Monday, December 14, 2009

Blues hope to shake home funk on night honoring Hull

'Golden Brett' and other greats on hand for pregame ceremony; Calgary in town for 7 p.m. faceoff

ST. LOUIS -- While Blues fans will enjoy a blast from the past when the franchise honors Hall of Famer Brett Hull, who will be flanked by a teammates from his days with the team, the current squad will have will have their focus elsewhere.

Like trying to figure out how to get out of this home funk.

It seems like a broken record, and one the players and coaches are tired of being asked about but it's difficult when the Blues (13-12-5) bring a paltry 4-10-2 record into today's 7 p.m. game against the Calgary Flames.

There will be a pregame ceremony praising one of the greatest, if not the greatest players to don the Bluenote. There will be some big names in the house: Shanahan, Joseph, Courtnall, MacInnis, Federko, Housley, Fuhr, Butcher and more. There have also been reports that 'The Great One,' Wayne Gretzky was seen in St. Louis Monday night.

"We had a great young team that created lot of buzz and excitement because at the time, we had the Babe Ruth of hockey," said Shanahan of Hull, who played together here from 1991-1995. "Brett was brash and colorful, basically the same way Babe Ruth had captured people's attention in baseball. Every time Babe hit, he hit a home run. Every time Brett shot it, he scored a goal."

If the current version of the Blues don't get jacked up for what they will see in pregame festivities, it'll be hard-pressed to see what else can get them going.

But they better be careful, the last time Hull was honored here in 2006 with his No. 16 retired to the rafters, the Blues laid an egg in a 5-1 loss to Detroit, which was the beginning of the end that eventually cost head coach Mike Kitchen his job.

"Obviously, he's one of the biggest sports figures in St. Louis," Blues veteran Keith Tkachuk said of Hull. "He's really put St. Louis on the map for hockey and what he did. It's going to be a nice night for him. The building's going to be electric and we're going to have to take advantage of that. We're playing a tough team in Calgary, who's been probably the best team on the road this year. We've got our hands full. They play hard, and with all the atmosphere going on with Brett Hull Night, we better be ready to go."

The Blues also must find a way to get back their fans' trust, because for the first time this season, they were booed off the ice following Friday's 5-3 loss to Edmonton in which the Blues blew a 3-0 lead.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if management was with (the fans), the coaching staff was with them, maybe Conks and Mase (goalies Ty Conklin and Chris Mason) too because those guys put their efforts in and we needed more in the third period," forward David Backes said. "There's no question. We need more on a consistent basis and need to finish that game out. It just needs to happen. You can talk about it until we're all sleeping here, but it's just something that has to get done and we need to find a way as a group of 20 guys in here."

Calgary (19-9-4) comes in 11-4-3 on the road, but the Blues know all about playing solid hockey on the road. They have the least regulation losses (two) of all 30 teams in the NHL on the road, where they're 8-2-3 this season.

"We've got to find a way," Tkachuk said. "We're letting each other down here at home, leaving precious points on the table especially when we're out of the playoffs right now. In order to be a good team, a playoff-type team, you have to take care of your business at home and we haven't done that.

"I don't know what it is, but we've got to find an answer pretty soon."

But before the puck drops at 7, Blues fans will have the building charged up when they see Hull and Co. take the ice to honor a player that came here as a young golden-haired kid in 1988 and left 527 goals and 936 points later in a Blues uniform. He was known as 'The Golden Brett.'

Hull would finish with 741 career goals and 1,391 points with Calgary, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix.

"I know what Brett means to St. Louis, and I know that St. Louis is in Brett's heart," Blues President John Davidson said. "St. Louis Blues hockey, one of the reasons it is where it is, is because of Brett Hull. That's simply said, but that's the simple truth."

"Most of us were young kids and we were riding the ride," said former defenseman Jeff Brown, a teammate of Hull's from 1989-1993. "It was unbelievable ... I don't think any of us realized what we were experiencing. We were just young and fun and enjoying it. It was pretty incredible, the following of Brett.

"He made all of us better players by seeing his work ethic. He worked tirelessly on his shot. I had the greatest years of my career because he was standing on my flank on the power play. People had to cover him. He gave the rest of us a lot more room to do our thing. Truly the greatest goal scorer to play the game, that's how good he was."

The Blues can only hope to show 'The Golden Brett' a little more than the team did the last time he was honored.

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