Sunday, December 31, 2017

Blues go with 11 forwards, seven defensemen, top Hurricanes 3-2

Brodziak, Upshall thrust into more prominent roles, contribute pair of goals

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Yeo tried everything.

The Blues' coach tinkered with lines, he threw them in a blender. 

Anything to get a spark out of a team struggling to score goals in the month of December, or since the day Jaden Schwartz went down to a right ankle injury on Dec. 9 in Detroit.

So 24 hours after the Blues came off a distressing 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday, Yeo wanted to try something a little different, and with defenseman Jay Bouwmeester returning from a nine-game absence stemming from a lower-body injury, why not try it?
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the third
period on Saturday of a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Yeo decided to go into Saturday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes short a forward but playing an extra defenseman, so a 11/7 formation. That way, there's extra protection in case Bouwmeester wasn't going to be up to par but also give some forwards some more ice time.

It all added up when mainstay fourth liners Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall were thrust into more prominent roles, with Upshall moving into a role with top-line players Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko in the third period, and Brodziak forming a new third line centering Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen.

Both Upshall and Brodziak scored to help the Blues get a badly-needed win in a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday before 18,749 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (24-15-2), who came in having lost five of six and seven of nine, closed December 7-8-1 and needed a win in the worst way to bring some some closure to 2017 and end a month that was grueling, wretched at times and downright challenging.

But in implementing some other pieces around, guys one wouldn't normally think of in these situations, it worked for one night.

"For one, 'Bouw' hasn't been in for a while, to give him a chance to protect him," Yeo said of the strategy. "The guys have been playing well. I thought it freed up some opportunities to get a little extra ice time to some guys up front. There was a couple things that came into it."

The Blues, who hit the halfway mark to the season with their 41st game, the first team in the NHL to do so, didn't seem to mind.

Forwards have to be a bit more mindful on the bench about who they're playing with, what extra shifts to take and when, and defensemen, well, there's one extra there, so there's some coordination that goes into effect there. There's going to be one extra at times sitting out particular shifts.

"You don't really know how the game is going to go," Upshall said. "If you get in penalty trouble or the game is played with odd men, it can be difficult. 'Yeozy' did a great job with 'Chief' [Craig Berube] managing the bench and being very vocal with who's up. And then we all leaned on our veteran guys to step up tonight and play bigger roles, take leadership roles, to get our group in the spot to get points and finish the job, which we've been having trouble doing. It was a big win led by the leaders in the room and it was something we can build on.

"The game of hockey is never perfect, it's never X's and O's. You have [23] guys you can use on every different night and tonight was an opportunity for guys like Brodziak, 'Maggie' [Magnus Paajarvi] stepped in and did a great job and 'Barby' [Ivan Barbashev] was doing everything he's asked and more. Just an opportunity for everyone to take bigger steps to move this group in the right direction without 'Schwartzy' [Jaden Schwartz], not to mention what 'Bouw' was able to do back there was huge. He was a big force and didn't look like he missed a step."

"It was different for sure," Brodziak said. "You don't really know what to expect, I guess. As a forward, everyone's kind of anticipating playing a little more. I thought as a whole, everyone responded pretty well.

"... Yeah, definitely on the bench it can feel a little more chaotic. I think everyone did a real good job tonight of staying in the moment, talking on the bench, who's going next, who's up. Yeah, definitely might help in that regard, for sure."

Bouwmeester played 17 minutes 34 seconds and was noticeable in the situations he was asked to play in.

"Oh it was good," Bouwmeester said. "I don't know, kind of a weird game, kind of took both teams a little bit to get into it. But for me, that was OK because you kind of get adjusted. It felt pretty good, so it was all good."

Upshall scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period, off a Brayden Schenn pass from the left circle at 8:58 to help the Blues win for the second time in seven games.

"It was our typical you get it up the wall to the winger, play it to a centerman heading north with speed and I just yelled to [Schenn] too and he did an incredible no-look pass that put me in a great shooting spot," Upshall said. "I was able to put one in."

Upshall was thrust into the role with Schenn and Tarasenko after Barbashev started there, and a host of others have tried -- and failed -- to fill Schwartz's shoes.

"I dont know about that," Upshall said when asked if he'll be a regular on that line. "It was definitely a great opportunity for everyone to step up and take on more responsibility and play in more situations. Tonight was a big character win that was very uplifting for our group. I think we deserved better than what we've been getting and tonight we got rewarded.

"You keep your head down, work hard, and when you get the opportunity, you make the best of it. Those two guys, they've been right there for the past few weeks, just haven't been scoring. Tonight was an opportunity that everyone ran with. Our D played great for 7 guys back there. 'Huttsy' was incredible and the forwards, everyone stepped up and played well.

"[Yeo] grabbed 'Maggie' and I right at the start of the third and said he was going to throw us in the mix, we'd be all over the place. The next shift, he had me out with them and I thought we had a great opportunity where 'Vladi' got the puck deep, I made a play to him, he brought it to the net, we had a good opportunity. He just came back to us, we got a big goal and he just kept going to us."

Brodziak had a goal and an assist and matched his point total (15) in 40 games after doing so in 69 games last season, Berglund scored, Alex Pietrangelo had two assists, and Carter Hutton made 23 saves for the Blues.

"It's a big win, it's a good hockey team over there too," Hutton said. "They pressed, we bent but didn't break. We made it interesting there there obviously taking a penalty. We fought them off and held on for a big win."

Lucas Wallmark scored his first NHL goal, Derek Ryan scored, and Scott Darling made 26 saves for the Hurricanes (18-13-7), whose season-high four-game winning streak ended. Carolina is 7-2-0 in the past nine games.

Brodziak gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 43 seconds into the first period off a one-timer from the slot following a pass from behind the net by Steen.

It couldn't have been a better start for the line.

"We won a draw in the O zone, cycled it to the back of the net, which we talked about," Brodziak said. "'Bergy' drove right through, which drew some guys with him and I was surprised to be all alone in the slot like I was. He does a good job going to the net and it freed everything up and 'Steener' made a great play."

