Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blues finding ways to win even when not at their best

Team overcame two-goal third period
deficit to win in shootout Saturday

ST. LOUIS -- They're not all going to be pretty, but they can become a sight for sore eyes if the Blues can win the kinds of games that have L's written all over them.

Like Saturday night's game against Atlanta.

The Blues probably had no business winning it, but their 4-3 shootout victory over the Thrashers saw the Blues flat-footed in the first period and looking individualistic trying to get back into the game in the second period. However in the third, even after having to kill off 1 minute, 16 seconds of a 5-on-3 Thrashers power play, the Blues somehow willed themselves back into the contest.

Then, they snatched the extra point up that suddenly became up for grabs.

From zero points to two points, those are the kinds of games successful teams are made of. They seem to find a way.

"We're not going to play 82 games and play at our top every minute," said winger Matt D'Agostini, who along with linemates Jay McClement and Alex Steen produced all three regulation goals. "What's more important is we hung in there when we weren't at our best. We tried to stick with it. As the game went on, we were getting better and making smarter decisions. It's good that we stuck with it."

McClement recorded his first National Hockey League hat trick, in his 402nd career game. And he did it by becoming a net junkie. His second and third goals of the game came late in the third period that helped the Blues erase a 3-1 deficit. All three goals came from the front of the Thrashers' goal.

"Any time you come back, it's going to boost the guys' morale," McClement said. "Any time you're in that situation again, you're going to know that it is possible and you have that opportunity if you turn your game around. That's always good to have that experience like that."

The Blues seemed to be stuck in neutral in the first period, a period in which the Thrashers scored twice late to take a 3-1 lead. A goal with 2.7 seconds, after an error by defenseman Eric Brewer trying to bat a puck out of his zone in mid air was the capper to a lethargic 20 minutes.

"We just didn't have our feet under us, whether it was work, whether it was intention," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I just didn't think we were at our level. We weren't at our standard. We got there, got there just in the nick of time."

Added McClement, "We just kind of looked like we were spinning our skates out there. Everything we tried just wasn't working. When that happens, we need to get back to our game and simplify. We didn't do that until probably the last little bit of the second and the third. It was a bit of a wake-up call. Our goalie bailed us out a few times and kept us in it."

Jaroslav Halak, who saw his consecutive shutout minutes snapped at 160:08, slammed the door shut on Atlanta's final 19 shots before the McClement, Steen and D'Agostini line began to work those hard areas in the Thrashers' D zone.

"Just be around the puck. Have support," said D'Agostini. "One guy's there, just have a quick out for him and make sure we're not stuck in different situations. I think we did a good job of that tonight. We got pucks to the net and Jay was in the right spot."

The trio was plus-9 in the game, each going plus-3, but it was the resiliency they showed that is a prime example of what this hockey team is turning out in the early stages of the season.

"That's what we were talking about in the (second) intermission. We're not going to give up, we're going to keep playing and keep at it and hope we can bang a couple in," D'Agostini said. "It went well for us, but it's not always going to be like that, so we can't put ourselves in a deficit like that."

The Blues (6-1-2) are off to their best start since going 7-1-1 in the 2002-03 season, but they're displaying that even in those games maybe they don't deserve to win, they have the ability to go out and grab them.

Like Saturday's game, because it would have left a sour taste until the next game, which is Thursday against San Jose.

"It would have been a tough one to sit on for that long," McClement said.

* NOTES -- The Blues optioned defenseman Nathan Oystrick to Peoria on Sunday. Oystrick made his Blues debut Saturday and picked up an assist on the tying goal and was plus-2 in the game. The Blues are hopeful that since they don't play again until Thursday, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (headaches/neck spasms) can return to the lineup. ... Blues forward T.J. Oshie saw his seven-game point streak snapped Saturday. Oshie did score one of the Blues' two goals in the shootout. Brad Boyes had the other.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blues overcome slow start, top Thrashers in shootout

McClement first career hat trick key to
franchise-record 11th straight home victory

ST. LOUIS -- These are the types of games the Blues would have lost in recent memory.

But these are new Blues. New attitude. New approach.

Forget that the first period was crummy. Forget that there was a two-goal deficit late in the third period.

Plug in a new name when it comes to clutch performances. These new Blues are prevailing.

Unheralded center Jay McClement stepped to the forefront Saturday. It was his time to shine. And he sure made one heck of a grand entrance.

McClement netted the first hat trick of his National Hockey League career, Jaroslav Halak stopped the last 19 pucks he saw, then T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes supplied the necessary results in the shootout as the Blues rallied past the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 before 19,150 Halloween-happy spectators at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (6-1-2), winners of a franchise-record 11 in a row at home -- including five this season -- trailed in the game 3-1 when McClement, along with linemates Matt D'Agostini and Alex Steen took matters into their own hands. McClement was the benefactor of some net play, and his two third-period goals -- including the game-tying one with 4 minutes, 25 seconds -- helped the Blues overcome a sloppy first period and as penalty-infested affair.

"A couple good plays by my linemates and I got kind of lucky to be in the right spot at the right time," said McClement, who picked up his first three goals of the season. "I was just trying to get (to the front of the net). ... It just kind of went good for me."

The start for the Blues was reminiscent of the game they played in Nashville a couple weeks ago -- their only regulation loss. The Blues couldn't overcome that 3-1 deficit, but they were able to do so here.

"Getting to a reason or getting to a way that defines our game," Blues coach Davis Payne said of what it took to overcome the slow start. " ... I thought in the second period we came out and had some intention. But work has to come with a plan and we were trying to get the game back tied on an individual basis. We were turning pucks over at the blue line, not applying any pressure at Atlanta's D, so consequently, Jaro had to be super-good in the second period in order to keep the game at 3-1. We were thankful for that and finally got ourselves defined as a group coming out for the third period."

Halak, who came into the game off back-to-back shutouts, saw his shutout string snapped at 160:08 when Rich Peverley scored a power play goal 8:58 into the first period.

The Blues allowed power play goals on two of their first three kills, then killed off a key power play sequence at the start of the third period -- including 1:16 total on two separate power plays.

McClement was a focal player on those kills.

"It's nice to contribute offensively for sure, but first and foremost, (killing penalties) is our job," McClement said. "I was a little disappointed in the first (three) kills. It was big for us to keep us in the game with the 5-on-3 in the third period. It gave us a chance to come back."

Payne agreed.

"Big credit to our PK there," he said. "It stings sometimes when the first couple power plays, two out of the first three go into your net. It's hard to get back out and have real confidence in what you're trying to accomplish out there as a PK unit. They regrouped really well."

McClement scored his first goal while on his behind in the crease -- the puck somehow hit him -- to tie the game 1-1 with 8:02 left in the opening period, a pinpoint shot by D'Agostini. But the Thrashers (5-4-2) got goals from Nik Antropov to make it 2-1 and then Niclas Bergfors took advantage of an Eric Brewer error trying to bat a puck out of mid air with 2.7 seconds left in the first to make it 3-1.

"I didn't think that we were very sharp in the first period," Payne said. "It was clearly evident. Not a lot of good play with the puck, not a lot of good energy, not the work ethic or level that meets our standard."

The Blues were dealing with penalty issues most of the game, but they found a way when McClement scored goals 1:46 apart in the third period. He banged in D'Agostini's shot from the right circle at 13:49 after Ondrej Pavelec made the initial stop, then got to the front of the goal and tipped in Alex Pietrangelo's point shot at 15:35.

"Jay was in the right spot at the right time," said D'Agostini, who along with McClement and Steen were +9 for the game (+3 each). "That's where we're going to score our goals. Put them there and get bodies there."

Added Pietrangelo, who led the Blues in ice time with 27:56, "I seen the lane and took the shot. When a guy's got a hot hand, he's got a hot hand. Lucky enough, it found the back of the net. ... When a game's that tight, those are the goals you want to get."

The Blues buzzed in overtime, but Pavelec, playing in his first game after collapsing on the ice in the Thrashers' opener, made the necessary stops and send the game to a shootout.

Oshie beat Pavelec with a curl move to give the Blues a lead, then Peverley had a puck roll off his stick to preserve the Blues' lead.

"The first shooter, he made a good move, but he lost the puck fortunately for us (and) for me," Halak said.

Boyes then snapped a shot top shelf to make it 2-0 in the shootout, leaving the game in the balance to Atlanta rookie Alexander Burmistrov. But Halak was up to the challenge and made the stop to give the Blues the win.

"The second guy, I just waited for him and made the save," Halak said. "The guys did a great job. They scored two goals and made it real easy on me to stop at least one puck."

It was Halak's key stops in the second period that kept the Blues within striking distance.

"I just came out, I just tried to go puck by puck," Halak said. "That's what I did. I didn't worry about what happened in the first period. I was trying to keep us going the same way through the whole game."

The Blues now don't play until Thursday, so it feels nice to be able to sit on this victory instead of dwelling on losing it.

"It's more important that we hung in there when we weren't our best," D'Agostini said. "As the game went on, we were getting better and making smarter decisions."

Added Payne, "They aren't all going to be pretty, but you take them all anyway."

* NOTES -- Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (headaches/neck spasms) missed the game after being hit by Nashville's Jordin Tootoo in the third period of Thursday's 3-0 win over the Predators. He's listed as day-to-day. ... Defenseman Nathan Oystrick made his Blues debut. He collected an assist in 11:28 of ice time and was +2 for the game. ... Halak's goals-against average is now 1.71 and save percentage is .932, third-best in the league in both categories. ... Former Blues goalie Chris Mason was the backup for the Thrashers tonight. Mason spent the previous two seasons in St. Louis. ... Pietrangelo and David Perron are tied for the team lead in plus-minus at +6.

