Friday, October 28, 2016


Hitchcock to "tweak" lineup; Blues to retire Plager No. 5; 
Bortuzzo status unknown; Reaves playful jab at former teammate

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues practiced Friday, but 15 skaters (including goalie Carter Hutton) were on hand at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (4-2-2 overall), are just 1-2-2 in the past five games and have scored a grand total of one goal in each of the four losses (they scored six in a 6-4 win at Calgary last Saturday).

They out-chanced the Detroit Red Wings by a wide margin Thursday in a 2-1 shootout loss, but Petr Mrazek in goal for the Red Wings had something to do with turning back some of those high-percentage looks and bottom line, the Blues simply had other looks and could not convert.

So it is likely going to prompt coach Ken Hitchcock to do some tweaking with the lineup when the three-game homestand comes to a close Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.

"I think you have to be careful when you're analyzing because you look at scoring chances and you can get a one-off of scoring chances," Hitchcock said. "We've played awful well but the trend is, we've played awful well in four of the last five games and haven't won some of them. To me it's about winning. I think when you look at the trend from the four or five last games, we have to look at tweaking a little bit. We have to make some subtle changes to help the players have success for all the work they're putting in. They're working hard, they're creating a lot of good parts of our game, but at the end of the day, we just have to help them a little bit in getting the reward for the work they're putting in. We looked at it hard yesterday, we looked hard at it again this morning. We think we've got to tweak a few things and help them along."

Hitchcock noted after the loss Thursday second and third layers at the net have been absent in recent games, and that's what will prompt the change.

"I don't think we have traffic at the net for the shooter," Hitchcock said. "I don't think we have enough of that. The player away from the puck is too far away from the area that creates the confusion for the goalie, so I think that's the No. 1 element for me, we're not there for the shooter. It's not like he's for to get the puck, we're not there for the shooter. We're kind of there, but we're not there. That's why we practiced what we did today, we'll practice again tomorrow, we'll try to get better at that element because we are getting a number of quality opportunities, but it's just us and the shooter. There's nothing in between for the goalie to have a distraction, so we have to do that. Everybody says 'getting to the net,' but it's starting at the net more, maintaining that position at the net so that the goalie has a more difficult time seeing the actual shot.

"... Yes, we're playing really well, we're playing really hard and we're getting good goaltending, but we don't want to live on any of those three. We want to enhance those. There are some tweaks we can make that help to create more speed and then there's also a few tactical changes that we think we can make that can help along the way, too."

* Blues to retire Plager's No. 5 -- The Blues announced Friday they will retire #5 in honor of former original Blue, Bobby Plager. 

A banner raising and official retirement date has been set for Feb. 2 prior to the Blues' home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blues are recognizing it during the first period of Saturday's game against the Kings.

Plager, who was acquired by the Blues on June 6, 1967 and has been with the organization for all 50 years, will become the seventh player in Blues history to have his number retired, joining No. 2 Al MacInnis, No. 3 Bob Gassoff, No. 11 Brian Sutter, No. 16 Brett Hull,  No. 24 Bernie Federko and his brother, No. 8 Barclay Plager. 

Bobby and Barclay Plager join Maurice and Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens as the only brothers to have their numbers retired by the same team in NHL history.

A No. 5 shadowed by a Blue heart originally went to the rafters of Scottrade Center when the Blues honored Plager for his franchise-long commitment and service to the team both on and off the ice. The original banner paid homage to one of Bobby’s favorite sayings, “Number 5 in your programs, Number 1 in your hearts.”  

The jersey was never officially retired and was most recently worn by Barret Jackman, who recently announced his retirement from the NHL.

In 10 seasons with the Blues, Plager played in 615 regular season games, had 141 points and 762 penalty minutes before retiring from the NHL following the 1977-78 season.

* Bortuzzo status -- Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who appeared to injury a knee early in the third period Thursday and left the game, was not on the ice Friday and as of early Friday afternoon, there was nothing new to update on his status.

"We're not going to know until later in the day (Friday)," Hitchcock said after practice. "We'll give you details early in the morning (Saturday). We're hopeful to get good news on it, but we're not sure right now."

* Reaves/Ott exchange -- Former teammates and fourth line wingers Ryan Reaves of the Blues and Steve Ott of the Red Wings were among the starters for the drop of the puck Thursday.

Both players were leaning on each other and there was a notion that the former teammates could drop the gloves and give the fans a big rise.

Reaves joked, "I told him I've been waiting six years, so if he wanted to give me a go, that was the time. Obviously he said he had a little glue on his hands and couldn't get his mitts off but maybe next time."

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