Friday, January 17, 2020

Blues want to empty tank, gain redemption against Avalanche

Last game before break chance to gain separation in standings, atone for 
7-3 loss in Denver on Jan. 2; Gunnarsson to return after missing 15 games

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- The last time the Blues were faced with a break, they emptied the tank out and picked up a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

That was right before Christmas, then had three days off before getting back to work.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) and forward Brayden Schenn 
celebrate a goal against Colorado on Jan. 2. 

They'll be in the same situation Saturday afternoon but get an entire week, except for four all-stars, in a key Central Division matchup against the Colorado Avalanche (2 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM), returning to the scene of the crime in one of the more lopsided losses, 7-3, 16 days ago.

Going into a building where the Blues, until the last visit, had recent success in and knowing they'll get the chance to empty the tank again will be motivation in itself.

"Yeah, and then you've got a lot of time to recover," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, one of four all-stars along with Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Jordan Binnington. "It was the same thing at Christmas, and I think part of it too is we're all competitors. We want to finish on a good note. You want to play good games and you're sitting there for six days, you're not thinking about what you didn't do. You want to think about what you did do well and always leave on a good note."

"It is nice to know to leave it out there and give everything you have," O'Reilly said. "It's really not to get ahead of ourselves but focus on the details, the little things, all those things away from the puck, make it difficult for the other team."

That will be key against an Avalanche team that wants to play in transition and do so quickly. 

The Blues tried playing that game in the Pepsi Center on Jan. 2 and got wiped out doing so.

"They handed it to us there pretty good," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's a big game.

"... Empty the tank and we talked this morning about the importance of the game, division rival, take the same approach we took in that L.A. game right before the Christmas break. I thought we were real good in that game, especially in the first period. I think it's just about preparing yourself and not taking the break too early. We've got to be tight and we've got to be tight on individuals because of their speed and their talent. We've got to play a real smart game with the hockey puck, be patient with it and play our game, and if we do that, we'll be OK. You don't want to get in a track meet going back and forth because we won't be able to keep up."

Playing in the altitude air is different than anywhere else, but the Blues are equipped to handle the style because of their ability to utilize all 18 skaters.

"It's a challenge," Pietrangelo said. "The advantage for us is we have good depth and we can play everybody. When you're in that rink, you want to make sure you use everybody because it certainly does have an impact on you.

"You've just got to be smart with your shifts. There's no slow decline on your shift. It's like you've got the energy and all of the sudden it hits you. You've got to prepare and then take shorter shifts and manage those a little bit differently."

"The altitude, that really plays into the game," Berube said. "You don't have air, so you've got to keep your shifts short and it's important that we're managing the puck properly to get line changes and get fresh people out there. ... We need everybody to play a good game. We can't have anybody not perform at their highest level in this game."

That shouldn't be a problem considering hat happened last time.

"They took it to us. They outplayed us," O'Reilly said. "They got us away from our game and that's something that can't happen, especially divisional games are big points. We want to keep these guys down. It's going to be tough. We need a response, even (from) last game. We got away from a lot of things that we normally do. It's a good opportunity to go into the break with a big win and feeling good about ourselves."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward David Perron takes a shot in a recent game against Colorado.
The Blues hope to head into the All-Star break with a win in Denver.

The Blues come in on a six-game point streak (4-0-2) and lead Colorado and Dallas each by 10 points in the division. It's a huge swing.

"You've got to keep winning and you've got to keep gaining, getting points," Berube said. "It's really important. I think we're in a good spot here, but you've got to keep going and keep getting better."

* NOTES -- The Blues will have Carl Gunnarsson back in the lineup after the defenseman missed the past 15 games, including being on injured-reserve the first 14, for a left arm injury.

Gunnarsson, who has four points (one goal, three assists) in 17 games this season, has been healthy enough the past handful of games to play but will replace Niko Mikkola, who filled in quite nicely after being recalled from San Antonio.

"It's been a while, yeah. Now I've just been sitting around waiting. It'll be fun," Gunnarsson said. "It's what it is. The team's playing well and we're winning. So you're just sitting, waiting for your time."

Berube said MIkkola going to the press box Saturday has nothing to do with his play, although he only managed 9:35 in a 4-3 overtime loss against Philadelphia on Wednesday, but more so to get Gunnarsson, who will start off paired with Robert Bortuzzo, some game action.

"He's been out a long time," Berube said of Gunnarsson. "Up to this point, he hasn't played a lot of hockey this year. It's unfortunate, but he's ready to go now, which is good.

"... Gunny needs to get in there and he did a great job, Mikkola. He's going to be a good player for us going forward."

- Blues goalie Jordan Binnington is one that may have something to prove in this building after being pulled with 5:34 remaining on Jan. 2. He had allowed seven goals on 41 shots in the loss.

- Blues defenseman Colton Parayko will miss seventh straight game today with an upper-body injury.

Parayko hasn't played since the Blues' last visit here but has practiced every day, and Berube said he's "pretty confident" Parayko will be back after the All-Star break.

"He is close, but we want him 100 percent," Berube said.

The Blues' first game after the break is Jan. 27 at Vancouver. 

No comments:

Post a Comment