ST. LOUIS - Ah…home sweet home.
Since the Olympic break ended a month ago, the Blues have played just four games at Scottrade Center and 11 on the road.
That changes tonight, when the team begins a five-game home stand and will play seven of their last 10 games at home.
“With all the road games we’ve had, I think guys are excited to finally play in front of their family and friends and play in front of the home crowd,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s certainly been a tough month for us in terms of travel and road games, but to have the success we’ve had, to be able to pick up some more points here at home is certainly a good feeling.”
First up is the Minnesota Wild, a team the Blues have beaten in eight consecutive games. The Wild currently have the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference at 37-25-11 (85 points) and are a team the Blues could potentially face in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Every team we’re playing it seems like is either fighting for playoff spots, looking for more points to jockey around in the standings, trying to find home ice, whatever it might be,” David Backes said. “We’re never going to get a slack game in the last 10. We have to make sure we bring our A-game and that we’re concentrating on bringing what we have to the table.”
Added Ken Hitchcock: “We’ve had a really tough schedule here since the Olympic break, and now we’re at home and we get to have a few quality hockey practices along with some great competition in the games. I want us to take advantage of this. It’s also about sending a message to whoever comes in here, especially from the West. We want to send them a message that we’re back playing in a tough building.
“All we’ve done is one and out. We’ve come home, played a game and gone back out on the road. That’s what it feels like anyway. Now we’re at home, I want us to really get energized and really send a message to teams coming in here that this is not going to be fun (for them).”
TORONTO - Tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a homecoming of sorts for several Blues.
Alex Pietrangelo grew up just over an hour north of Toronto in King City. Carlo Colaiacovo and Chris Porter are both Toronto natives, and Alexander Steen, although a Winnipeg native, spent three years with the Maple Leafs.
“It’s always special to come home and see the family,” Pietrangelo said after Tuesday’s morning skate, which was his third in Toronto. “Last night was a great opportunity to kinda catch up with everyone. You don’t get that chance too often, so I made sure I took advantage of it. I saw the parents, saw the grandparents and slept in my own bed. (I have) lots of energy today.”
Pietrangelo said his parents, grandparents and a few buddies will be at the game tonight, which begins at 6 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Midwest and KMOX 1120 AM.
The Blues will be facing a Maple Leafs team that has lost five consecutive games and is barely hanging on to the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“They’re going to come. We’re aware of it,” Steen said. “This is an emotional building for them as well and they want to come out and play well in front of their fans. Saying that, we’ve got to make sure that we play the way that we play.”
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said the players won’t just write this off as a bad performance and forget about it.
“Other people might say it’s just a bad game, but this group doesn’t do that,” Hitchcock said after Friday’s practice. “These players are invested in a lot of things this year that are important for them, and one of the things is playing well in big games. They were really disappointed in the way things went.
“The way they practiced (Friday), to me, showed how much they cared. They care deeply, and quite frankly, that might be the impetus to get us to another level.”
The Blues won’t have much time to dwell on the loss. Starting with Saturday’s noon game against the Flyers, the Blues will play three games in four days on the road. Sunday, they’ll meet the Pittsburgh Penguins before heading to Toronto for a Tuesday night matchup with the Maple Leafs.
“We know it wasn’t our best effort (against Chicago). But to get to the playoffs, you’ve got to get ready and try to move on and learn from the experiences,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s a great experience for us, with the success we’ve had, to learn from (this) and that’s what we’re going to do. We've got two games back to back here to get us back on track.”
“We believe in what we have in this room.”
It’s finally here – after almost three weeks of anticipation, Ryan Miller’s new mask arrived yesterday.
Here is a side-by-side picture for comparison.
As you can see, Joseph’s trumpets have been replaced by Miller’s guitars. We know Miller has been known to pick a guitar every now and then, including in a band when he played in the American Hockey League. Joseph’s music notes along the jawline of the mask have been carried over to Miller’s mask, too.
ST. LOUIS - Aiden Howard-Maul was all smiles Thursday at the Blues morning skate.
Aiden, a six-year-old who is battling a type of kidney cancer called Wilms' Tumor, watched the team's practice, met some of the players and interviewed Ken Hitchcock after the skate.
"Are you gonna win tonight?" Aiden asked.
"That's a lot of pressure, Aiden," Hitchcock said. "I sure hope so."