St. Louis went up 2-0 on Berglund's goal 42 seconds into the second period on a give-and-go with Pietrangelo.

It was a pretty transition play that started in the Blues' zone and ended with Pietrangelo and Berglund working a nice give-and-go with Berglund finishing under the bar with Carolina's Jordan Staal hooking Berglund's midsection.

The Blues' 5-on-5 game was working well in building a 2-0 lead, but then their Achillies' heel came back to light, the power play, which has been poor at times all season and was not good again in going 0-for-2, and each time, it helped fuel Carolina's goals.

Ryan scored at 8:00 after coming out of the penalty box to make it 2-1, in the craziest of situations since the Blues frittered away a great chance to go up by three.

A Colton Parayko shot knocked Darling's stick out of his hands into the corner boards with 13:03 remaining in the period. Darling was without a stick for 1:03 from the time he lost it to Ryan's goal with 12 minutes left in the period. The had a few issues gaining the offensive zone while Darling as handicapped, and at the urging of the crowd, failed to get shots off at the net except for one by Vince Dunn, but he missed the net in an attempt to perhaps get a tip off the stick of Vladimir Sobotka, the puck rimmed around the boards down the ice where Ryan came out of the box and won the puck. He curled to the net and muscled past Hutton and Pietrangelo before sliding in a second effort. Pietrangelo was trying to lift Ryan's stick on the play.

"Yeah, tough break," Hutton said. "I was gonna go play it, and then the guy, he was gonna beat me to it. I kind of misread, I thought 'Petro' was gonna be able to like wedge him, keep him on that side of the net, so I kinda tried to be aggressive with him, but he just kinda got through and made a pretty good play to wrap it all the way around and scored."

It took some steam out of the Blues' sails and then after another failed power play, Carolina scored again when Wallmark scored from the slot off a Noah Hanifin backhand pass at 13:58 to tie it 2-2.

And with the way things had been going, those 'Uh-oh' feelings could have easily risen.

But that wasn't the case.

"Luckily we talked about it before the game," Yeo said. "You would hope that things go exactly the way you planned over the course of a hockey game, but that's not going to be the case. The other team gets a say in it. They've got good players who can make plays. 

"I think when we're at our best, there are going to be moments of games where you bend a little bit but we don't break. I think there have been times lately where we've broken in those situations. I think tonight was a real good example. When they scored that second goal, I liked the way we came out and got right back to our game. I really liked our third period, I think we were still aggressive, you could see we were still attacking off the rush, but still making smart decisions while we were doing it. I think that was an important thing to talk about before the game."

So in a 2-2 game, with 20 minutes on the line to decide a victor, Yeo moved Upshall up. And the move paid off.

"I think it was a little more get some veteran play at that time," Yeo said. "It was a fresh body with some speed. We tried it out for a few shifts and obviously got the goal, which was big, and then continued with it because he looked good there.

"I really liked 'Barby's game too. 'Uppy' stepped up when called up on. I thought 'Uppy' was good all night to be honest with you. He had a different role tonight, playing with a little mix of everybody. I thought he was real positive on the bench, and I think that was a big factor in why he was ready for that opportunity. I think those two games for 'Barby' in my eyes resemble a lot of what we saw from him last year and that's a real positive. I'm happy for both of those guys."

Carolina had already pulled Darling to create a 6-on-5, but had a 6-on-4 for the final 1:12 when Brodziak was called for delay of game, an inadvertent swat of the puck out of midair into the stands.

The Blues relied on their solid penalty kill, which ended 46-for-49 in the month of December, and Hutton made some key saves down the stretch.

"It was just a weird play," Brodziak said. "I honestly just reacted to it. I saw the puck kind of squirt up and I just tried to hit it away and it went up in the stands. It's kind of a bad break. The guys held the fort. They did a real good job. 'Hutts' was awesome all game, especially at the end. They're gonna press, they're gonna throw everything at the net. Those are tense moments, but he did a good job of holding the fort down, smothering any rebound and killing any play they might have had."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alexander Steen (20) celebrates a goal scored by teammate Kyle Brodziak
in the first period on Saturday against Carolina.

It closed out a night where the fourth liners were thrust into the spotlight and they persevered in the shining light.

"We're just trying to contribute any way we can when we get a chance to get on the ice," Brodziak said. "You see a guy like Uppy goes up there, gets bumped up and plays a little more in the third period. He got a chance and he delivered. He's been a guy throughout his career, he's found a way to get the job done. He did a huge job for us tonight.

"... We're competitors as well, competitive by nature. We want to get as many chances as we can. We know what our role is when we're on the fourth line. We just try go do the best job that we can and we get a chance like tonight, we want to do the same. We want to go out there and play the best game that we can. I thought everyone did a good job of that tonight."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

(12-30-17) Hurricanes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was activated off injured reserve, a sign he could very well play today for the Blues when they play host to the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes at Scottrade Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

In a corresponding move to make room for Bouwmeester, the Blues assigned defenseman Jordan Schmaltz to San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

Bouwmeester, who sustained a lower-body injury that kept him out the past nine games, missed the first 21 games of the season with a fractured left ankle. He was with the team in Dallas and skated Friday morning but did not play in a 4-2 loss to the Stars, the Blues' fifth loss in six games and seventh in the past nine.

Carolina, which like the Blues (23-15-2) is playing on back-to-back nights (a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh at home Friday), is also playing its third game in four nights, like the Blues.

The Hurricanes (18-12-7) have won four in a row and seven of eight.

- - -

To fans, the Blues' loss to Dallas had many stark reminders of what's been plaguing this team since the departure of Jaden Schwartz to a right ankle injury: lack of offensive punch.

But when the Blues took a 2-1 lead in the third on goals by Vladimir Tarasenko and Tage Thompson 1 minute 5 seconds apart, it was the chance to try and lock down a big road win in a tough building against a team that has thrived at American Airlines Center this season.

But it was not to be, as Dallas scored three times inside of five minutes remaining.