(10-30-10) Thrashers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were looking for an opportunity to get a chance to see a familiar face tonight.

But with the Atlanta Thrashers playing on Friday night, Chris Mason will have to wait another day to face his former teammates.

Mason, who was replaced here in St. Louis with the trade for Jaroslav Halak, will make his first appearance in a Thrashers uniform tonight when they face the Blues at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

Mason was instrumental in the resurgence of the Blues' franchise the two years he was here but could not come to terms on a contract and signed in Atlanta for two years and $3.7 million after the Blues made the deal for Halak.

"I think everybody in the room loved Mase," Blues winger B.J. Crombeen said. "he's a great guy to have around the rink. He did a lot for the organization and the team.

"It's sad to see a guy like him go, but he's doing well in Atlanta."

- - -

Blues coach Davis Payne says the tonight's lineup will not change as far as the forwards are concerned, as the Blues look to make it four in a row:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-Brad Boyes

Alex Steen-Jay McClement-Matt D'Agostini

Brad Winchester-Vladimir Sobotka-B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo
, injured late in the game Thursday at Nashville following a hit from Jordin Tootoo, will not play tonight. Nathan Oystrick, recalled from Peoria Thursday, will make his Blues debut tonight.

The defensive pairings with Colaiacovo out include:

Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson

Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo

Nathan Oystrick-Tyson Strachan

I asked Strachan if he had anything nice to say about Oystrick. He joked, "He's from Saskatchewan. That gives him high marks right there, eh?"

Both Oystrick and Strachan are from Saskatchewan, Oystrick from Regina and Strachan from Melfort.

Jaroslav Halak (5-1-1, 1.55 GAA, .939 save percentage) will look to continue a shutout streak (151 minutes, 10 seconds) that include back-to-back shutouts.

The team record for most consecutive shutout minutes came from Manny Legace in 2007-08, with 186:15.

- - -

The Thrashers (5-4-1) did not skate this morning after winning in overtime Friday night at home against Buffalo.

Their tentative lines include:

Andrew Ladd-Nik Antropov-Niclas Bergfors

Evander Kane-Alex Burmistrov-Fredrik Modin

Eric Boulton-Rich Peverley-Anthony Stewart

Ben Eager-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn

The d-pairings include:

Zach Bogosian-Johnny Oduya

Tobias Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien

Ron Hainsey-Brent Sopel

Ondrej Pavelec
will make his first appearance since opening night, when he suddenly collapsed in his goal crease a little over two minutes into the game. Pavelec was recalled from Chicago of the AHL Thursday and will step in.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Blues would like league's thoughts of Tootoo hit on Colaiacovo;
Oshie on the offensive with seven-game point streak

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Upon further review, the Blues would like to hear what the National Hockey League office has to say about Jordin Tootoo's hit Thursday night.

It was Tootoo's hit, behind the Blues goal that knocked Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo out of Thursday's 3-0 Blues victory at Nashville, that has the Blues wondering what will happen to Tootoo, if anything.

Tootoo caught Colaiacovo with a hard shoulder hit to the side of the head on a lateral blindside hit, immediately knocking Colaiacovo to the ice as Tootoo elevated himself with 6 minutes, 49 seconds remaining and the Blues holding a 2-0 lead.

"We've taken a look at it," Blues coach Davis Payne said Friday after practice at St. Louis Mills. "I'm sure that the league will have their look at it and we'll have our view based on their impressions of it. I don't think there's need to comment on it much further.

"I'm not sure there was contact from shoulder to head like the emphasis has been. I think there was mostly shoulder-to-shoulder contact, but leaving your feet is something that ... we ended up with two charging penalties earlier this year because both guys left their feet. We feel it's something that needs to be addressed."

Defenseman Tyson Strachan, Colaiacovo's partner on the blue line Thursday had a clean look at it. He tried to get Tootoo, who received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct, to square off but the Predators agitator wouldn't bite.

"You kind of knew right away that that's what he was looking for afterwards," Strachan said of Tootoo. "I'm pretty sure he knew he was going to the box right away and he was trying to goad me into something. But obviously, that's what I like to do is stand up for my teammates and it's hard to turn the other way and not fulfill that. At the end of the day, it's probably the smart play, but it doesn't make you feel great about not stepping in.

"It's late in the game and it's something that is definitely borderline and totally unnecessary. The tough thing about it you'd kind of like to deal with it on the ice. He wasn't willing to deal with the consequences of it. That's a little frustrating to wake up today and know you didn't really do much about it, but we'll see what happens with it."

Colaiacovo was not on the ice Friday, as he was being tested as all head injuries do for possible concussion-like symptoms. Payne said Colaiacovo is day-to-day and was uncertain whether he'd be able to play tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers.

"He's possible. He's day-to-day right now," Payne said. "... We'll see how he is tomorrow."

* Oshie's offense -- Don't look now, but T.J. Oshie is quietly putting together a nice little string of games here recently.

The Blues' forward, playing on the top line with David Backes and David Perron, picked up an assist on Matt D'Agostini's goal Thursday and now has points in seven consecutive games (one goal, eight assists).

"We're building chemistry and me and Backs had that last year a lot," Oshie said. "Perry's stepping into (Paul Kariya's) role and he's fitting in well. We're moving the puck well, we're reading off of each other and just building more chemistry.

"As long as the team's winning, I'm feeling good. I just think it's more the other guys bearing down and scoring goals. Some of the assists are nothing plays and guys turning them into something big. Just right place at the right time on some of those. As long as the team's chipping in and the team's winning, everyone's feeling good."

Payne said for Oshie, who does so much away from the puck, it's about making the quick recognition of certain plays.

The Blues' coach used an example of how Oshie was able to step off the wall and recognize the traffic in front of him but shoots through the open lane on a power play in the second period. Payne said it was a shot Oshie might not have taken last season.

"There's another gear there as far as his intent to make a play, his recognition of how quickly the play happens," Payne said. "I think a year or so ago, he might have seen the play and then perhaps looked to the next play. He's willing to take Option A and attack it, whether it's that next play, whether it's a sidestep on a one-on-one situation or whether he's got to shoot a puck. ... I think there's a recognition on his part to attack quicker. For us, that's a good thing."

* Sobotka still adjusting -- Blues center Vladimir Sobotka played in his fourth game Thursday and although he's getting more comfortable each game and the minutes are increasing ever so slightly (he played 10:11 on 15 shifts Thursday), he's still finding his way around the ice.

"I'm still missing something," the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Sobotka said. "I want more from myself and get a little more physical. I just have to play 100 percent. That's all I can do."

"(The increased minutes) is something that I need, but I have to play good to get my ice time to show that I can play more. I'm still working on that."

* Strachan impresses -- Other than the near-fight with Tootoo Thursday, Tyson Strachan was impressive in taking the place of Roman Polak (wrist) on the Blues' back unit Thursday.

Strachan, who was a healthy scratch in six of the Blues' first seven games, played 12:41 paired with Colaiacovo. Strachan had a team-best five of their 17 blocked shots.

"I was excited to get back in and it was awesome," Strachan said. "I love playing hockey and obviously, it was a good game and a good win for us."

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo led Blues skaters in ice time with a career-best mark of 24:59.

* Fox Sports, DISH Network finally reach agreement -- DISH Network and Fox Networks accounced on Friday a wide-ranging distribution agreement to provide programming from Fox Broadcasting and Fox local television stations in major cities.

On Fox Sports Midwest, viewers will now be able to receive all Blues telecasts, beginning with today's 7 p.m. home game against Atlanta.

"The Blues are thrilled that our two partners have reached this agreement and that our great fans will not miss a minute of exciting Blues hockey," Blues CEO of Enterprises Mike McCarthy said in a statement.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halak, Blues blank Predators 3-0

Netminder earns second straight shutout;
shorthanded Steen goal is first of season, game-winner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jaroslav Halak made the crucial stops early. His Blues teammates continued to push over the game's final 20 minutes.

The result was a recipe for success against a team that has been a thorn in the Blues' side for the better part of five years now.

The Blues got goals from Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and Matt D'Agostini, and Halak was a bullet-proof wall once again, earning his second shutout in a row as the Blues blanked the Nashville Predators 3-0 Thursday night before 15,506 at Bridgestone Arena. Coupled with their shutout win over Pittsburgh Saturday, it's the team's first back-to-back shutouts since Nov. 2-4, 2000 when they beat Washington 2-0 and tied Toronto 0-0.

The Blues (5-1-2), winners of three in a row, played a fundamentally sound team game against a team that had beaten the Blues six of the last seven meetings, including a 4-3 win here on Oct. 14.

Steen netted his first goal of the season, a shorthanded effort. Berglund netted a key goal in the third period to make it a two-goal lead for the Blues, and D'Agostini iced it with a power play goal late. Halak stood tall again, and the Blues outshot the 5-1-3 Predators by a 34-24 margin.

"I haven't played here too many times, but every time, it seems like they get the better of us and are outworking us that much more," said D'Agostini, who is tied with Berglund and David Perron with four goals. "Tonight, we came in with a goal and played pretty well."

It was Halak, who has a shutout streak that stands at 151 minutes, 10 seconds dating back to the second period Friday against Chicago, who lit the fire under the team on this night.

