Saturday, February 22, 2014

Plenty of goals in short, remaining schedule for Blues

Besides ultimate goal of winning Cup, division, 
conference, Presidents' Trophy all up for grabs 

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The games will be so compressed for the Blues when they begin playing following the Olympic break that there will be no time to think of nothing else than the task at hand.

But with 25 games remaining in their NHL schedule, the Blues (39-12-6) can achieve quite a few goals before going after the grand daddy of them all -- the Stanley Cup.

The Blues are even with the Chicago Blackhawks for the Central Division lead with 84 points and three games in hand, and they're only three points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the conference lead and best record in the NHL.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Ian Cole (left) and his teammates have plenty to play
for when the NHL schedule resumes Wednesday in Vancouver.

All are achievable goals at this point, and they're goals the team has definitely set their sights on.

"It is every game at a time, every period at a time," defenseman Ian Cole said. "I think for us, we want to get back on that roll and consistent mindset we had before we were on the break. We want to get back on that and get rolling again, but I think for us, we want to be the best team. That means you want to win the Presidents' Trophy, you want to win the conference, you want to win the division. Those are all things that we want to do. 

"Obviously we want to win games and those (goals) are farther down the road, but if we win games, that'll take care of itself. We want to win as many games as we can. If that happens, even better."

Catching the Blackhawks by the break was something the team wanted accomplished.


Next up is passing them.

"We definitely set our goal before the break there that we want to be first in the division going into the break," right wing Chris Stewart said. "We achieved that. Expectations are high. Teams are going to pick up right where they left off. It's been a dogfight all year and it's exactly what we expect."

Achieving all those goals comes one important aspect in mind: home ice advantage.

The Blues are 22-5-3 on home ice but they're also 17-7-3 away from home. Only three teams (Anaheim, Colorado and the New York Rangers) have more wins on the road.

"Home ice would obviously be great, but we haven't really struggled to win on the road, too," Stewart said. "We'll be comfortable with any situation we're put in. Any added incentive you can get put in to get those little benefits down the road is obviously going to be a positive. I think we're playing for first place. We believe we're a first-place team and we definitely want to finish on top."

With home ice advantage comes the added benefits within the game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Chris Stewart (right) and the Blues hope to control their own destiny
when it comes to where the team finishes at the end of the season.

"Home ice is very important, for sure, especially with the last change, get the matchups that we want on the ice," Cole said. "That's definitely huge. Regardless how well we've been on the road, we'd rather play in front of our fans at Scottrade Center. That's definitely something we're shooting for."

But in order to achieve what they want, the Blues can't worry about having three games in hand on the Hawks or Ducks or what they're doing.

"We just worry about ourselves," Stewart said. "Every different team goes through different peaks and valleys over the year. I think we went through our rust spell before the break. We'll just keep chugging along here. We've got one thing in mind and that's the Stanley Cup. We're going to do whatever it takes."

* NOTES -- After taking Saturday off, the Blues will resume practice on Sunday at St. Louis Outlet Mall's Ice Zone. Including goalie Brian Elliott, the Blues have had 12 regular skaters on the ice since Wednesday. ... After arriving Thursday night back in St. Louis, goalie Jaroslav Halak and right wing Vladimir Tarasenko are expected to join the practice group on Sunday. There's also the possibility Vladimir Sobotka (knee) will resume skating as early as Sunday. Sobotka cracked his left kneecap Jan. 31 at Carolina. ... The remaining Blues' Olympians are expected to travel to St. Louis following the Gold Medal Game between Sweden and Canada and arrive in time before departing for Vancouver Monday.

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