Friday, January 18, 2019


Blues back in playoff conversation; goalies to keep splitting 
games; injury updates; Berglund opens up to Swedish newspaper

ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues departed for their trip a week ago Friday, there was still a glaring separation between them and the teams they needed to catch in order to get back into the playoff conversation again.

After going 2-1-1 and picking up five points and seeing a majority of the pack slide back to them, the Blues are back in the playoff conversation again, putting themselves among a handful or so teams that feel they're there.

Entering Friday's games, the Blues (20-21-5) were four points behind Minnesota for the second wildcard in the Western Conference with a game in hand, five behind Dallas for the first wildcard with two games in hand and five points behind Colorado for third in the Central Division with a game in hand. 

Needless to say, games that seemed fruitless two weeks ago, perhaps sending the Blues into a seller's mode moving forward and still could do so with the NHL trade deadline Feb. 25, but all of the sudden, games are meaningful ... as long as the Blues keep themselves relevant.

"Obviously we have something to look forward to," defenseman Vince Dunn said. "We kind of see ourselves getting close to that playoff spot.

"The attitude is a lot better in this dressing room now I think with the wins. It helps with the confidence of everyone. I think now you can kind of see even when things aren't going too well, we can turn around and pick each other up."

Despite the clunker in Boston Thursday, a 5-2 loss in a game that was 2-2 after two periods, the Blues come home for a cameo appearance on Saturday to host Ottawa, which had to play Friday at Carolina, before another five-game trip that's broken up because of the All-Star break.

"It's obviously better when you close it," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "Players are all watching it to see where we're at. They all keep believing we can keep winning and get in, so there's a good feel around here, for sure."

The Blues were looking for a five-game point streak and had the chance with 20 minutes to go in Boston, but couldn't finish the job with some sloppy play that negated a good performance in goal from Jake Allen, who gave the Blues a chance with a solid game.

"Could have been better," Dunn said. "I think we obviously wanted to end it on a better note, but overall, I think we've been pretty good on the road and I think that last trip, those were some important points that we got.

"We can't really control what's going to happen with other games that are being played. We can only control what we can do. Winning games on the road, that's big for us, but coming back home, we need to have a better home record. We need to take advantage of our home ice, especially when we're playing teams in our own division and conference. Those are games that we need to win."

The Senators were tied with Chicago for the fewest points in the league, but with the Blues' poor showing on home ice, something that has to be much better down the stretch, there's no gimmes for them.

"We have three games before the break and we need points here going into there," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said.

"We've really showed up to play against some of these top teams," Dunn said. "When we kind of play the bottom level teams, we're not really ready for the start of the game. No matter who's coming in, we need to be ready, we need to treat everyone with respect and we need to be ready for whoever we're coming up against. It doesn't matter where they are in the standings. Every team is able to win if they're on their game. We need to be able to match that, if not do better."

* Allen, Binnington to keep splitting games -- At least for the time being, Allen and Jordan Binnington will continue to split games with the Blues pushing forward.

Allen has been a better goalie on the road than he has been on home ice, and went 1-1-0 on the trip, while Binnington was 1-0-1 on the trip, including his first loss, a 2-1 overtime setback against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Binnington is the projected starter for Saturday, and Berube said for the time being, both will get a fair amount of work.

"As of right now, it is; I would say so," Berube said. "I'm going to use both of them right now. I truly believe that's the way to go. I know there's a break coming up and then it gets really busy again. We'll need both of them ready.

"... I thought they both played well (on the road trip). We need both of them to play well and they gave us a chance to win every game, that's what we're looking for."

* Injury updates -- Alexander Steen (shoulder) was the only injured skater among the 10 that took part in practice on Friday.

Steen has not played since injuring his left shoulder Jan. 7 at Philadelphia and has missed the past six games. 

As for Robert Thomas (shoulder), who has missed the past four games but skated on his own Friday, Tyler Bozak (concussion), who's missed seven games and Zach Sanford (concussion), who was injured Tuesday against New York, all are progressing in the right direction but without a specific timetable.

"They're making progress, all of them," Berube said. "We'll find out a little more information on Bozak and Sanford today. Robby Thomas is making good progress, not ready to go. Steen skated today and we'll know on him, like a real good idea if he can play here soon or not."

Berube said not to count the others out on the horizon either but didn't know any specifics.

* Berglund speaks -- Former Blues first round pick and forward Patrik Berglund spoke for the first time since his contract was terminated by the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 15 for failing to report to the team.

Berglund, who was picked in the 2006 NHL Draft by the Blues and spent 10 seasons in St. Louis before being traded to the Sabres on July 1 in a package that brought Ryan O'Reilly to St. Louis, spoke to the local newspaper VLT in his hometown of Vasteras, Sweden that his love for hockey was gone.

Here are some of the comments Berglund made, as translated by editor in chief Uffe Bodin, to VLT reporter Pasi Hiirikoski:

"When you feel as bad as I did, and feel what I feel today ... I really feel I've taken the right decision," Berglund told the newspaper. "Money is the last thing that means something to me right now.

"Why skate around and do something I don't like anymore, show a facade that everything is all good when I really feel like shit?"

Berglund was in the third year of a five-year contract originally signed with the Blues that paid him an average annual value of $3.85 million. He walked away from roughly $10 million but the toll of leaving St. Louis, which became his second home and top home in North America, was too much to digest and overcome.

"I want to say that I'm really sorry about leaving and letting Buffalo down as a team," Berglund said to the newspaper. "The players were wonderful and I wish the players and the organization nothing but the best in the future. They have not done anything wrong."

As for hockey this season, it is all over for Berglund, who has 326 points (170 goals, 156 assists) in 717 NHL games.

"This season is completely done," Berglund said. "There won't be any more hockey for me this season. Right now I need a lot of help and a chance to get away from hockey."

As for the future?

"I don't want to say that this is the end for me, I hope I can find the joy to play again," Berglund, who is 30, said. "Right now, I can't tell whether I will play again or not. I'm in the process of healing."

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