Monday, January 2, 2017

Blues take ice at Busch Stadium for first time

Team will face Blackhawks in Winter Classic on 
Monday, tried to keep as normal a routine as possible

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues tried to keep as normal a routine as possible on Sunday, the day before they played in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks (noon; NBC, KMOX 1120-AM).

However, knowing it was going to be their first time stepping onto the ice at Busch Stadium, and with moms and dads, wives and kids, girlfriends and cousins, grandmothers and grandfathers and the rest, that was going to be a difficult task.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak photo)
Alexander Steen (20) shoots against goalie Jake Allen during practice
Sunday at Busch Stadium before the Blues face Chicago Monday.

"The coaches even said going into today that today was a practice to get out there and to get a feel for the lay of the land," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I don't think they were expecting us to be superstars out there. I think they wanted us to enjoy it as well. Getting to have our families there to watch it, that was fun. A lot of guys said they were nervous with their families watching right on glass level than they are in the game. Everyone was really just kind of enjoying it that way. It was more so a chance to get out, get our legs moving and kind of take it all in before we go it tomorrow."

It was the sole reason why the Blues put in a full practice on Saturday to get the kinks out of a 4-0 home loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday and hoping to get on the right track after losing six of the past nine games (3-5-1).

"We tried, but that was why we went on the ice yesterday," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "We got an opportunity to just go on the ice and get a practice in. We knew it was going to be the way it was today. We've got family standing there on the bench while we're practicing. The last thing I needed was my mother to get hit with a puck. We tried to keep it as simple as possible today, let guys enjoy time with their families. Yesterday was a good practice for us, get some rest today and ready to go tomorrow."

The Blues did keep the drills as routine as possible, running through line rushes and working on special teams' work, but skating in the outdoors under the scenic setting of the Gateway Arch, even coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't about to lay the hammer down on the players on this day.

"I thought it was great watching and the media on the bench," Hitchcock said. "It felt like the 50's or 60's, the old way it used to be when everybody watched practice from right there. I thought it was great. It was more of a pregame skate really for both teams. Our real practice was yesterday. We got real good minutes in yesterday, but I thought it was great. You had all the cameras on the bench and all the print media on the bench and then you had the fans and your family members right behind. I thought that was really neat for me to see that."

One advantage the Blackhawks have on the Blues is this will be Chicago's fifth outdoor game and third Winter Classic, and the Blues recognize that as an obstacle. The Blackhawks are 1-3-0 in outdoor games.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak photo)
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk skates during practice at Busch
Stadium. The Blues face the Blackhawks Monday in the Winter Classic.

"We're treating this like it's our first time and there's no way around that really," Shattenkirk said. "You can't really try to prepare for this whole event because it's such a unique thing. That's the advantage they have over us is one, they're playing on the road, so they don't have quite as many distractions coming here, and two, they know what to expect tomorrow come game time with everything that goes on with this game. We're just going to have to deal with it as it comes and the only thing we can try to do is just remember that it still is a hockey game. Do what comes naturally to us in that way."

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