Aiden has already surgery to remove a kidney. He will begin chemotherapy soon.
As Americans, we’ll never do enough to thank the military men and women for their service and sacrifice. All we can do is try and hope we come close.
To give it a shot and say thank you, the Blues welcomed Cpl. Justin McLoud and SSG. Joshua Eckhoff to Tuesday’s morning skate. Both were injured while serving overseas and were presented with personalized camouflage jerseys from Blues captain David Backes.
“They’ve served our country and made great sacrifices so we can be free. They’ve given me an opportunity to play a game I love. I can’t thank them enough,” Backes said. “For them to come down to the morning skate and see smiles on their faces, it’s very rewarding for us."
McLoud and Eckhoff were given a tour of the Blues locker room, where they met the team and sat in on Ken Hitchcock's pregame press conference. In addition, they had lunch with broadcasters John Kelly and Darren Pang.
"It was definitely special,” McLoud said. “Right when I walked in, I saw those jerseys and I wanted one. (Backes) came out and had a jersey with my name on it. It made my day for sure.”
Alexander Steen is earning a new nickname: "Alexander The Great."
Steen is the first NHL player to score 10 or more goals in his team's first nine games since Buffalo's Chris Drury and Atlanta's Marian Hossa did it in the 2006-07 season.
With 10 goals, he also finds himself tied for the League-lead with Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin. As of Oct. 28, Steen has played two less games.
After his two-goal performance in Saturday's 6-1 win in Nashville, Steen played it cool with reporters.
"It's only nine games," he said. "(Ovechkin's) been doing it for years. I've been doing it for nine games."
No-big-deal it all you want, Steener, but this red-hot start isn't something Blues fans see every day.
Is there anything more exciting than Opening Night?
It all started back in 1967 with the likes of Red Berenson, Bob and Barclay Plager, Al Arbour and Glenn Hall. It continued through the years with hockey legends like Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger, and tonight at 7:30 p.m., it continues with the legends of tomorrow: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jaroslav Halak, just to name a few.
It’s a chance to start fresh, to forget about the shortcomings of the past while figuring out how to succeed now and in the future. It’s about sacrifice: blood, sweat and tears in exchange for hoisting the Stanley Cup in June.
Yeah…there’s nothing quite like Opening Night.
Ken Hitchcock has been in this situation before.
As the head coach of the Dallas Stars in 1999, he found his team trailing the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals. Hitchcock not only led the Stars to a 4-1 victory on the road in Game 6, but he led them to a Stanley Cup championship several weeks later.
So what wisdom from that experience has Hitchcock shared with the Blues?
“You have to outplay the team. You can’t expect to play at the same level and win the hockey game. It doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’ve been in this situation a number of times and come through, and it’s been the same similar landscape. We have to outplay them today. If we play at the same level, it’s not going to be good enough.
“I know we’re going to get their best push because they don’t want to go back to St. Louis,” Hitchcock said. “But I know we have it in us to outplay them.”
With the best-of-7 series tied 2-2 after four games, it’s almost like everything is back to square one.
“You learn from everything and all the mistakes that you’ve made and you learn from the things we’re doing good,” T.J. Oshie said. “Now it’s a best-of-3 and we just have to approach it like that.”
Fortunately for the Blues, two of the final three games in this series will be played at Scottrade Center. The home team has won every game thus far.
Andy McDonald said the key to winning Game 5 will be getting back to the game plan. He said the team has strayed from it when things haven’t gone well, both in this series and throughout the regular season.
“The good teams play an entire game and trust the system that’s in place and do it every shift,” McDonald said. “That’s what happens in the playoffs. There’s so many ups and downs, calls that go against you, things that happen, it becomes more and more important to stick to the game (plan).”
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock had a good handle on what went wrong in Game 4 and touched upon it during his pregame press conference today.
“We gave up the wrong odd man rushes to the wrong people and they slammed it right in our net,” Hitchcock said. “We gave up too many odd man rushes because we were forcing offense. Instead of just letting the game drive itself, we tried to push and force the issue.”
Tonight’s game could be a pivotal one in the series. If the Blues win, they’ll have a chance to wrap it up at Staples Center on Friday. If the Blues lose, they’ll face a must-win situation in a building where the Kings have won nine consecutive games.