He stopped Nashville's J.P. Dumont in the crease with 14:21 left in the opening period, then snagged Patric Hornqvist's shot on a breakaway with 11:40 left in the first period to preserve a scoreless game. He also made a big pad save on Shea Weber's big blast from the high slot with 13:09 left in the second to keep the game scoreless.

"Overall, I thought we played a good first period even though we gave them two chances," said Halak, who improved to 5-1-1 on the season with a 1.55 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. "That's what I'm there for."

Added Blues coach Davis Payne, "We have a pretty good understanding of what he's capable of doing. Although we don't want to string him out like we did the first period ... we had some point-blank turnovers that he had to stop. The second period we had some plays along the wall at our blue line that turned back at our net and he was very sound in making those saves for us."

The only downfall in the game was when Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo took a hard shoulder with 6:49 to play from Predators agitator Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct that left Colaiacovo laying on the ice before leaving on his own power.

"I didn't really get a good look at it, but I heard he jumped and left his feet and that kind of stuff," D'Agostini said of Tootoo. "It's not the first time he's done it. You gotta crack down on guys like that sooner or later."

Tootoo and the Predators did not feel like there was any head-hunting on the play.

"My understanding is that it was a blow to the head, but if you look at the replay, it looks like shoulder-on-shoulder," Tootoo said. "It's a tough league that we play in. You've got to keep your head up out there and I think the bottom line is that when you hit someone hard, obviously the refs are going to take a second look at it."

Payne would not comment on of Tootoo should receive a suspension, but did say he felt like Colaiacovo would be fine.

"We'll take a look at the hit and exactly what the hit looked like," Payne said. "Carlo will bounce back and we got our win."

The Blues, after a scoreless first period, got to work on Thursday and it was Steen and Perron who worked their magic together playing 4-on-4 hockey.

Steen scored his first of the season and the Blues' first shorthanded goal of the season at the end of a 4-on-4. Perron's nice little saucer pass from behind the net as the Blues pressured in the Nashville zone found Steen in the slot, and he beat Pekka Rinne low to the stick side 12:56 into the second period for a 1-0 Blues lead.

"It was a good play by Perry, really good play," Steen said. "We got Rinne going from post to post and I knew that if Perry got it out to me, Rinne was still going to be on that post.

"We knew the time on the clock ... if the puck doesn't go in, we've got to find a way to get off. We knew, but it was right when the penalty expired, so there wasn't much time."

The Blues, instead of laying back protecting a one-goal lead, continued to press the action. They did not allow the Predators to get a shot on goal until the 12:04 mark of the third period, but the Blues did press offensively and Berglund pounced on a play.

Brad Boyes' booming slap shot was kicked out by Rinne, but Berglund was charging the net and was able to rip one from the high slot with 7:12 to play to make it 2-0.

"It was a real big goal, kind of cut their momentum off," Boyes said. "It was a great play by Bergy, we needed that.

"We can't sit back at all, against any team. Keep going, get that next one. That was the type of goal that solidifies that. We know when we're in that position to keep going."

Said Payne, "Good read there by Andy McDonald recognizing an opportunity to come in transition out of our own zone and execute on the rush. We don't have a heck of a lot of pull-back in our game. It's all designed with intent to put ourselves in good position to manage the game correctly, to manage the puck correctly. I thought the third period was real solid for us in that aspect. We're willing to attack the net, but we're also willing to return as five guys. When they did have possession coming out of their zone, it was real solid back-pressure, it was real solid gap by our d-men. We did a pretty good job once all five guys got back in our zone, established our shape and defended well."

Seconds after the Blues scored is when Tootoo went hard behind the Blues' net to finish a check and hit Colaiacovo flush on the chin.

"The big emphasis is on shots to the head and I saw a shoulder-to-shoulder check," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "To me, (Tootoo) didn't leave his feet, so I'm a little bit confused on that. ... To me, looking at the factors, I didn't see anything. I thought it was a fairly clean hit."

Tootoo received a five-minute major for charging and a game-misconduct. The Blues took advantage with D'Agostini on the doorstep of a David Backes pass with 4:45 to play.

"We were clicking all night on the power play," D'Agostini said. "We were getting chances and good movement. It was good to see one get in there."

The Blues, now 10-19-9 in the last 38 meetings with Nashville (5-8-6 here in Nashville), did not want a repeat of what happened last time in this building when the Predators jumped out to a 3-1 first-period lead en route to a 4-3 win.

"We worked, and we knew coming in here from a couple weeks ago that they jumped on us," D'Agostini said. "So we knew we had to come out with some pace, and I think we did that for the full 60."

Especially in the third period, when the Blues continued to march on looking for more offense.

"That's key for us and I think that's been our downfall in the past is letting off the gas pedal a couple times," D'Agostini said. "You can't play any differently with the lead than if you were behind by a goal. We just kept playing our game and got a couple more."

The Blues flew home after the game, and now prepare for Chris Mason and the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday at home, where they're 4-0-0.

"We're playing well," Boyes said. "It's big to get the one on the road. At home, we've been pretty dangerous so far. We get that road record going again and it will look pretty good."

Polak wrist surgery successful on severed tendon

Armstrong says defenseman will miss "a significant amount of time"

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on Thursday night that Roman Polak's surgery earlier in the day was a success but that the Blues will be without their reliable defenseman for an extended period of time.

Polak had surgery on his right wrist, performed by Dr. Martin Boyer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, to repair a severed tendon that Armstrong said has only happened to one other NHL player. Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg had a similar surgery to repair a lacerated left wrist in April of last season. He was expected to be sidelined for eight weeks but had an entire summer to heal.

"Everything went very well," Armstrong said of Polak. "(Blues head athletic trainer) Ray (Barile) has talked to the doctor and to Roman. The surgery was a success.

"We aren't sure of the timeline. ... he'll be out a significant amount of time. We're going to know more in the next two weeks. After the weekend, we'll sit down with Roman and our training staff and get all the information from the doctors at that time. It's important for me just to have Roman relax at home, let everything sink in on the situation and we can address it next week."

Armstrong said he feels the Blues have sufficient reinforcements in Peoria, the team's American Hockey League affiliate and won't look outside the organization for help.

"One of our strengths coming out of camp was competition for those spots on our team," Armstrong said. "I think everybody's played very well. I've seen our American league team play, they're playing very well down there. I think Tyson Strachan's done everything he can do to give himself the best opportunity. He gets that chance now. It's going to be a fluid situation on if we stay healthy ... knock on wood ... and we'll just go with these six for a while. I want those players that are down in the American league to continue to play so when we do need a player for our lineup, they're ready to go."

(10-28-10) Blues-Predators Gameday Lineup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When his teammates saw the amount of blood gushing from the right wrist of Roman Polak, Blues players quickly went from teammates to concerned friends.

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo was one of them.

"The play looked harmless and you see him get up from the ice, he's looking at his wrist and we're all trying to figure out what's going on and he's skating and there's so much blood coming out," Colaiacovo said. "That's the nature of the game. You can even go back a couple years and look at the Richard Zednik incident. That's the dangers we put ourselves through every time we step on the ice.

"I guess when you look at the end result of it, we're just all really happy he escaped what could have been a serious tragedy, a really serious injury. I guess this is a best-case scenario."

Polak, who took an inadvertent skate from Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby during the second period of Saturday's 1-0 overtime win, went from escaping a serious injury to having surgery today at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to repair a severed tendon.

Initially, the Blues felt like Polak would miss tonight's game against Nashville, then be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. But with the severity of the injury, Polak will be out indefinitely, with the team having a better understanding in the next 10-14 days following surgery.

"It's a tough break," Colaiacovo said. "No one expected the injury to be that serious, but obviously he's got to take matters into his own hands and worry about his health and making sure he does the right thing for the long run. Obviously we're going to miss him. He brings a lot to our team. Sometimes he's irreplaceable, but I think we've proven in the past -- especially this team and its core defense -- that they can get through anything. We have the guys capable of stepping up to replace what we're going to miss from him."

Tyson Strachan, who has been a healthy scratch in six of the team's seven games, will see the ice in the foreseeable future on a regular basis. And the Blues have recalled Nathan Oystrick from Peoria to fill in as the team's seventh defenseman for the time being.

"He's playing a solid team game, working hard at being a contributor to team success," Blues coach Davis Payne said of Oystrick. "That's the message that we sent these guys with when they left. Make sure when the call comes, when the need is there, you put yourself in a position to be at the top of the charts and he's done that, he's produced, he's played well within structure, defended hard. Coming off a long road trip (with Peoria), his road trip gets longer, which I think he's ok with. Obviously he's a guy that we liked during training camp, has some experience in this league. Obviously that plays a little into it."

Oystrick, 28, was signed by the Blues as a free agent after spending past season in the Anaheim Ducks organization, playing in three games. He played a full season in 2008-09 with the Atlanta Thrashers, scoring four goals and eight assists.

"I know how it works and I know the day-to-day routine," Oystrick said. "Obviously, I'm a little bit older and not only NHL games, I've been around pro hockey a little bit more. There's a lot of good defensemen down there that they could have chose from. I'm just happy that it was me."

Oystrick got off to a hot start in Peoria, scoring four goals and collecting nine points in nine games with the Rivermen.

"Luckily, I got the call and I'll be ready," Oystrick said. "If I'm here for one game or I'm here for two months, I'll be ready every day, come to practice and to the rink ready and hopefully get a chance to get into a couple games and prove myself.