"I thought we played a solid game," said Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson, who's questionable roughing penalty late in the game helped the Stars produce the game-deciding power-play goal from Alexander Radulov. "We stuck to the system throughout the whole game. Our PK did a great job throughout the whole game until the very last one. We've got to be happy with the 55 minutes that we played well, but we've just got to bear down in the last five."

"I thought we played pretty good up until the last, just like in Edmonton (on Dec. 21), whatever the last whatever minutes," Blues left wing Alexander Steen said. "It's just right now, disappointing losing. It's not good enough to lose a game like that."

Especially when the Blues were put in a vulnerable position after Edmundson and Dallas captain Jamie Benn were tied up by the Blues' goal, and Edmundson was the lone skater sent off for roughing.

"I had no idea. I was trying to get the puck out," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of the call. "Did you guys see it? At that time in the game, I don’t know if that’s really the right call, but that’s their job, not mine."

What coach Mike Yeo was hoping to see is the Blues, with a lead in the third, continue to stay on the hunt and deliver the knockout punch like they did earlier in the season. 

"I felt that maybe we kind of sat back again," Yeo said. "That’s the tendency that we have to fight right now. You know you want to win so bad that you just want to hang onto that lead. When we’re at our best, I think we’re still aggressive, but again, we can dissect it all we want. The players played their hearts out tonight. We played a real strong road game against a tough team and I felt that we deserved to win, so we just have to keep doing that."

But when a team hasn't had much luck winning lately, that play-it-safe mode is a bad habit that is hard to shake.

"No, what we did at the beginning of the year, I think we buried them," Pietrangelo said. "Edmonton, same thing. We got away from the game that got us there and good teams are going to take advantage of that, right? You’re down by a goal, you’re going to start trying things that you aren’t when you’re tied or you’re ahead. We knew they were going to have a push, we just got to do the small things and limit those opportunities.

"Yeah, we were good defensively for most of the game. We have been for a while now. We score a couple goals. We still got to find a way to find a way to consistently score more than that. We can’t be giving up what we’re giving up, especially at the end of games."

The Blues are 1-5-0 the past six and 2-7-0 the past seven and now begin a three-game homestand.

"It’s a long season," Yeo said. "We always say if you get too excited about when things are going well, then you’re going to be in trouble. And if you get too down when things aren’t going well, usually there’s kind of a saying in our game that when things are going at their best, you’re usually not quite that good, and when things are going their worst, you’re definitely not that bad."

- - -

After the game, Yeo took the blame for inserting goalie Jake Allen back into the game with 9:05 remaining after Allen missed the previous 9:34 after being sent off by league concussion spotters following a collision with teammate Colton Parayko.

Carter Hutton came on in relief and made two saves, and was in line for the win after the Blues scored both goals while he was in net, but Yeo chose to go back to Allen after being told Allen was good to resume playing, which Yeo second-guessed after the game.

But players didn't think it was the wrong decision.

"No, not at all," Edmundson said. "'Hutts' did a good job when he came in. You've got to give him credit for that. I still think Jake played solid when he was in there. He said he felt fine coming back in, so you can't blame him. He's been solid for us all year and he played well tonight, so you can't put the blame on him."

- - -

An update on the four Blues prospects competing in the World Junior Championships in Buffalo.

Through three games, Russia's Klim Kostin (2017 first round pick) is tied for second in points with five (three goals, two assists). 

Canada's Jordan Kyrou (2016 second round pick) has four points (one goal, three assists) and is tied for fourth.

Canada's Robert Thomas (2017 first round pick) has two assists, and Denmark's Nikolaj Krag Christensen (2016 seventh round pick) has one goal in two games.

- - -

The Blues did not hold a morning skate on Saturday and Yeo will give a better idea of a lineup when he meets with the media at 5:30 (CT). 

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Tage Thompson

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton is expected to start in goal; Jake Allen would be the backup.

Healthy scratches would include Jay Bouwmeester (if he doesn't play, but if he plays, is likely to replace Gunnarsson or Bortuzzo), Oskar Sundqvist and Magnus Paajarvi. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Sammy Blais (lower body), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Robby Fabbri are out.

- - -

The Hurricanes' projected lineup:

Sebastian Aho-Jordan Staal-Teuvo Teravainen

Jeff Skinner-Victor Rask-Elias Lindholm

Brock McGinn-Derek Ryan-Justin Williams

Joakim Nordstrom-Lucas Wallmark-Phillip Di Giuseppe

Jaccob Slavin-Brett Pesce

Klas Dahlbeck-Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Scott Darling will start in goal; Cam Ward will be the backup.

Healthy scratches are expected to be Josh Jooris and Haydn Fleury. Former Blue Lee Stempniak (lower body) and Marcus Kruger (undisclosed) are out.

Blues blow late lead again, fall 4-2 to Stars

Questionable calls infuriate St. Louis; Dallas scores three times in 3:11 
late in third to overcome one-goal deficit after Tarasenko, Thompson score

DALLAS -- It was another loss for the Blues, but this one, even though some felt had the Edmonton feel to it that they have to lock down a one-goal lead late on the road, had some elements that they felt were out of their control.

The Blues lost a 4-2 decision against the Dallas Stars on Friday at American Airlines Center after squandering another road lead inside of five minutes to play.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues rookie Tage Thompson (right) celebrates after scoring with teammate
Alex Pietrangelo Friday night in Dallas.

But not without some controversial decisions by the guys in stripes and a decision coach Mike Yeo regretted making.

Alexander Radulov's go-ahead power-play goal with 2 minutes 21 seconds remaining in the third period was the difference after Stars captain Jamie Benn tied the game with 4:50 to play off a defensive zone turnover.

But what led up to the Stars' power play was what had the Blues incensed.

Joel Edmundson was called for a roughing minor with 2:38 to play after getting tangled up with Benn to the left of Allen.

In a 2-2 game where scrums occurred throughout the game, Edmundson was the only player taken off the ice by referee Kendrick Nicholson at the time after Benn's helmet came off as he and Edmundson were wrapped up. 

