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).”
In the month of March, David Backes has seven goals, which ties him for fifth overall in the League. His 27 goals this season are just four away from his career-high of 31, which he’s reached twice.
What’s sparking the captain?
“He has really good focus during the competition,” Hitchcock said. “He doesn’t try to engage in things emotionally unless it’s necessary. He’s able to play with more sense of control. I think you see it in his second and third effort on pucks. His determination to play whistle to whistle…I think he’s a more effective player because of it. I don’t want to say he conserves energy, but he’s using it in the right areas and it’s really benefiting him.”
Derek Roy returns to the lineup tonight after missing two games with a lower-body injury. Roy will play with Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott, a combination Hitchcock said he’s used together in three previous games but had to break it up due to injury or to help out other lines. “It’s three veteran guys that know how to read off each other,” Hitchcock said.
The Blues have earned points in 11 of their last 13 games (10-2-1). They have also collected points in nine consecutive home games (7-0-2).
Kevin Shattenkirk has one goal and six assists in his last seven games vs. Minnesota.
T.J. Oshie has points in three straight against the Wild (two goals, one assist).
Alexander Steen has two goals and four assists in his last seven vs. Minnesota.
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