Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blues skate past Avalanche 3-1 in exhibition

Backes, Oshie, Berglund get goals for St. Louis,
which used most of its regular skaters

ST. LOUIS -- In what Blues coach Davis Payne called "a dress rehearsal" for the group that could suit up in the season-opener, the Blues got a good glimpse of what they like and what still needs to be polished up Thursday night.

David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund scored goals for the Blues, who also got two assists from Andy McDonald and an 18-save performance from Ben Bishop in a 3-1 exhibition victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (5-2-0) used a regular lineup that was only minus Jaroslav Halak and Jason Arnott (eye) but one that lost defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo with an upper-body injury in the first period.

"It's about progressing," McDonald said. "I think we're starting to get some more regular combinations. It helps. The more time you play with someone, it's going to help the regular season and finding that chemistry's an important thing."
Blues goalie Ben Bishop (left) makes one of his 18 saves in a 3-1 win over
Colorado Thursday night.

The Blues spent a lot of time finding that chemistry with their regular lines as well as guys that will spend time on the special teams. They were 1-for-4 on the PP and killed off all three Avs power plays.

"It's kind of a work in progress," McDonald said. "I think we're pretty familiar with the unit. We did some good things, but there's some areas that we need to work on. We've got a little over a week, so we've got some work to do with it. There's some good signs out there."

"It's nice to have all the guys going," said Berglund, who has scored in back-to-back games. "I think everybody played well."

Added Oshie, whose power play goal was the game-winner nine minutes into the third period, "It's that chemistry that we've all kind of been talking about leading up to this. It's our first time playing together but we worked and feed off each other pretty well.

"You could tell a couple times we had guys rolling. It's just a lot easier when you know what the other guy's going to be doing and you can read off him a lot easier. It makes for better, smoother plays, more clean plays."

And Bishop, vying for that backup job behind Halak, stopped 18 shots as the Blues outshot the Avs 32-19. There was a stretch there where the Avalanche was stuck on four shots and didn't record its fifth until past the midway point of the second period.

"Sometimes those games are the hardest," Bishop said. "Sometimes it's nice when you have 30 shots like (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere had. It's hard to keep your focus out there when you're not getting shots, but I just tried to keep my focus and it worked out.

"I feel good about my game. I think the boys have confidence in me. It's up to them. I'm just going to keep working hard."

Backes got his second of the preseason and snapped a scoreless stalemate, backhanding a rebound home off a McDonald shot with 2:32 left in the second period.

"Throughout camp, we've both played with different lines, but it's nice to get on the wing with him and get working on some different things and finding that chemistry again," McDonald said of Backes.

Colorado would tie it 1:42 into the third when Joakim Lindstrom's shot from the right circle was the only one Bishop would allow. It came off a carom off a skate.
Blues winger Alex Steen (left) battles for position with the Avalanche's
Cody McLeod (55) Thursday night.

But Oshie would fire home a puck that came off the back boards to the other side of the goal. It came on the Blues' final power play.

"Unfortunately, Carlo had something happen to him there and I had to step in on (the power play point) and I got a lucky bounce off the boards and put her home," Oshie said.

Berglund iced the game, scoring at 12:28 by beating Giguere five-hole on a shot he admitted he was aiming elsewhere.

"It was kind of a lucky shot," Berglund joked. "I wanted to go far top corner but it ended up five-hole. It was a goal, and it was obviously really nice to score. I think the whole team had an amazing game the way we were working up and down the ice. It was a really good team effort."

Of course, Berglund couldn't let his buddy Oshie one-up him either.

"I couldn't let him win that battle," Berglund laughed. "He was the one out there in the neutral zone working hard so I could get that puck. He gets credit for that one, too."

All in all, a good result as far as Payne was concerned.

"As a group, I thought we paid attention to the things we've stressed here over the last couple days," said Payne, who also mentioned that Colaiacovo would be reevaluated Friday. "We played a real solid team game, the bench was lively and I thought for the most part, we were pretty solid."

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