The Stars scored the go-ahead goal 17 seconds later when Radulov beat Allen, who was removed earlier in the period by league concussion spotters but returned, from the wall inside the right circle.

The Blues were none too pleased that Edmundson, who also received a 10-minute misconduct for firing the puck down the ice out of frustration for the call, was the only player at the time of a 2-2 game late in the third period taken off. Coincidental minors, they would have lived with. 

Needless to say, the Blues were not happy.

"The call at the end of the game was ridiculous," Yeo said. "There’s scrums all night and we end up short twice in those situations (Paul Stastny was called for roughing in the second period at 13:11). Not sure how you make that call, but it is what it is."

Edmundson was more diplomatic about the call but agreed to disagree as well.

The Blues had killed off 19 straight penalties and were 43 of 45 in the month of December before the Radulov goal.

"I didn't agree with the call," Edmundson said. "It's a tight game, it's kind of a rough game and when you only take one guy after that, it's a tough one to swallow, but I'm not going to make excuses for myself. There's three minutes left in the game, I can't take a penalty.

"Just a little scrum beside the net. He started it first, he kind of gave me a shove, so we kind of went back and forth, and then I just kind of grabbed onto him. When the whistle blew, I thought he was calling both and the next thing you know I was the only one. I was kind of choked about that and then ... it was kind of selfish of me to take that 10-minute. ... Yeah, I was really surprised. But like I said, I can't make excuses. Bottom line, I can't be taking a penalty."

What led up to the Radulov goal was also something that the Blues were not as upset about but felt was an incorrect call when after winning the initial faceoff, John Klingberg's shot from the blue line deflected off the glass and out of play by Tyler Seguin. Instead of the faceoff remaining in the neutral zone, the Blues felt the faceoff should have been moved to the neutral zone since the Stars played the puck out. Instead, they won a second draw and Radulov scored short side on Allen with Benn in front.

"Seguin, the boards and out, yeah," Blues left wing Alexander Steen said.

"Again, I think there were some things, again that were out of our control," Yeo said. "Occasionally you play a really good game and you don’t get rewarded. I think tonight was the case. Then again, we just need to make sure we stay positive and keep battling through this adversity. We've got to be a little better closing out games, there’s no question about that. I think we should have three wins in our last five. Instead, we have one, but we’re a tough team to play against still. We’re doing enough things and we have to do a few more things to get some more wins and it’ll turn around, I know that."

Oh, and there's that issue with Allen, who was bowled over by teammate Colton Parayko after Parayko took a hip check (with no puck in sight) from Tyler Pitlick. Parayko was falling and he fell over Allen with 18:47 remaining. Allen stayed in after being attented to by head athletic trainer Ray Barile but eight seconds later, league concussion spotters called down to have Allen removed. 

Carter Hutton came on and played 9:34, making two saves, and would have been the winning goalie because he came in down 1-0, but the Blues got third-period goals from Vladimir Tarasenko at 3:26 to tie the game 1-1, his first 5-on-5 goal since Nov. 21 (18 games), and Tage Thompson scored his second NHL goal 1:05 later to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.

But Yeo got word that Allen felt fine and pulled the trigger to put him back in with 9:05 remaining, with the coach later regretting doing so.

"I think that looking back on that, that was a bad decision by me," Yeo said. "I think I put Jake and the team in a bad position there. It’s disappointing for our group not to get a win here tonight. I think we actually played a hell of a game and a couple things that were out of their control. 

"Again, the thought process was that Jake had been really good. He made a huge save on the 2-on-1 to keep it at 1-0 and then we got the lead, he was good. We felt that he was fine, but the league obviously made the call for him to come out and we got word that he was fine, so we put him back in. Again, that was a mistake on my part. It’s unfortunate for the players because they played their hearts out tonight, but I know if we keep doing that, we’ll get rewarded."

And to top all the calls late that affected the game, there was a delay when it appeared that the Stars were going to be called for too many men on the ice at 7:28 of the second, and out of all that, Radek Faksa was called four minutes for head-butting and Patrik Berglund got two for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Yeo said he got no explanation on that non-call either.

"No. They felt that it was inadvertent, so not a reason for them to call the penalty," Yeo said.

But in all that, the Blues feel they had a chance to close out a game, bottom line.

They have now lost five of six and seven of the past nine to fall to 23-15-2. 

It marks the 10th straight game they've scored two goals or fewer in regulation with a goalie in net (they won 3-2 in overtime over Buffalo on Dec. 10 and 3-1 at Vancouver with an empty-net goal on Dec. 23). They haven't scored in the first or second period the past two games and in six out of nine.

But then again, the two points were there for the taking.

"No, what we did at the beginning of the year, I think we buried them," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Edmonton, same thing. We got away from the game that got us there and good teams are going to take advantage of that, right? You’re down by a goal, you’re going to start trying things that you aren’t when you’re tied or you’re ahead. We knew they were going to have a push, we just got to do the small things and limit those opportunities.

"... Yeah, we were good defensively for most of the game. We have been for a while now. We score a couple goals. We still got to find a way to find a way to consistently score more than that. We can’t be giving up what we’re giving up, especially at the end of games."

Going back early in the game, the part of lack of scoring really bit the Blues.

Despite getting a two-man advantage for 1:37 and got three shots on goal, they couldn't score. It makes a total of 6:38 of 5-on-3 play this season the Blues haven't scored, including being 0 for 6 and five of those power plays lasting 57 seconds or longer and four being a minute or more.

And not too long after, the Stars struck when Mattias Janmark knocked in a sharp feed from Jason Spezza at 3:49 for a 1-0 lead.

The Blues held a 30-20 shots advantage through two periods, but couldn't crack Stars goalie Ben Bishop.

Alex Pietrangelo and Paul Stastny missed out on high-grade scoring chances on the 5-on-3.

"We had some good chances on it, which we couldn't bury," Steen said. "They're off of broken plays. The actual setup part wasn't good enough. We got some chances on it."