"Obviously, we got off to a pretty hot start as a team. When the team's playing as well as we were, it's pretty easy to contribute. I obviously get a lot of power play time there, a lot of ice time. I just got a few lucky bounces, found some holes in the net and guys were around the net banging in shots that I put there."

Blues brass has talked in the past about the importance of depth at all positions, which is why they were able to stockpile players for their team in Peoria. Now, the defensive unit will have the opportunity to see that depth come to fruition.

"We don't necessarily like to show all these examples, but it happens," Payne said. "Everybody deals with this kind of stuff. Poli's out and we've got to pick all the pieces back up and keep on moving. That's just how this business works.

"Obviously (Polak's) got some special abilities. He's a good, strong, physical defender and very difficult to play against. But we have a way and a standard about us. If we have to define ourselves a little bit differently as time goes on, we will structurally. But right now, everything's status quo. Guys step in and perform the same tasks."

Added Colaiacovo, "In any sport, it's almost impossible to go through a whole season without experiencing some sort of adversity, a loss to a player that means so much to your team. Depth is important to your team. It's really important to have that sort of depth at any position in case something like this does happen, you're not scrambling and panicking to fill a position."

- - -

The Blues (4-1-2) will try to get on the winning side of things against Nashville, which has won six of the last seven meetings. The Blues are 9-19-9 in the last 37 meetings between the teams.

But coming off back-to-back wins over Chicago and Pittsburgh at home, there will be no lineup changes for the Blues among the forwards:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-Brad Boyes

Alex Steen-Jay McClement-Matt D'Agostini

Brad Winchester-Vladimir Sobotka-B.J. Crombeen

Cam Janssen is a healthy scratch tonight after being activated Wednesday after suffering a concussion on opening night.

The defensive pairings will have:

Eric Brewer-Erik Johnson

Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo

Carlo Colaiacovo-Tyson Strachan

Nathan Oystrick will be the healthy scratch.

Jaroslav Halak, named the second star of the week by the NHL, will try to gain a measure of revenge, along with his teammates, against the only team he's lost to in regulation. He'll get the start.

- - -

The Predators (5-0-3) are the only team in the league without a regulation loss, but they have dropped their last three home games since that 4-3 win over the Blues on Oct. 14. All three losses, to Calgary, Washington and Pittsburgh, came in overtime.

Their line combinations will feature:

Steve Sullivan-Cal O'Reilly-Patric Hornqvist

J.P. Dumont-Colin Wilson-Martin Erat

Joel Ward-David Legwand-Jordin Tootoo

Sergei Kostitsyn-Nick Spalding-Jerred Smithson

Matthew Lombardi
and Marcel Goc are out with injuries

The defensive unit features:

Francis Bouillon-Shea Weber

Shane O'Brien-Kevin Klein

Alexander Sulzer-Cody Franson

The Predators will be without all-star Ryan Suter (knee), who was injured in the 1-0 overtime loss to Calgary.

Pekka Rinne, who missed the previous meeting between the teams, will get the nod in goal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blues return to scene of only regulation loss

Predators took 4-3 decision two weeks ago,
have had their way with St. Louis in recent years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was two weeks ago to the day, where Bridgestone Arena was the scene of the crime: the Blues played arguably their worst hockey of this young season.

It was the first period. Actually, it didn't even take that long, 56 seconds to get down -- and stay down.

The Blues (4-1-2) fell behind the Predators (5-0-3) by a 3-1 count, only to rally twice in the second and third periods before falling 4-3. It's the only game of seven this season where the Blues have failed to earn at least a point.

They return to the very same scene at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM) to face the Predators who have yet to lose in regulation this season -- the last remaining team in the NHL to remain unbeaten in regulation.

Nashville came out gunning right from the opening whistle here on Oct. 14, jumping all over a Blues team that had been well-rested for three days. Nashville had played the night before but still displayed the more fresh legs.

The Blues, despite outplaying the Predators over the final two periods and outshooting them 35-22 for the game, could never recover.

"If you look back at the situation, they played the night before and I think they caught us off-guard," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "It's kind of an area we take pride in, coming out strong and they kind of took it to us. That can't be the way it happens on Thursday. We definitely have to be more prepared and come out with a little bit more intensity than they do."

Added defenseman Barret Jackman, "We definitely know that they're a fast-starting team. They're a team that over 60 minutes never gives up. That's the way (Predators coach) Barry Trotz has always coached his teams. It doesn't matter who they have in the lineup, they're always playing the same way. We know that we have to be sharp at the beginning and play for a full 60."

The Predators have owned this series since the start of the 2005-06, and they've won five in a row dating back to last season when Nashville won five of six games. The Blues are a paltry 9-19-9 in the last 37 meetings, including 4-8-6 in this building.

"Nashville has always been a close rival of ours," Jackman said. "They've always played us very well and we've struggled against them. But going to that building is going to be an opportunity for us to continue to grow as a team and take another step toward being one of the better teams in the league."

Even though the Predators seemed to have owned the series between the teams in the last five years, 12 of the 16 meetings have been decided by one goal. Nashville seems to thrive off the one-goal outings. Since Feb. 10 of last season, the Predators are an amazing 18-0-4 in one-goal games.

"I think that they do a lot of the detail work well," Blues coach Davis Payne said of Nashville. "They work hard, they work consistently for 60 minutes, they stay within their structure, they manage the puck very well, a real good puck pursuit team, real good team at staying in the battle and their goaltenders have played pretty well so far this year. They've got good speed up front, good pursuit speed and they can create some trouble on the forecheck. So we feel we've got to do a much better job handling that. We did in the second and third (periods on Oct. 14). Unfortunately it was too late against them. Their power play was clicking that night as well.

"We've got a couple issues we've got to clean up, but they're just a very consistent team. Barry Trotz has done just a fantastic job there in putting those guys in the playoffs and having the type of success that he's had over the last little bit. It's a good formula that they've got going there."

The Predators don't have that superstar firepower some teams have. There are no $8-, $9-, $10-million dollar players on the roster. Just a bunch of hard-nosed players who work their tails off for a coach who preaches many of the little things.

"They're more like us," Blues center Patrik Berglund said. "They're a hard-working team every game. I think we play a pretty similar game. The last game, they got off to a good start and we didn't. After that, I think we had the last two periods. They're tight games. There's a lot of hitting and battling. I just think we have to go in there and be ready right from the start. They're the toughest team the first 10 minutes. We've got to be ready.

"It's really tight in the neutral zone. It's hard to carry the puck. There's going to be a lot of dump and chase, win battles in the corners and get the puck up to the d-men, get traffic to the net and hopefully get some rebound goals."

Payne was asked if anything needs to be said about the start.

"We've already started, so I don't think as a coach, you skip that opportunity," Payne said. "Even if a word may not need mentioning, they'll hear it."

The Blues, one of the best records on the road a season ago at 22-14-5, seek their first win of the season -- they're 0-1-2 -- away from Scottrade Center, where they are 4-0-0.

"It's funny how it works," McDonald said. "We were strong on the road last year and struggled thus far this year. We have to carry it over. We've got a good team we're playing against in Nashville. We've got to bring our best game. I like what I saw from the weekend (in victories over Chicago and Pittsburgh).

"We have to make sure we're ready to play our game."

Polak to have surgery, is out indefinitely

Defenseman to have procedure done
Thursday to repair severed tendon in right wrist

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After further review, Blues defenseman Roman Polak's injury is more serious than first believed.

Polak will have surgery on his right wrist to repair a severed tendon. He will be out indefinitely.

The injury is not expected to be season-ending, but in 10-14 days, the team will do a post-surgery analysis and determine the length of time Polak will miss.

Polak was injured during the second period of the Blues' 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night.

It is believed that Polak came down and caught an inadvertent skate from the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on the play. He immediately came off the ice and was rushed to the Blues' locker room and never returned.

Earlier this week, Blues coach Davis Payne said that Polak's injury did not appear to be serious but that the Czech Republic native would miss tonight's game in Nashville, then be reevaluated on a day-to-day basis. But further analysis by doctors on Sunday and Monday revealed the severed tendon.

"What happened was, initially after the injury, we thought he was day to day," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Then after more evaluations Sunday and Monday, it showed that the tendon was severed. The doctor was trying to assess the tendon, and see if it didn't need to be repaired, if (Polak) could play without it.

"Not to get too technical, but the tendon is the one that baseball players have removed to repair another one when they have 'Tommy John' surgery. They weren't sure of the necessity of that tendon for a hockey player. That's why we did our due diligence. As we received the information, the best thing for Roman was to get the surgery done."

Polak will have the surgery performed by Dr. Martin Boyer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Thursday.

Instead of waiting for the final evaluation, Armstrong said, "Instead of creating a storm, we wanted to get all the information before readjusting our statement."

In the meantime, the Blues have recalled defenseman Nathan Oystrick from Peoria in an effort to fill a slot on the defensive unit as the seventh defenseman.

"Oystrick has played well," Armstrong said. "For me, here's a player that has experience going up and down. I don't want it to be a confusing issue (going up and down) for our younger players."

The Blues will miss Polak's minutes in the lineup, as he was averaging 19 minutes 14 seconds in the lineup, which was fourth among the defensemen. But Armstrong believes the Blues are deep enough in Peoria that they don't have to go outside the organization to get help.

"No, not at this time," Armstrong said. "My thoughts are to go with the six defensemen we have.

