ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis Blues team trying to regain its defensive identity and hard-working mentality is moving in the right direction according to coach Ken Hitchcock.
"People are doing the things that maybe go unnoticed on the scoreboard, but are getting support and resolve on the bench, in the locker room, during the intermissions," Hitchcock said. "The stuff that makes the team is starting to go on in this group now. We're digging in."
Hitchcock wants the Blues to return to the stifling defense and goaltending-led style of a year ago when the team finished second overall in the NHL standings.
"We look organized on the ice, we look coordinated," he said. "We look composed, we're talking to each other in critical areas and spaces where the players need help. You can hear the voices on the ice, so the value system is changing.
"The players deserve a lot of credit for embracing it, but we're starting to embrace a lot of the things that were around last season."
Hitchcock is trying to remedy the inconsistency that has crept into his team's game this season on every level, from the goaltending on out.
"I just think the value system on the team's changed now," Hitchcock said. "I think we see the value of work and compete and playing the right way. I think we're starting to trust the fact that the score will take of care of itself if we compete at this level and play at this level."
The second round of the 2011 NHL draft could be paying big dividends for the Blues in the near future.
In the span of 14 spots in the second round that year, the Blues landed right winger Ty Rattie, Russian left winger Dmitrij Jaskin and defenseman Joel Edmundson.
The 20-year-old Rattie (32nd overall) has 47 goals and 107 points in 61 games with Portland in the Western Hockey League. He racked up 57 goals and 121 points in 69 regular-season games a year ago, then added another 19 goals and 33 points in 21 playoff games.
Jaskin, 19, may have more skill than any Blues' prospect not in the NHL based on scouting reports. The 41st overall pick in 2011 has 45 goals and 95 points in just 50 games for Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
This is the first season in North America for Jaskin (6-3, 205), who played for Slavia in the Czech Republic the last two seasons.
Edmundson, the 46th overall pick, was recently signed to an entry-level contract by the Blues. He has seven goals and 17 points in 34 games for Kamloops of the WHL.
In other recent prospect news, the Blues assigned big left-handed defenseman Jani Hakanpaa (6-4, 218) to the AHL Peoria Rivermen for the rest of the season.
The 20-year old from Finland was the Blues' fourth-round pick in 2010 and has been playing for the Espoo Blues in his native country.
The top scorer at Peoria is center T.J. Hensick with 14 goals and 52 points in 60 games. Former second-round pick Philip McRae, now 23, has seven goals and 19 points in 45 games.