"Yeah, obviously that’s an opportunity for us to grab the lead," Yeo said. "We had some good chances, too, just got to finish in that situation. That’s the way things have been going, but again, you have to build your game and you have to build the confidence in your game kind of before things start to turn around. Been in this situation a lot of times where you go through a skid where it just seems like nothing’s going right. Every game you find a way to get a little better, next thing you know, you start to get a win or two and then all of a sudden, you get on a real roll, and I’m confident that’s what our team will do."

Holding the lead late was problematic again.

A bad exchange between Allen and Edmundson led to Benn's tying goal.

Allen was behind the net and instead of playing the puck around the boards and perhaps out of the zone, he played it to Edmundson, who had his back to the ice and received the pass and was in the process of turning with it, but Benn was already coming with a full head of steam, intercepted it, and curled around the net. As Stastny was taking Seguin out of the play, he clipped Allen's right leg with his left skate, taking the Blues goalie down to the ice leaving the top portion of the net open for Benn to lift a backhand into tying the game 2-2.

"Yeah, I called for it," Edmundson said. "I did a shoulder check, but I didn't see Benn coming. He was along the boards, waiting for the rim. It was a good read by him. I could have chipped it or something, but I guess I'll take blame for that one, too. It's a tough play. I didn't see him coming over my shoulder."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen made 25 saves and was removed in the third period
for concussion protocol Friday against the Dallas Stars.

With the way things were going, it was a momentum-zapper, and unfortunately for the Blues, the game slipped away, much like the 3-2 loss at Edmonton on Dec. 21 when they squandered 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the third.

"Yeah, we played hard to get the lead," Pietrangelo said. "Then, we change our game. We just got to stick with what works."

Now the Blues fly home to do it all over again Saturday night at home against the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, who have won four in a row and seven of eight.

"If we keep playing hard and we fight through this adversity, then we’ll be better for it," Yeo said.

Friday, December 29, 2017

(12-29-17) Blues-Stars Gameday Lineup

DALLAS -- Blues coach Mike Yeo talked of Ivan Barbashev not going to get a better opportunity than the one he'll get tonight.

Barbashev, a healthy scratch the last three games, will play on a line with Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko when the Blues (23-14-2) make a quick trip to play the Dallas Stars (20-15-3) at American Airlines Center (7:30 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Barbashev, who has played in 10 games this season without a point after 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 30 games last season, was expected to perhaps be among that next wave of young talent to infiltrate the Blues roster on a regular basis. But after coming in and not being in the proper shape and lagging from the start, it's been an up-and-down season for the 2014 second round pick.

But in getting the opportunity to play with the Blues' top-scoring players tonight, it's the chance to get back on track.

"I've just got to play hard," Barbashev said. "I know they play with 'Schwartzy' (Jaden Schwartz) before. 'Schwartzy's a hard-working guy. He's always in on the forecheck, he plays hard. I've just got to do the same thing, play physical, hard, just to (make) a difference out there, especially with those guys. It's a huge step for me.

"I haven't played for a while, so today is a good step for me. First time with 'Vladi' and 'Shenner' and it's just a huge chance for me to stay here and just to be in the lineup. ... I feel comfortable to day. I have some confidence and it's going to be fine today. I'm just really excited about it."

Yeo just wants to see Barbashev play with a purpose. He last saw the ice in Calgary on Dec. 20, and the Flames were scoring the eventual game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Barbashev played 7 minutes 35 seconds that night and never saw the ice again.

"We I want to see him go out and play with confidence, make plays," Yeo said. "I don't want him going out there with the attitude that he can't make a mistake and it's going to bury him, but what I feel has been lacking compared to what we saw from him last year was just a passion in his game and sort of an attitude that he's going to make a difference shift after shift. I think that last year when he was successful, that showed up in his competitiveness, that showed up in his ability to win loose pucks and to jump on pucks and make things happen. I hope he plays with that type of excitement tonight.

"Obviously we've had conversations. It's not an easy thing for a young player. Certainly confidence comes into play, but there's not much we can do to try to boost his ego and his confidence in this game. This shows we have confidence in him to give him this kind of look and this kind of opportunity and now it's up to him to take advantage of it.

"This is not uncommon for young players. Everybody takes a different path. His path was moving along really quickly and he did a good job last year, jumped in and got off to a good start. He was able to build off that good start and carry it through. Whatever happened through the course of the offseason, with him coming back into training camp whether it was expectations, maybe typical of what happens with young players, a sophomore slump, just getting off to a tough start and not being able to rebound from it has been what we've seen. But there's still lots of hockey left this season. The only thing that matters to him is getting this opportunity and getting excited about it and taking advantage of it."

- - -

It'll be a friendly battle in goal tonight when Jake Allen will man the cage for the Blues and Des Peres' own Ben Bishop does the same for the Stars.

It will be Bishop's 300th NHL game and first this season since he joined the Stars as a free agent over the summer.

"It's always fun," Allen said. "I've played against him a few times now, so I think that's a little bit over, but he's a great goalie and it's a big pick-up for this team."

For Bishop, who came home to the St. Louis area for Christmas, he says it's just another game but hard not to get geared up for playing against the guys he skates with during the summer.

"The first few times was different, but now, it's gotten more normal," he said. "I've played against them in the preseason so I was able to see some of the players, some of the younger guys. Obviously they're a good team and it should be a good test for us tonight." 

It's been quite the path for both Allen and Bishop, who were together with the now defunct Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League as Blues draft picks.

Allen was taken in the second round in 2008, and Bishop was picked in the third round in 2005.

Bishop started in Peoria in 2007 but his and Allen's paths crossed in 2010-11 and they played two seasons together.

"I knew he was a really good goalie when I first stepped in there," Allen said. "He's earned everything he's gotten. He almost has a Stanley Cup in his back pocket. He almost made this team and I think it was for the best that they sent him to the minors; he proved everyone wrong and ended up being one of the best goalies in the league for a long time. It was a huge pick-up for this team  for Dallas in the offseason and he's got a lot of good years ahead of him. ... He's such a good guy, he's such a down-to-earth guy. I'm really happy for his success."