"Competitively, it's a hurdle we have to overcome," Armstrong added. "His play last year continued over to this year. He has a large impact on the game as a penalty killer and as a shutdown defenseman. We'll find a way to alter our system. It's going to create an opportunity for (Tyson) Strachan, but ultimately, it's going to give an opportunity to (Alex Pietrangelo) and (Erik) Johnson to take a bigger bite."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Strachan to play Thursday; Janssen deems self 100 percent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Tyson Strachan understands his role with the Blues. That doesn't mean the defenseman can sit back idly and be pleased about it.

As the extra defenseman in a six-man rotation, or the odd-man out as the team's seventh defenseman, Strachan has played in one game this season (in Dallas) and under five minutes of game time.

But with the injury to Roman Polak (right wrist laceration), who will not accompany the team to Nashville to play the Predators Thursday, Strachan will step into the lineup -- at least for one game, or as long as Polak sits.

"That's what we've been here for. Just working hard every day waiting for that opportunity," Strachan said after practice Tuesday at the St. Louis Mills Ice Zone. "You hate to see a guy like Roman have an injury like that. It's definitely a scary thing. ... I was sick to my stomach watching him go off, but it's good to get in and try and help out the team.

"It's tough sitting there watching from the stands when you can't help out. I'm just excited to get in there and get some minutes."

The Blues, who have had their fair share of injuries -- particularly to the defensive unit, have managed to add the necessary depth to the blue line in case of these sudden injuries.

Polak has not been ruled out of Saturday's home game against Atlanta, but Strachan is more than capable of stepping in and the team filling the gap.

"That's why depth is so important," Blues coach Davis Payne. "You can't just have a body, you have to have a body that is in tune with what we're doing and certainly capable of carrying forward what we're doing."

Payne likes what Strachan offers.

"Good poise, good size, a real good head, thinks the next play ahead defensively, thinks the next play, makes a good first pass, is able to take a step up ice and help us in transition, help us create that initial thrust coming from our own end," he says. "He's actually pretty good on the offensive blue line as far as getting his shot through, handling pucks, creating his own shot lane, and he's got a physical element. He's a big body who's willing to get in there and get his nose dirty. He kind of gives us a little bit of everything."

At Tuesday's practice, Strachan was on the ice with Carlo Colaiacovo, while Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson were paired together. Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo remained together.

* Janssen practices -- Blues enforcer Cam Janssen was on the ice for his first practice with the team Tuesday, although Janssen took part in the skating drills in place Monday.

Janssen, out since the season opener after sustaining a concussion in that game, appears doubtful to play in Nashville. But the Eureka, Mo. native says he's ready to get back into the swing of things.

"Things feel great. I feel right back in it," Janssen said. "I feel like I'm part of the team again. It's the best feeling in the world. Injuries are bad for a couple different reasons. One, you're injured. Two, you're just not part of the group. It's just mentally straining. I wasn't even out for that long and I'm always in the room talking with the other guys. That makes me feel a lot better, but you still have that separation from the guys. It's mentally draining. It really is. Now that I'm back and practicing and hanging, it just makes everything that much better. Whenever they need me, I'll be ready."

Payne says he would consult with Blues trainer Ray Barile before making a final decision.

"It was a matter of him getting through today," Payne said of Janssen's practice. "... We'll assess how Cam felt going through and what kind of options that gives us Thursday."

If it's up to Janssen, who says you can only do so much stick-handling in the basement of your home, he's fit and cleared to go.

"I'm 100 percent ... 110 percent," Janssen said. "I've got to calm down a little bit because my energy's a little too much.

"It'll happen. They know that. They know I'm a high-energy guy and sometimes you've got to take a few deep breaths before I go on the ice. And I will, and boy, I'll be ready when they need me."

* Chase moves on -- Blues radio color analyst Kelly chase and partner Kyoko Ina are in the Final Four.

Chase and Ina are one of the final four skaters in Canada’s “Battle of the Blades” figure skating competition.

The final four include Chase, former Blue Valeri Bure, Todd Warriner and Theo Fleury.

Fans can vote for Chase and Ina up to 25 times per person by going to and clicking on the pair’s facebook page. The show’s fifth round will take place Sunday and voting will begin at 6 p.m.

Chase is competing for a $100,000 purse that will be donated to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan in order to help build the first children’s hospital in the province.

Monday, October 25, 2010

When it comes to extra time, go get the second point

Despite 2-2 overtime/shootout mark,
Blues are all-in when it comes to 4-on-4

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- If the overtime/shootout sessions were a Texas Hold 'Em hand for the Blues, they'd be all-in each time.

The Blues (4-1-2) have only played seven games this season, but four of them have gone to overtime/shootout period.

And instead of playing conservative with an extra point on the line, the Blues play with an all-systems-go mentality.

The Blues have won two and lost two in the extra time, but on each occasion, Blues coach Davis Payne is looking for ways to utilize his team's chances in the four-on-four battle.

"Our mentality in overtime is to play our game," Payne said. "We've got skill and ability and when we get the puck, we want to try and score that goal. On the flip side of that, when we don't have (the puck), we've got responsibilities. We've also got responsibilities to make good puck decisions. Four-on-four when we've got ability, we want to attack the areas that are available to us."

The Blues own wins over Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in overtime but have dropped games to Dallas (shootout) and Chicago. And in three of the four games, with the exception at Dallas, the Blues have outshot their opponent with the sole intent of grabbing the extra point available. Even in the loss at Chicago, the Blues outshot the Blackhawks 7-2. They've outshot their four collective opponents 13-7.

"We want to play at the other team's end," Payne said. "We want to be a good four-on-four hockey team. We know now that an overtime win counts a little bit more in a tie-breaker situation than the shootout win does. If it comes down to that, you want to make sure you've given yourself a chance as well."

It's a far cry from the days of Andy Murray's teams, which seemed to take the conservative approach on a number of occasions.

"You've got some highly-skilled forwards and defensemen, so I think we're able to make plays four-on-four and keep the puck," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "But it works both ways. The other teams are saying the same thing. The other night, we were able to get the balance and in Chicago, it went the other way. It's been entertaining so far in overtime."

The Blues took both shots in overtime against the high-flying Penguins. Once the puck entered Pittsburgh's zone, it never came back out, and Erik Johnson's finish off a forced turnover from T.J. Oshie finished off a 1-0 win.

"We make two good plays," Payne said. "One from the weak side that EJ gets his first chance on and then Osh steals a puck and EJ makes a good read.

"It's not really all-systems-go like a jailbreak-type scenario. EJ reads that we've got support in behind, EJ reads that we've got a puck in a real dangerous area and he jumps to a hole and it's game over. For us, that's an intelligent play, a measured play if you will."

* NOTES -- Of Johnson's 16 career goals, Saturday's game-winner was his third in overtime and sixth of his career. ... Center Jay McClement played in his 400th career game Saturday and became the fifth youngest Blue (27 years, 235 days) to accomplish the feat. ... The Blues' 10 consecutive home wins is a club record. They are the only team in the league this season with a 4-0-0 mark. ... Defenseman Roman Polak has six career goals, three of them are game-winners after Friday's goal that gave the Blues a lead in a 4-2 win over Chicago. ... Blues forward Cam Janssen was on the ice for skating drills Monday. Janssen said last week he would be ready for Thursday's game at Nashville, but Payne said Monday, "We're going to get through the first couple days that he's back with the group in practice. We've got an assessment to go through there in the next couple days." ... The Blues and Blues 14 Fund are offering Flashes of Hope, a new program for patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital who are battling cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The Blues' 14 Fund has provided a grant for this project, while Blues wives and girlfriends are heading up the efforts. Diana Davidson, wife of Blues President John Davidson, is leading the group as the volunteer chapter director. Blues players Eric Brewer, David Backes and McClement will take part in a photo shoot with cancer patients today at St. Louis Children's Hospital from 1-3 p.m.

Halak named second star of the week

Blues' netminder helped Blues to pair
of wins over last two Stanley Cup champs

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jaroslav Halak wasted little time picking up a series of firsts with the Blues.

The Blues' netminder collected his first shutout in a St. Louis sweater during Saturday's 1-0 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, then picked up his first weekly NHL award in a Blues uniform after the league named the Bratislava, Slovakia native the second star of the week.

Halak, who is 4-1-1 on the season with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage, was 2-0-1 last week with back-to-back wins over Chicago and Pittsburgh and an overtime loss to the Blackhawks as well.

Halak, who was acquired over the summer from the Montreal Canadiens via trade for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, had a 1.61 GAA and .944 save percentage in the three games last week.

"It's a nice award, but I think we did a great job as a team," Halak said, deflecting credit to everyone on the squad. "It's a team effort and it's really nice when I get an honor like that ... but I would say that everybody in this locker room would deserve it."

Halak, who is 4-0-0 at home with a 0.99 goals-against average and .960 save percentage at Scottrade Center this season, continues to get better acclimated with his teammates. But in the meantime, the Blues have established a franchise-best 10-game home winning streak.

"I think everybody is still getting used to me and I'm getting used to the guys," Halak said. "It's going to take a little while before we will know what I'm going to do with the puck or what they want me to do with the puck. We're just trying to find what's best for everybody."

Calgary's Rene Bourque was named the first star and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos was the third star.

Polak to miss at least 1 game with lacerated wrist

Blues defenseman escaped serious injury, coach says

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The bad news for Roman Polak is he won't play Thursday in Nashville. The good news is the laceration on his right wrist could have been a lot worse.

Polak suffered the injury in the second period Saturday night against Pittsburgh when the back of Sidney Crosby's skate blade accidentally cut the Blues defenseman's wrist as he was falling down on it, sending Polak frantically to the Blues' locker room. He did not return to the game.

