Berube wants Blues to develop killer instinct; MacEachern's check
causes fracas; Blais status vs. Kings TBD, Gunnarsson returns to practice
ST. LOUIS -- If there's one aspect to their game coach Craig Berube wants to hammer down, it's a killer instinct.
The Blues (4-2-3), who host the Los Angeles Kings (4-5-0) to close out a four-game homestand, have left points on the table in the early going because of what Berube feels has been a lack of a killer instinct. He cited a couple late power plays after a 3-1 win over Colorado as an example of letting a team chasing remain in the hunt.
"The power play in the third period, I'd just like to see a little more killer instinct to be honest with you," Berube said. "When you get a chance like that, you've got a team down 3-1, could make it 4-1 here, it's just about being assertive and moving the puck quick and attacking and being on your toes a little bit more. It's a little bit of human nature that's involved with that, but it's something that we need to get better at. You have an opportunity to really put the fork into a team. I'd like to see us in a situation like that, be a little bit more desperate and assertive."
The Blues were able to close out their most impressive win of the season Monday, but let's take a look at other instances where the result wasn't as fortunate:
-- The Blues led 2-0 in the season opener against the Washington Capitals, only to have Washington rally for a 3-2 overtime win.
-- The Blues led 2-0 at the New York Islanders on Oct. 14 with roughly five and a half minutes remaining in regulation before falling 3-2 in overtime. In the game, the Blues had a power play with 8 minutes 37 seconds remaining that, even without a goal, could have built momentum off it but a goal would have put that one away.
-- Last Thursday against Vancouver, the Blues led 3-1, had a two-man advantage for 1:20 and didn't score. The Canucks rallied for a 4-3 shootout win.
The Blues have, however, rallied twice from third-period deficits this season to claim victories, so it all evens out in the end, but over the long haul, Berube wants his players to have that assassin's thought process.
"It's just a mindset for me," Berube said. "Getting the power play in the game like that, two of them in the third period. I don't really consider the last one. The last one, they're trying to kill the clock and I get that with a two goal lead, I can't remember how much time. It wasn't very much time. The ones before that, I'd like to see more of a killer instinct and try to put a team away. You make that 4-1, the game's probably over. It's just not enough urgency for me.
"Build momentum, but it's just urgency for me. I really do believe that that's what it is. We've got to get better at that. We definitely have to get better at that because it's important and it wins hockey games."
It's part of the process the players say they're building into their game, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo believes this part of the game is the same.
"We did that against Colorado," Pietrangelo said. "A team like that, if you give them even just a chance to get back in, they're going to get back in. We kept playing the same way, and it's staying aggressive the whole game, right? You don't want to back off. When we're as aggressive as we were against Colorado, it's tough for teams to get anything going because it's such a strong group defensively. That's part of the process.
"You gain momentum on the power play, whether you score or not or when you kill penalties, all of that comes into play. Even last game on the power plays, we didn't score, but we were getting shots, getting opportunities. Those are things that can create momentum."
* MacEachern at the center of attention -- All MacKenzie MacEachern was doing was finishing his check' the Blues' forward had no idea what was going on behind him.
And little did he know that seconds later, it would cause quite the ruckus.
With Colorado's Andre Burakovsky being called for hooking, MacEachern had the Avalanche forward lined up in the corner boards where the puck was. The whistle blew and while MacEachern was already in his checking mentality, he delivered a hard shoulder to shoulder blow to Burakovsky.
It didn't sit well with fellow Avalanche players, who got involved with other Blues on the ice.
MacEachern and Nazem Kadri each received roughing penalties on the play in the late in the first period.
"I honestly didn't even hear the whistle," MacEachern said. "I didn't even know there was a penalty. I think my back was turned to both referees. I saw the puck was turned over in the corner and their guy was going for it. I was just doing my job of forecheking and trying to get the puck back. Little did I know the whistle was going as I was finishing my hit and there was a delayed penalty on it.
"I've never tried to hit guys after the whistle or have any intent to have malicious hits. I didn't hear the whistle nor did I see the penalty. ... I'm an honest, hard player, so I saw my opportunity to get in on the forecheck and try to get the puck back. I tried to take the body and get the puck."
It was the second game this season for the 25-year-old MacEachern, a third-round pick in 2012, and just his 31st in the NHL; he played 29 games last season and had five points (two goals, three assists) but wants to bring some of that sandpaper that was left behind by Pat Maroon.
"I think I brought that last year when I came up here and I kind of lost it here in the last five games in the lineup and that's probably the reason why I was out of the lineup," MacEachern said. "If I bring that each and every game will give them a reason to keep me in and obviously make plays down low and create space for my linemates. I can continue to do that as I get more comfortable playing.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more than I expected being two games into the season. Just keep growing as the games go on and as I get more shifts. I think my skating is where I want it to be, but I've got to continue to make plays with the puck, get it deep and make plays for my linemates down low."
Berube will give MacEachern another game against the Kings Thursday and give him the chance to see if perhaps he can stick.
"He's a big guy that can really skate, get on top of people and he hit some guys last game, which is good," Berube said. "We need that. It gives us energy.
"He put some good games together last year for us. I don't know how many, but I thought he looked really good last year for some time when he was in there. I thought he had a good game last game so hopefully he can build off that and keep going."
* Blais status up in the air; Gunnarsson returns to practice -- Blues forward Sammy Blais was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and his status for Thursday will be determined then.
Blais blocked a shot with his left hand in the win over the Avalanche and was seen throwing his glove in frustration at one point but finished the game. But he had his left thumb taped up and didn't take part in any drills other than the first runthrough of line rushes with Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas.
"We'll see tomorrow how he is," Berube said. "A little nicked up. We'll see if he's good tomorrow."
Zach Sanford took most of the rushes during drills with Bozak and Thomas and seems to be the likely entrant if Blais is unavailable, although Berube said it could be Sanford or Robby Fabbri, who was a healthy scratch for the first time Monday.
As for Gunnarsson, who sustained a lower-body injury in the loss to the Canucks, he was a full participant in practice but is unlikely to play Thursday.
"I feel good. It was a good practice, I've been skating on my own for the last couple days, but today was good," Gunnarsson said after missing the past two games. "This one was not bad. I'll be back pretty soon here. More a little extra caution in not coming back too early and maintain it a little bit. It's no fun. Just lucky it's not a long (term injury). Keep an eye on it.
"I finished that game [Thursday]. I think I didn't play the last seven minutes or whatever."
Berube proclaimed Gunnarsson, who has one assist in five games, good to go if needed.
"He had a good practice, he felt good yesterday, so I think that if we needed him he'd be good to go," Berube said.