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock was in St. Louis when the two were in Peoria and can reflect on how they've both gotten to where they are.

"[Bishop] was in the American League when I first came in there," Hitchcock said. "You had him and Jake down in Peoria, which is a pretty strong tandem to see both guys and have the careers they're having right now, that's pretty impressive with two guys coming out of the American Hockey League and to be as good as they are I think is really good. To me, Ben's one of those guys that made big sacrifices, his family made big sacrifices to bring his career to where it's at and it's nice to see. He went the full gauntlet of North American Hockey League, obviously college and into the American League and the NHL. He's paid his dues. Both guys have paid their dues in a big way, it's nice to see. Both guys are getting rewarded."

Bishop shrugs it off playfully, but he makes no mistake about the fact that he's from St. Louis and not Denver, where he spent eight months after being born there.

"That's home for me," Bishop said of St. Louis. "... I grew up playing hockey there, I know the alumni and played with some of their kids and a lot of the players and staff being drafted by them. St. Louis has always been my hometown. When they say Denver, it's more of a birthplace."

As for 300 games?

"It's cool," Bishop said. "Hopefully we can get that number even higher. I take a lot of pride in games played, so you try to get that number as high as you can and it's pretty cool. It's ironic that it's against St. Louis. 

Bishop's first NHL game was Oct. 24, 2008 with the Blues against the Los Angeles Kings in relief. He stopped 15 of 17 shots that night and played two periods.

"I definitely can remember it," Bishop said. "It's been a long path in between then and now. There's been some ups and downs but obviously a good road. I'm still enjoying it, so hopefully we can add to it."

Bishop can really stand with pride for St. Louis, especially since four players (Joseph Woll, Brady Tkachuk, Logan Brown and Trent Frederic) are representing the United States at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo to go along with others who were recently drafted in the NHL, including Matthew Tkachuk and Luke Kunin.

"It just says a lot about the Blues alumni, really," Bishop said. "Not just the Blues alumni but a lot of people in St. Louis. A lot of those guys have stuck around and taught all these kids. I was the beneficiary of one of those. Mike Zuke and Perry Turnbull and those guys helping me out along the way. I think it just shows the right coaching and development can go a long way, so it's exciting to see those kids representing the United States last year and this year. I think that people are kind of figuring it out that it's a little hockey hotbed there. I'm excited that they're getting that rink built, so that'll be good for St. Louis. Hopefully we can keep adding to it. It makes you proud to be from St. Louis and a hockey player.

"You always kind of hear about those hockey states in Minnesota and whatnot. Missouri's actually kind of starting to get on the map there and becoming one of those. It's fun and it's good to see these kids and now you're playing against them in the league, so it's fun. It just makes for better skates in the summer, too."

- - -

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and forward Sammy Blais both made the trip and skated this morning but will not play.

Both are nursing lower-body injuries.

"I think he's pushing it harder and harder every day," Yeo said of Bouwmeester. "We'll have a chance to talk with him. I talked with him yesterday and we were happy with the way yesterday went, so today was another good opportunity to get in there."

The Blues return home after the game and host the Carolina Hurricanes at Scottrade Center on Saturday, so there's a possibility one or both could suit up.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Tage Thompson

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo 

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Schmaltz and Oskar Sundqvist. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Jay Bouwmeester (undisclosed), Sammy Blais (lower body), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Robby Fabbri (knee) are out.

- - -

The Stars' projected lineup:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Devin Shore

Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Alexander Radulov

Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Tyler Pitlick

Remi Elie-Gemel Smith-Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell-John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis-Greg Pateryn

Stephen Johns-Julius Honka

Ben Bishop will start in goal; Kari Lehtonen will be the backup.

The Stars have no healthy scratches. Martin Hanzal (undisclosed) is doubtful, Marc Methot (knee) is out.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Blues continue to search for answers to finding more offense

Yeo changed lines at practice, Barbashev "not going to get a 
better opportunity than this right here;" Bouwmeester skates

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Another day, a rare practice, a full practice, for the Blues, trying to find that elusive answer -- or answers -- to get an offense going that has fallen off a cliff.

Another game in the balance, one there for the taking, but in the end, it was a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday.

The same questions continue to surface, but it's gotten to the point where actions speak louder than words.

For the Blues (23-14-2), who have lost four of five and six of the past eight in which they've scored two or fewer goals in seven of those eight and one or fewer in five of them, it was another day of answering the same questions: why can't this team score and what can you do to fix it?
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Alexander Steen (right), moving the puck away from Kyle
Turris of the Nashville Predators Wednesday, is one of several players
in search of goal scoring for the Blues.

"We just need to be competitive for 60 minutes and if we do that, if we concentrate on staying on our game, make sure that you battle through the hard parts of the game, make sure that you find a way to shift through the momentum to get things back in your direction," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We talk about when we have wave after wave, line after line of going out and doing things true to our identity, then we're a hard team to play against."

"We've been obviously searching for answers for what, two, three weeks a month now? We've got to stick with it," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "Obviously we've got to find ways to create room for each other out there and get second and third opportunities. To say there's one thing we can do and all of the sudden we're going to start scoring goals is hard to say, but it starts with the little things and details that get you goals. This team can score. We all know it. It's a matter of having the confidence to do it."

Ahh, those elusive goals at the front of the net. Traffic at the net. But how about those opportunities, a prime example Wednesday when the Blues caught Nashville on a number of odd-man rush opportunities and either turned the puck over or were hesitant in the final push?

It affects all sorts of things when pucks aren't going in and confidence can be an issue.

"I would say that that's certainly the issue, but what are we going to do," Yeo said. "Nobody's going to give us a bunch of free goals to change that. That's life in the NHL. It's big boy hockey. There's no magic pill or magic way to get confidence. Confidence is earned and we need to earn it for our team and we need to earn it for individuals. That's the simple truth. It's earned, number one, through work ethic and doing the right things shift after shift and you build off of that."

The Blues seem to be dealing with the physical and mental aspects all in one.