Blues coach Davis Payne said during Monday's practice at St. Louis Mills that the injury could have been a lot worse but that doctors have said Polak will need to miss a game and then will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

"He's obviously got that laceration. The internal stuff checks out pretty good as far as the medical diagnosis goes," Payne said. "It's obviously a deep gash, a deep cut, but not a lot of internal stuff. We expect him to be out Thursday and day-to-day beyond that ... questionable for Saturday's game. It's pretty good news as far as we're concerned."

Blues defenseman Barret Jackman was not on the ice when the injury occurred but saw Polak leaving the ice.

"Yes I did. Scary," Jackman said. "He was yelling at guys to get out of the way. Any time there's a cut and obviously close to an artery, you're scared. But thank God, it wasn't that deep and we're not talking about a life-threatening injury.

"The look on his face was scary. You see the cut in the area, you almost lose your lunch."

Polak was averaging over 19 minutes per game for the team but will at least for one game be replaced by Tyson Strachan in the lineup. Strachan has been a healthy scratch in six of the team's seven games this season.

"It's obviously tough to lose a key player like Roman," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, whose ice time will increase and who played a team-high 23:12 on Saturday. "He plays big minutes, but it's a chance for other people to step up. I'm just trying to do my job and hopefully, I can fulfill that."

Added Payne, "(Polak's) been playing great hockey for us. He's a big, strong, physical guy with great closing speed. Now it's a situation like we had to finish the last half of (Saturday's) game against Pittsburgh. Guys gotta step up and eat into those minutes and get the job done against offensive players, gotta get the job done in shutting people down.

"Tyson Strachan has been staying ready, the minutes to Petro go up, the minutes to (Erik Johnson) go up. This is all part of the game. Injuries happen, we band it together and we go on."

Payne said the team does not plan on calling anyone up from Peoria.

"As of right now, we'll stick with what we've got," Payne said.

That means Strachan, who played a grand total of 4:48 at Dallas, will jump into the mix in Nashville.

"I think one of our strengths is our depth at D," Jackman said. "You look in training camp, there's a lot of guys that were fighting for spots. Strachs is definitely a capable guy with some experience in the past. Everybody has to pick up the slack, but we do have the depth that can help us out."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Have the Blues arrived? They're gaining believers

Team is taking low-keyed approach
after wins over Chicago, Pittsburgh

ST. LOUIS -- First round picks Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo are playing big, important minutes. Veterans Barret Jackman and Eric Brewer, along with Carlo Colaiacovo were thrust into more prominent roles and increased time with the loss of Roman Polak. Yes, the Blues' defensive unit was put to the test this past weekend.

Needless to say, they -- along with their teammates -- came out of it with flying colors.

Huge wins over the last two Stanley Cup champs, 4-2 over defending champion Chicago Friday night and 1-0 in overtime Saturday over the Pittsburgh Penguins have the Blues feeling good.

It was a key weekend of hockey.

So ... should these wins be a big deal for the Blues?

"I think we've just got to stay even-keeled and realize how we played, how long it took us to play our game for us to get a couple wins in this building and also realize that we just came off a three-game losing streak," said forward T.J. Oshie, who assisted on Johnson's game-winner against the Penguins and has a six-game point streak. "We're not in first place by any means and we're still not where we want to be. But we're getting better each day and that's our goal."

The Blues (4-1-2) have earned points in six of the seven games played this season, games against some very stiff competition.

It was a hard-earned win over the Blackhawks, then with the high-flying Penguins in town, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there were the Blues' prized draft picks Johnson and Pietrangelo, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 and No. 4 overall pick in 2008, respectively, playing with the game on the line.

Johnson provided the winning margin Saturday, scoring 50 seconds into overtime and played some of his best hockey of the season in the late stages of that game. And Pietrangelo, who had to battle for a spot on this defensive unit in training camp, led all skaters in ice time, a career-best 23 minutes 12 seconds.

Yes, the kids have arrived.

"You feel good the more you play," Pietrangelo said. "Obviously minutes went up with Roman being out. But at the same time, you're feeling pretty confident with what we've been able to accomplish so far. We've been playing our game and the big thing is to continue to do it and play the whole season like that."

Added Johnson, "You want to make a difference. No better time to do it, I guess. The opportunity was there. You can't really create something out of nothing. I got the puck at the right time and created something and just used my instincts. ... You have to trust your hockey sense. That's what I did and fortunately turned into some good plays for our team.

"Guys stepped up. Petro's played really well and stepped up really well. It kind of makes everyone come together as a cohesive unit. Roman's a big key to that, but we had guys step up and play really well in his absence."

Polak, who has played with Brewer on the Blues' top defensive pairing, was lost in the second quarter when he was inadvertently cut on the right wrist by the skate of Crosby. Blues coach Davis Payne will know more about Polak's status today.

The Blues were down to five defensemen trying to contain Pittsburgh's big guns.

Not only did they stop them, they kept them scoreless.

"It goes to show we can play with anybody," Pietrangelo said. "Two pretty good hockey teams ... I think everybody knows that. We played some real good hockey."

It was gut-check time for the Blues' d-men when Polak went down.

"He's a big-minute guy who plays hard and plays a really good game," Brewer said of Polak. "You deal with it and carry on. But you do notice it."

"Our guys are growing and learning by fire. This is exactly what we need," Payne said. "We need these tests passed by our hockey club, and these guys are capable of doing that. ... It's a step and we take another one, and we keep going. I think these guys are feeling good about their abilities to play against top players and top teams. That should be our expectation if we play that way."

Jaroslav Halak, who stymied the Penguins in the playoffs a season ago when Montreal shocked Pittsburgh in seven games during the Eastern Conference semifinals, did his part as well. He stopped all 31 shots faced Saturday and kicked out 23 shots against Chicago Friday.

"We did a great job all night long," said Halak, who improved to 4-1-1 on the season while lowering his goals-against average to 1.81. "The first period, we gave them only three shots. Even though they got way more shots in the second, we were still in the game. ... I've got to give our guys credit even when Poli went down. We were battling and the five guys in the back were great tonight."

But Johnson capped off the weekend in grand fashion. He, Oshie and David Backes got the cycle going right off the faceoff to begin overtime. Once the puck made its way into the Penguins' zone, it never came back out.

"There's so much more room 4-on-4," Johnson said. "It suits my game for sure being able to skate and use my skills.

"It's fun to be out there. You want to make a difference. You want to be the difference-maker and hopefully win it for your team."

Which Johnson most certainly did.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Johnson OT winner lifts Blues over Penguins

St. Louis wins 10th straight at home; beat last
two Stanley Cup champs in span of 24 hours

ST. LOUIS -- Erik Johnson was asked if some of his best hockey he had played came in the shifts leading up to an overtime-winning goal Saturday night.

"Yeah, and probably the year, too," Johnson said after scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night. "I kind of found my stride offensively in the zone and it's just hopefully a springboard for me and the team. Hopefully we can put a streak here together and hopefully I can continue to contribute. It feels good to get the monkey off my back."

Johnson converted his first goal of the season after T.J. Oshie stripped Penguins defenseman Paul Martin of the puck in the left corner, found a rushing Johnson in the slot and Johnson beat former Blue Brent Johnson through the pads 50 seconds into overtime in front of 19,150 delirious fans at Scottrade Center.

"I just cycled down the wall and went to the net, called for it from Osh," Erik Johnson said. "He made a great play right on my tape and I just tried to get it through the defender there (Kris Letang) and it found its way through Brent Johnson. It was a great hockey play by Osh. It was great zone entry time by us."

Said Oshie, "It was kind of the end of my shift. I saw there was still a little bit of time to put on some pressure in the corner. ... I kind of saw (Martin) turn his head and look so I angled my skates a little bit and fortunately hit him. I heard (Johnson) yelling, 'To the net,' so I threw it out there and there it was."

The Blues, who won their 10th straight at home dating back to last season, have allowed two or fewer goals in none of those games. They improved to 4-1-2 on the young season and after beating Chicago 4-2 here on Friday, downed the last two Stanley Cup champs in a span of 24 hours.

"The players that came into this building here with Chicago and Pittsburgh, our young guys being able to play even or get offensive chances or zone time against some of these guys and not give up a heck of a lot, I think is a great step for our players," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Knowing that you're going out there against the best, having to be at your best and passing that kind of test, it's real good. Our guys should expect that. They've put in the work, they've prepared and this is what they're capable of. The simple message is yeah, we beat two good hockey teams and we're going to be back at work on Monday."

The only down side to the game -- and weekend -- was the Blues losing defenseman Roman Polak. Polak was cut by a skate blade, according to Payne, late in the second period.

The task was daunting enough trying to contain the high-octane Penguins offense led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with six guys, but to do it with five guys for more than 20 minutes speaks volumes for the Blues' defensive unit, led by veterans Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman.

"With Malkin and Crosby, you've got to play your best and you've got to be ready for everything," Jackman said. "We had to play in their face, limit their time and space and we were able to do that for the most part tonight."

Added Payne, "I thought Jax ... best game of the year. I thought he was outstanding. I thought his ability to step up and shut down real good skill on the rush. I thought his ability to move his feet and find weakside outlets was outstanding. I thought his composure under pressure was excellent and Brew ... same thing. A really good lead by those two guys."

Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for his 10th career shutout and he continued his mastery of the Pittsburgh Penguins after eliminating them from the playoffs a season ago when Montreal stunned the Penguins in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He lowered his goals-against average to 1.81.

