now to move on and make a name for himself."

"Well, we won't need to put a scouting report on him, so we'll know how he is," Hitchcock said of Rattie.

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