"Yeah, it is a mindset, but it's a confidence thing too," Blues center Kyle Brodziak said. "In a league that every team knows how to defend, it's a hard league to get goals in. We're not feeling too good about our offensive game right now. We just gotta keep working at it, and trust -- we got the players in here to do it. We just gotta get that mojo going again."

So Yeo and his assistants went back to work mixing up some combinations.

Ivan Barbashev, a healthy scratch the past two games, worked with Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrik Berglund, who played on that line the past three games, centered the third line with Vladimir Sobotka and Dmitrij Jaskin and Chris Thorburn was back on the fourth line with Scottie Upshall and Brodziak.

For Barbashev, who's been a disappointment thus far, this is the opportunity like no other playing with two skilled forwards who can get him going and if he's going, can get them going as well.

"Again, we're trying something there," Yeo said. "We need 'Barby.' Obviously he's not going to get a better opportunity than this right here. We'll give him that chance and hopefully he can take advantage of it. I believe when he's on top of his game, he can make plays, but more importantly, his work ethic should open up some ice and some opportunities for the other two guys. We can keep switching lines, but bottom line is that 'Shenner' and 'Vladi,' it shouldn't really matter who we put over there. They should be finding a way to be factors and dangerous in every game."

The Blues are a team that thrives off puck possession, and even in that area has lacked.

"I think you see the start we had the last game and I think we're getting a little too focused on scoring the goal," Yeo said. "Next thing you know, we're turning pucks over on entries and losing possession. We want to make plays off the rush, but if it's not there, you have to choose what else is available to you. It's hard to score goals if you have to back-check and if you have to play in your own zone. Same applies to our offensive zone play. We have some good shifts in there, but there's a lot of shifts where we're either forcing a play, we're not strong enough on the puck, we're not moving our feet enough and easy turnovers. Again, it makes it difficult to score goals. Those are situations and times in a game where you could really turn it into something. Those are opportunities lost."

What's really lost is valuable points, points that can never be recovered, and for a Blues team that is 3-6-0 the past nine since Jaden Schwartz went down to a right ankle injury, they have only allowed 19 non empty-net goals, an average of 2.11 per game.

Which brings us back to that goal-scoring issue ... The Blues need that production from their top line guys more than ever.

Tarasenko has just three goals the past 17 games and hasn't scored an even strength goal since Nov. 21 (18 games ago) against Edmonton. Alexander Steen has just one goal the past 19 games (an empty-netter at Vancouver last Saturday) and has just four goals in 33 games this season. Paul Stastny has just seven goals in 39 games, none in the past eight and one in the past 15, and even Schenn, who was blistering the stat sheet earlier in the season, has just one goal in the past eight games.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Paul Stastny (left) gets off a shot during Wednesday's 2-1 loss
to the Nashville Predators.

"It's up to us forwards or it's up to us as five-man groups to get out there and score goals," Schenn said. "We've had great goaltending all year. Defense has been there for us all year. Us forwards here, we've got to do a better job of, whether that's creating opportunities or getting to the net or getting traffic to the net so the d-man can score, it obviously relies a lot on us forwards and that's what we need to do.

"We're going to have to rely on a lot of second and third opportunities at the net. We've got to get greasy. We scored our goal last night just by getting people and pucks to the net and getting a tip and it went in. I think that's the way we've got to do it. It's not going to be one thing and all of the sudden, boom, we're going to score six goals. It's going to be little things that reward us and that's what we need to focus on."

* NOTES -- Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (lower body) skated as Yeo thought he would at practice Thursday with no restrictions.

Bouwmeester, who missed 21 games to start the season before playing in 10 games, has missed the past eight games.

He was expected to travel for Friday's game in Dallas but slim chance he plays with only one practice in tow.

"I thought he looked good," Yeo said of Bouwmeester. "I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, but I thought with him being out there for a full practice, he's such a strong skater that I thought he looked really good.

"I need to have a talk with him to see how he felt out there."

Forward Sammy Blais, who's missed five games since sustaining a lower-body injury against Winnipeg, skated before practice and Yeo thought he would travel.

"He skated before practice. I don't think he's a ways away," Yeo said of Blais. "I have to double-check, but I think that he's going to come with us tomorrow but we'll hav to find out on that."

-- The Blues, who struggled on the penalty kill early in the season when they were as low as 27th in the NHL, have worked their way up to tied for ninth at 82.8 percent efficiency after going 5-for-5 against the Predators on Wednesday.

The Blues are 41 for 43 in the month of December, which is No. 1 in the league.

"Those guys have done a nice job lately," Yeo said. "... (Goalies) are always going to be your No. 1 penalty killer. I do think that the penalty kill has been going strong. That's been a positive for us. We'll have to continue that. You know we're going to be challenged with that tomorrow. Every day is a new challenge, but definitely have been pleased with that lately."

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Anemic offense bites Blues again in 2-1 loss to Predators

Pivotal divisional game goes to Nashville; St. Louis can't 
score two or more goals with goaltender for eighth straight game

ST. LOUIS -- It seems to be a recurring theme: do enough defensively to minimize the opposition, goaltending does all it can to give the Blues a chance to win hockey games.

But Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators in another pivotal Central Division game is a stark reminder of why the Blues suddenly can't win games.

Take away the excuse of playing so many games in such few days. The Blues just came off a three-day break to recharge the batteries and reset the schedule.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Vladimir Sobotka (71) tries to maneuver the puck past 
Predators defenseman Yannick Weber on Wednesday. 

This team can't score goals, and it marked the sixth time in which the Blues allowed two or fewer goals and lost. Counting a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay in which the Blues gave up an empty-net goal, you could technically say seven. 

"I'm frustrated, and not because I don't think that we can't score goals. I just think that we're better than that."

Well, since Jaden Schwartz went down, the Blues haven't been "better than that," or at least not good enough.

In falling to the Predators (22-9-5) for the second time this season on home ice (2-0 on Nov. 24), the Blues (23-14-2) fell out of first place in the Central Division by one (Nashville has three games in hand).

And another recurring theme: Blues players talking about not making life difficult enough on the opposing goalie.