"You still need to be aware of their guys because they got skill guys and they can score any time when they get a chance," said Halak, who improved to 4-1-1 on the season. "It's been fun so far, but we've got plenty of games left to keep on the same pace."

Brent Johnson, who played parts of five seasons with the Blues starting in 1998, stopped 23 shots for the Penguins. He lost for the first time in five games this season and said the overtime goal happened so fast, it was tough to react to.

"It was just one of those plays that the forechecking just pinned us down in our zone for a little while," Brent Johnson said. "I think they just moved it down to the guy coming from the top. I went out to challenge and I think it hit our (defenseman) and it went through my legs."

The Blues are 4-0 at home this season after winning their final six last season.

"We're not a team that's going to be all hyped up because we beat two of the better teams in the league," Jackman said. "We have to take the approach with every team that we play that we're just as good or better. If the opposition wants to think of us as the underdog, that's good for us. We'll go through the whole year being the underdog and keep improving ourselves."

Crosby, who along with Malkin had 17 points between them in five previous games coming into this one, had a chance in the third period on the Penguins' fourth power play, but his snap shot from the right circle popped off the outside of the goal post with 9:34 left. He is now scoreless against the Blues in five career games, one of five teams he does not have a goal against in his career.

"In the second, I thought we outplayed them and generated a lot of chances," said Crosby, as the Penguins outshot the Blues 19-7 in the middle period. "In the third, it was kind of 50-50. Both teams had their fair share of chances. Unfortunately for us, they got the winner in overtime."

The key to containing the Penguins' dynamic duo? Simple according to Brewer.

"We're trying to take away space," said Brewer, who logged 22 minutes 44 seconds of ice time. "We played a lot of tough lines. They'll take the space if they can get it. They've got lots to offer so try and limit that and give Jaro some good looks at the puck. Forwards coming back all the time makes a huge difference as well."

Added defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who led the Blues in ice time with 23:12, "You want to be hard on them. Certainly, you're talking about some of the best players in the league. You want to make sure you take away their time and space."

(10-23-10) Penguins-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Remember how the talk around the Blues a year ago was how paltry their home record was? That seems like an eternity ago now.

The Blues were so bad on home ice at the outset last year, that opposing teams couldn't wait to step foot onto the ice surface at Scottrade Center.

In their first 21 games here (discounting the 'home' game in Sweden against Detroit), the Blues began 4-14-3 on home ice. Not exactly the way to pave a path to a successful and playoff season.

Don't look now, and nobody is trying to jinx the team, but heading into today's 7 p.m. tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blues have reeled off nine straight wins here and have allowed two or fewer goals in eight of them, including Friday night's 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

"For the start we had last year here and for us in the locker room, it's tough enough to win on the road," forward T.J. Oshie said. "These games at home have got to be a place where we can come and we know ... it might not work out that way all the time, but going in, we want to win and we're confident that we can win here. Make it hard for other teams to come in this building, especially early (in the season). It might put a doubt in another team's mind.

"Our fans are unbelievable. From the very beginning when everyone starts singing the national anthem, that really gets me going. To come to our building, we want to have an identity that we're a tough team to beat at home."

Blues coach Davis Payne jokingly called it the 'Tiger Slam.' Where a streak from one year carries into the next.

"Two majors the year before and now two majors this year," Payne joked. "... We know how we want to play here. We know that there's certain advantages to being at home with the last change and the energy that's in the building. We have to use that to our advantage. I think the guys understand that there's a direction that we can play with here, there's a way that we can use that to our benefit and we've done a pretty good job with that so far. It should be a tough building to come in and play in, especially with the effort that the fans out forward."

The lone game the Blues allowed more than two goals? Against Anaheim, a 6-3 victory which was Keith Tkachuk's final game of his career.

But for the Blues, the key ingredient is not to think about the last game, just focus on what's immediately in front of them.

"It's obviously important, but we don't try to really look at the past and say we've done this, or we've done that," forward B.J. Crombeen said. "We try to focus on trying to get better today and make sure we're ready to play tonight. We've got a tough test with the Pens coming in here.

"However, you definitely want to make it a tough place to come into and try to get points. You want to establish your ground and play your game for a full 60 (minutes). I think we've done a good job with doing that and we want to continue to do that."

- - -

After the emotions of winning over the defending Stanley Cup champs, Payne says there should be no problems with gearing up to play the Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup two years ago and are proverbial favorites to be at or near the top once again.

"I don't sense that that was a crowning achievement," Payne said of Friday's win over Chicago. "We beat a good hockey team, yeah, but we also understand that we're here to work at a certain level, we're here to execute a certain level and if we do those things, we should expect certain results, and that's what we expected last night. We show back up to work here today and ready to go to work. I don't think there's any real high or low. It's part of the type of attitude that we have to have around here. We shouldn't be surprised by that."

- - -

The Blues, who only had nine skaters on the ice this morning, will throw out the same lineup as Friday:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-Brad Boyes

Alex Steen-Jay McClement-Matt D'Agostini

Brad Winchester-Vladimir Sobotka-B.J. Crombeen

The d-pairings will not change, which means Tyson Strachan will once again be a healthy scratch:

Eric Brewer-Roman Polak

Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo

Carlo Colaiacovo-Erik Johnson

And Jaroslav Halak, who knocked the Penguins out of the Eastern Conference semifinal in seven games with Montreal last season, gets the nod again tonight after backstopping 23 of 25 shots against Chicago Friday.

- - -

The Penguins (5-3-0) come in looking to extend a four-game winning streak. The Blues snapped Chicago's four-game winning streak and will look to do it to another opponent tonight.

Pittsburgh, dealing with a number of injuries, will roll out the following lines:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis

Mike Comrie-Mark Letestu-Evgeni Malkin

Matt Cooke-Maxime Talbot-Tyler Kennedy

Eric Tangradi-Craig Adams-Mike Rupp

Aaron Asham
(shoulder) could make his season debut Wednesday in Tampa Bay. And Jordan Staal (foot infection) is practicing and skated here again Saturday with no issues but his return is indefinite.

The d-pairings include Brooks Orpik (groin strain), who's missed the past six games. He makes his return tonight, which means Andrew Hutchinson will be the odd man out. And Zbynek Michalek is still nursing a shoulder injury.

Paul Martin-Kris Letang

Alex Goligoski-Ben Lovejoy

Brooks Orpik-Deryk Engelland

Former Blue Brent Johnson (4-0-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage) will start in goal for Pittsburgh. Blues fans can recall when Johnson went on a tear in the playoffs in 2001-02, when he helped the Blues knock Chicago out in five games, posting three shutouts.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blues close out Blackhawks this time, win 4-2

Perron leads charge with two goals, Oshie gains pair
of assists; Polak nets game-winner in third period

ST. LOUIS -- So what was different about the Blues' finish Friday night as opposed to Monday night's overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks?

Nothing, except the result.

As coach Davis Payne put it, just stick to the team's process, make smart decisions and the result will tilt the Blues' way this time around.

Roman Polak's shot from the far right boards turned out to be the difference, and it snapped a tie game in the third period that helped the Blues double up the Blackhawks, 4-2, Friday night before 19,150 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (3-1-2), who saw a 2-0 lead with under seven minutes to play slip away in Monday's 3-2 overtime loss at Chicago (5-3-1), led twice in this contest but saw Chicago tie it twice.

But when Polak's shot was able to squirt through a Blackhawks defender, past David Backes' screen and past Hawks goalie Marty Turco, the Blues were dead-set on closing this game out.

"We talked about the fact that we were in a fight," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "This is a game that we can win on body punches. You don't have to take one swing and then all of the sudden, we miss and Chicago comes down and knocks us out.

"We knew we were going to play the full 20 minutes and we knew we were going to put pucks in areas that we could apply our forecheck, apply aggression and apply pressure to the net, and I thought we did a real good job of that."

David Perron scored twice, as he now has four goals in the last two games -- all against the Blackhawks -- in what may have been his best game as a Blue.

"He was good tonight," Payne said of his first-line winger. "He was very good tonight. It was a statement by him ... We had a conversation (Friday) afternoon about what he had accomplished during training camp. Let's not let five games or a two-goal game in Chicago (Monday) cloud the picture that we feel that he came into training camp and established a great deal. And let's pick back up that mentality. I thought he certainly played his best game of the year. He was a difference-maker all 200 feet of the ice and a lot of different situations. He had real good intent to his game."

Perron potted the first two Blues goals on assists from T.J. Oshie. He came into training camp dedicated to playing a two-way game and becoming more involved on both ends of the ice.

"There's some little details I wasn't doing right," Perron said. "I've been working hard, but sometimes you have to work a little bit harder to get into better positions," Perron said. "I thought I did that tonight. ... Sometimes, you just get the right bounces and I did that on the two goals tonight."

Perron created the first goal by forcing Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith into a turnover before getting a pass from Oshie in the high slot. Perron snapped a shot high over Turco's glove hand for a 1-0 lead in he first.

Perron then took a give-and-go play with Oshie, curled around Hawks defenseman Nick Boynton before lifting a backhand past Turco for a 2-1 Blues lead in the second.

"We're kind of realizing that little give-and-go plays go a long way," Oshie said. "That's what you need to build chemistry is to know what the other guy is doing, especially on the second one. I knew he was going to give it to me and keep going to the net. Little things like that make a big difference."

But on each Perron goal, Chicago was able to tie the game. Patrick Sharp's power play goal in the first tied the score 1-1, and Brent Seabrook's shot that glanced off Oshie's stick in the second as time expired on another power play tied the game 2-2.

