Monday, November 7, 2016

When fourth line gets attention, Blues normally on right side

Brodziak, Upshall, Reaves typically a constant; Edmundson out minimum 
three weeks, Lindbohm recalled, Rattie assigned to AHL on conditioning loan

ST. LOUIS -- It's not often the Blues' fourth line is the center of attention.

But when it is, it usually bodes well for the hometown professional hockey team.

A group typically made up of Kyle Brodziak at center, Scottie Upshall at left wing and Ryan Reaves at right wing, normally gets anywhere from 7-10 minutes per game, and in the case of Upshall and Brodziak, sometimes that gets up to 11, 12, 13 minutes depending on how many penalties the Blues are killing in a game, and in the case of Sunday night, six power plays, so their services would be needed more.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall celebrates after scoring a goal Sunday in a 5-1 victory
against the Colorado Avalanche.

But when that trio is talked about often, chances are the Blues (7-4-2), who swept a pair of home games over the weekend with wins against Columbus (2-1 in overtime) on Saturday and Colorado (5-1) on Sunday, are on the winning side.

"We love watching them play," left wing Robby Fabbri said. "We love watching them work. When they're buzzing, it fills the bench and everyone follows."

The line was buzzing, and everyone else followed suit Sunday. It was that kind of game, and it was a game in which the Blues broke out the offense, scoring more than two goals in a game for the first time in seven and scoring in the first period (doing so twice) also for the first time in seven games.

But not only did Upshall score a goal, Reaves was there in the offensive zone with speed, drawing a minor penalty that helped the Blues score a power play goal to help them go up 3-1 when the Avalanche was gaining some momentum in the second period.

And when Upshall scored off a one-time backhand pass from Reaves to make it 4-1, the electricity in the building was evident in the stands and certainly on the ice.

"They're playing the game the right way," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They're having success because they're playing the game the right way. They're managing the puck, they're keeping it front of them. I think they're having fun playing this way. They're playing the game the right way, and now they're contributing offensively. Now they're starting to chip in. They had a point yesterday. They were in on the (game-tying) goal (Saturday), chipped in a couple times today. That's a real good sign."

A good sign typically means the coach will trust the group with more responsibilities and more minutes.

"Our line I felt has been playing great lately, chipping in and doing smart plays," Upshall said. "Tonight, we were rewarded with a goal. It was a great effort by everyone, and something to enjoy for the next few days.

"You play six, seven minutes a night, it's hard to get opportunities like that. When you can create offense and chip in and not give anything up, it does well and those hard minutes are good for the team.

"The chemistry we've carried over from a good stretch last year, we all kind of came in and had meetings with the coaching staff on what our job was and our role. Revo's been playing great for not being on specialty teams. Me and Brodziak get to see a few extra minutes and keep our legs going on the penalty kill. Revo's speed there, his effort, he's been physical for us, a good voice in the room. If our line can chip in like that (Sunday) and create offense and energy for our team, it does wonders for our top guys."

It's been the one line this season that's been most consistent as far as reliability of playing as a unit. The others have been mixed and matched in different ways, so when these three can stick together, there's ample time to get acclimated.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Kyle Brodziak checks Avalanche
forward Carl Soderberg on Sunday.

"A lot of talk together, knowing we've played together the last two years," Reaves said. "I think that helps and just knowing that we're trying to chip in. We've got to try and take the pressure off these top three lines. It wasn't really working the first couple games, but we keep sticking with it and practicing things and just staying with it in practice and it's eventually going to come out."

And when the line can create the kind of goal Upshall scored, with Brodziak checking the puck into a turnover off Fedor Tyutin's stick, Reaves collecting it and sending a blind backhand on a platter for Upshall to step into for a one-timer, it's the proper reward for the dirty work that normally makes the group successful.

"I think the bench was most excited for that goal," Fabbri said. "It was a great play by 'Brodzy' to get it in there and 'Revo' backhand sauce and 'Uppy' put it in there. It was nice."

* NOTES -- As expected, the Blues put defenseman Joel Edmundson on injured-reserve after he sustained an upper-body injury early in the first period against the Avalanche on Sunday.

Edmundson will miss at least three weeks and be reevaluated then, which would put him out at least nine games, possibly 10 games at a minimum.

The Blues recalled defenseman Petteri Lindbohm from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, and they also assigned forward Ty Rattie to the Wolves on loan for a conditioning assignment.

Edmundson appeared to take a check into the boards and did not return.

Edmundson has played in 13 games this season with one assist. Lindbohm, who was injured early in the season at Chicago, has played in five games with the Wolves with no points, and Rattie has dressed in one game with the Blues this season.

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