Wednesday, it was Pekka Rinne, who made 29 saves after allowing nine goals his previous two starts.

Vladimir Sobotka finally scored for the Blues, their first goal against Nashville this season and first in 171:33 dating to Game 6 of the second round of the playoffs last season.

"I thought it was a fairly even game," Blues center Kyle Brodziak said. "We expected it to be an even game. That's just the way things go against this team. It seems like game are close. Again, we're having trouble scoring. We limit them, we give up two goals, pretty tight game. We gotta try and find a way to get more than one and that was the difference."

And why is that net-front presence so anemic?

"I don't know," Brodziak said. "That's something we're trying to figure out as a group here _ what we're doing, what we're not doing well. I think when you're having trouble scoring, maybe you're trying to make an extra play or make it more complicated than it needs to be.

"We just gotta find away. We're talking about it. We're trying. It's just a feeling we've gotta get as a group of getting to the net, knowing the puck's gonna get there and hopefully we'll start turning this around."

But now it's more than that. The Blues say the right things but rarely seem to implement the plan.

The Blues have gone eight straight games (all without Schwartz) with two goals or fewer against a goalie. And if you include the Buffalo game on Dec. 10, the day after Schwartz was hurt, the Blues needed overtime in that 3-2 victory.

"Well, he's a great player, but I really don't think we should be saying that because we don't have 'Schwartzy,' we can't win hockey games now," Yeo said. "We're still a really good hockey team and we're not performing offensively at the level that we can. There was a lot of good things defensively, the PK was good (5-for-5), there's a lot of things that gave us a chance to win the hockey game tonight, but it's hard to win when you score one goal."

Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok scored for the Predators, and both goals came as a result of turnovers, which makes it tough on an offensively-challenged hockey team.

"Ups and downs. I think we gave them everything they got," said Blues goalie Jake Allen, who made 24 saves. "A lot of turnovers on our part. You can't call it rust, three days off, but every team has to go through it, so there's really no excuse there. It was right there for the taking.

"... Their top three lines are as good as any in the West. That's why they're a good team right now. I thought if we limited those, we had some chances. It was good to see a greasier one go in there in the late third."

The Blues had the better of the territorial edge in the first 10 minutes of the game, but then had to get on the penalty kill and gain some of their edge back.

But Smith gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 10:37 of the first period on a deflection of a Roman Josi wrist shot. It came as a result of Brayden Schenn's offensive zone turnover that led to a rush the other way.

Jarnkrok made it 2-0 at 16:49 of the second period, scoring his 10th goal of the season on a one-timer from the left circle after a Filip Forsberg pass. That one came after Sobotka's pass was intercepted inside the blue line that led to the puck going back the other way.

"Listen, obviously you come into a game like this you hope you're going to get a shutout," Yeo said. "A couple mistakes happen and when you're not scoring goals, those mistakes are magnified. I do feel there are times we have the puck on our stick and there are plays to be made and we don't execute on those plays or it could be a decision or whatever the case is. We have to be better and there's no excuses. It starts with me. We have to make sure we collect these guys, make sure we have the right mindset heading into every game and it's not just going to be something where we flip the switch here. We have to build back the mentality that we are a hard attacking offensive team with the mindset of doing things a certain way. We were scoring goals at a pretty good number earlier in the year. When things went dry we got away from things and we have to get it back."

Sobotka scored at 13:37 of the third period to make it 2-1, deflecting a Kyle Brodziak shot past Rinne as a result of the traffic this team so desires, but the Blues had multiple opportunities off the rush, particularly in the second period, where they either lost pucks or did not go at the Predators with speed with the advantage.

"There are some things that you're supposed to have an answer for," Yeo said. "We come out with the intention, you see the mindset that we start, and for whatever reason we don't want to follow through with it. I think the way we scored the goal is an example of the way we that we need to do things more frequently through the course of the game. 

"I thought the game was there for us, but we didn't capitalize on opportunities and not just opportunities that you see the final scoring chance. We had rush opportunities in the second period that we turned pucks over. I don't feel we're fast enough off the rush, I don't think we're making enough plays, I don't think we're doing enough little things on offense to create those situations."

Joel Edmundson missed an open net in the second period that could have tied the game, and Rinne made the save of the game when he went from his left to right and kicked out Schenn's doorstep attempt after Patrik Berglund's between-the-legs, no-look pass.

"Yeah, for sure, but you can't let (frustration) sink in, you've got to stay positive," Edmundson said. "It's definitely wearing guys down and everyone wants to chip in, but it's a tough game. You've just got to get bodies to the net. We've got to get greasy goals, we're not going to get fancy ones.

"Yeah, it was spinning pretty good, but I still should've buried that. It's a tough one to swallow. Yeah it was spinning, those ones are tough, but not much else I could've had done."

Allen did his part. He sprawled and kept Ryan Johansen's fluttering attempt 3:14 into the game from going in.

"Yeah, I think me and 'Hutts' [Carter Hutton] are playing great. We're playing well," Allen said. "That's our objective. We know we can't score goals, but we're not trying to get that into our heads. It's not that the boys aren't trying. It's frustrating for them; I know it is, but it's just one of those times of year where pucks aren't going in. I think every team goes through it, but we've got to snap out of it sooner or later. It's going to catch up to us."

This marks two games in which the Blues have allowed three goals (four including empty net goal) in two home games against Nashville, two winnable games, and to come away with nothing. Only one place to point the finger, and it's not who's in goal and it's not who's defending the net.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Tage Thompson (32) chases down Nashville forward
Kevin Fiala during Wednesday's game at Scottrade Center.

"We expected it to be this type of game where it's close and the little things are gonna make a difference," Brodziak said. "I thought Rinne made some good saves but in the same breath, we're not making it hard enough on him by getting more activity around the net, making it more difficult on him.

"It's where we're at as a group. We're having trouble scoring against every team right now. It's just one of the things that's part of the process that we're gonna have to work on and build back into our game. It's not gonna happen overnight. It's gonna be something that we slowly have to chip away at and things will start to grow from there."