However, the Blues had 20 minutes to win a game, just like they did Monday night in Chicago.

This time, they made no mistake.

Polak pinched in and caught a Hawks errant clearing pass, used Backes as a screen and threw a puck that had eyes and got past Turco with 8 minutes 59 seconds to play.

"Just put it on the net. It was a tough puck," Polak said. "It was sticking on the boards so I just wanted to put it on the net. I had my head down and just put it through Turco's pads.

"I didn't see (Backes) at all. I was just focused on the puck, and I was like, 'Yeah, I have to put it on the net.' But I didn't see him. It was a great screen by him."

Payne called it the correct read.

"We put ourselves in the right spot," he said. "(Chicago) decided under that pressure to weak-side rim it. ... We talked about traffic on Turco, we gave him some good looks the other day in Chicago. We wanted to take a few of those away and traffic allows that one to go in, whether it hits (Backes) or not. Our d-men have to have a responsibility on the forecheck and Roman's responsibility was that exact same play."

And once the Blues got the lead, they played to win rather than to lose.

"That's always been a question with us is closing out teams, closing out games," Oshie said. "That killer instinct that I think we have here at home definitely needs to come on the road with us.

"It's huge. The great teams put away teams in the third period. We've been seeing that lately at home."

Patrik Berglund also scored for the Blues, a power play goal with 1:03 to play to ice the game. Jaroslav Halak stopped 23 shots, including some key saves in the third period.

"The third period, we were really playing good hockey," Halak said. "We kept (the puck) to the outside most of the time. If there were some rebounds for me, our guys were there for me and that's what we need to win the games."

The win gives the Blues a 3-0 record at home. They didn't win their third game at Scottrade Center until Nov. 19, a span of 11 games in which they were 3-7-1.

"We kept playing the same way," Perron said. "That's the great thing about it. ... Tonight, we found a way to close it."

* NOTES -- Oshie has at least a point in five straight games. ... IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick dropped the ceremonial first puck. ... The Blues honored Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night by wearing pink laces on their skates. ... The Blues have played the Blackhawks more than any other team. Friday was the 271st meeting between the teams.

(10-22-10) Blackhawks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Both of Brad Boyes’ grandmothers have dealt with cancer. B.J. Crombeen lost a grandmother because of cancer while both of his grandfathers survived the disease. Alex Steen saw a cousin deal with it.

In some form or another, everyone knows someone or has seen a family member either deal with cancer and survived it or lost a relative because of the deadly disease.

All forms of cancer are modern medicine's challenges. And the Blues are doing whatever it takes to either improve awareness or do their part to contribute financially.

The Blues are celebrating Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month and will host a pair of special nights tonight and Saturday.

Tonight's game against Chicago will feature Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night and will be held in celebration of Mandi Schwartz, sister of 2010 Blues' first-round draft pick Jaden Schwartz. Mandi Schwartz received a bone marrow stem cell transplant in September.

On Saturday when the Blues host the Pittsburgh Penguins, it will be the fourth annual Pink at the Rink, which benefits the Susan G. Komen for the Cure (St. Louis affiliate).

The Blues took the ice at the morning skate today with the majority of them wearing pink laces on their skates in honor of cancer awareness. They will wear them with their uniforms tonight when they face the Blackhawks.

"Almost everybody is touched in one way or another through cancer, whether it's any type of it or any form," Boyes said. "It brings awareness. I know other sports do it. Football is big into it. Hockey does a lot of it as well. It's a really positive thing to do.

"... The pink has become a symbolic color. People see it and people know what it's about, which is good. It's because other teams and other sports have been actively promoting it. People watch on TV and see guys do it and they see how the relationship comes from it."

Cancer research and the battles that come with it have come such a long way, and awareness and modern treatments are a big reason why more and more cases are being detected at early stages.

The players feel whatever they can do, they're certainly on board.

"We're trying to do our part to raise awareness and to be supportive of the cause," Steen said. "If it's laces or tape or whatever we can do, we're happy to do it."

Added Crombeen, "Anything we can do to support it, I think guys are no doubt on board with it. It's easy to do, it's fun and it's for a great cause. It's kind of a no-brainer. You come to the rink, you're excited to do it and help in any way you can."

However, seeing the pink on the black skates leaves a bit of a fashion faux pas.

"I've never worn hot pink laces before," Boyes said with a laugh. "Growing up, you always had that one kid who's tried it. It actually looks alright."

Steen took his fashion statement a step further and used pink tape at the top of his stick.

"If I find a goal, I'll probably use the pink all year," Steen joked.

- - -

Speaking of Steen, he was asked this morning if he feels like the five-game goal-less drought is bothering him in any way.

Not in the least, the winger said. Steen has three assists in five games thus far after tying with Andy McDonald for the team lead in goals a season ago with 24.

"I've hit a few posts. I've seen a couple pucks that have barely touched a goalie and gone wide," Steen said. "You hit a stick, I hit Bergy's (Patrik Berglund's) stick once and it looked like it was going in. As long as I'm getting looks, I'm not too worried about it. I've had a lot of good opportunities. One of these games, I'm going to pop one in and hopefully it rolls from there.

"I thought we've been playing pretty well with our line. I've been playing pretty consistent. We just need to find the balance of going to the offense and the defense part of it like we did last year."

- - -

The Blues (2-1-2) will face the Blackhawks (5-2-1) just four days after squandering a 2-0 lead with just under seven minutes to play in Chicago.

The lineup will feature:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-Brad Boyes

Alex Steen-Jay McClement-Matt D'Agostini

Brad Winchester-Vladimir Sobotka-B.J. Crombeen

D-pairings will have:

Eric Brewer-Roman Polak

Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo

Carlo Colaiacovo-Erik Johnson

Tyson Strachan
will be a healthy scratch for the fifth time in six games.

Jaroslav Halak (2-1-1) will make his fifth start in six games. He stopped 30 shots in the loss Monday.

- - -

The Hawks come in riding a four-game winning streak, including a 2-1 shootout victory over Vancouver on Wednesday.

Chicago's lineup features:

Tomas Kopecky-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Troy Brouwer-Patrick Sharp-Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell-Dave Bolland-Fernando Pisani

Viktor Stalberg-Jake Dowell-Jack Skille

D-pairings will pit:

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson-Nick Boynton

Jassen Cullimore-John Scott

Marty Turco
, who stopped 32 shots in beating the Blues Monday, will get the nod in goal.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weekend of games for Blues includes last two Cup champs

Chicago in town tonight, Pittsburgh to follow Saturday

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Playing the defending Stanley Cup champs is quite the challenge for one team to face. But for the Blues, how about a weekend of Stanley Cup champs?

Not only do the Blues get to see last year's Cup winners in Chicago, but how about a stop from the 2008-09 champs as well?

The Blues (2-1-2), who entertain the Blackhawks today at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM) in a rematch of Monday's 3-2 overtime victory for Chicago at United Center, will then turn around 24 hours later and play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It's not often that one team gets to play the last two Stanley Cup winners on back-to-back nights, let alone on home ice. But this is what the Blues will look at beginning tonight.

"It's pretty cool. It's kind of exciting," said winger David Perron, who scored both Blues goals Monday in Chicago. "It's going to be a good standard for us to be able to beat these teams. We'll have to dictate the play and play our game. We know we can do it. We have confidence in this room. We've played pretty well so far this season although we haven't gotten the results we've wanted every game."

Added winger T.J. Oshie, "I can't imagine how out of control it's going to be. The more excited (the fans) are, the more they hype us up. The louder the better."

Before looking at Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins, the Blues must exorcise their demons of Monday's loss at Chicago, one which they led 2-0 with just under seven minutes to play.

"Very big weekend. We've got Chicago, which is a divisional game and obviously we recognize where things slipped away from us in their building," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We've got to be sharp tomorrow night against them and certainly against Pittsburgh. These are two teams we're talking about being the cream of the crop in the East and West, respectively. We want to be right there, so we want to make sure we play our brand of hockey. That's our intent."

The Blues' intent against the Blackhawks is to not allow a late lead to wither away again.

"It's fresh in our mind what their tendencies are," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of the Hawks, who are 5-2-1 and winners of four straight. "We know what they're capable of, so in that sense, it's a positive thing for us. You want to get those two points back that we gave them."

Said Perron, "After a loss like that, you have to bounce back and play the right way. I think we've done that. It's just a question about closing out the game. ... It's just a question of getting some experience. We're right there. I'm not worrying at all."

The Blues are trying to right a ship that went awry on a three-game trip that saw them go 0-1-2 despite the fact they played three winnable games.

"They're big games for us to get back on track here and two pretty big games at home," Pietrangelo said. "They're two pretty good hockey teams. I think everybody knows that. For us, it's all about playing a pretty good game on Friday and try to take that momentum into Saturday."

* NOTES -- Payne once again tinkered with line combinations Thursday, putting Brad Boyes back with Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund. Matt D'Agostini was skating on right wing with Alex Steen and Jay McClement. The top line of Perron, David Backes and T.J. Oshie remained in tact, and Vlad Sobotka centered the fourth line with Brad Winchester and B.J. Crombeen. ... Former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald Fehr was in town Thursday meeting with Blues players and will do so with the Penguins on Friday. Fehr is in line to become the NHLPA executive director and a vote will take place within the next couple weeks. ... IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, in town to participate in the Nationwide race at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday, will drop the ceremonial first puck for tonight's game against the Blackhawks.