Blues open 5-game homestand trying to gain ground on rivals

From staff and wire reportsNovember 6, 2013 

Even with a 9-2-2 start the St. Louis Blues are having trouble gaining ground on their Western Conference rivals.

Heading into Wednesday, the Blues were only in eighth place in the Western Conference overall standings with 20 points. Among the teams ahead of them were Anaheim (12-3-1), Colorado (12-1), San Jose (10-1-4) and Phoenix (11-2-3).

The Blues open a five-game homestand Thursday against the Calgary Flames, with former Blues prospect Reto Berra scheduled to make his third straight start in net for the Flames.

After Calgary, the Blues entertain Pittsburgh and stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on Saturday, followed by games next week against Phoenix, Colorado and Carolina.

Berra was part of the deal that brought veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to the Blues from Calgary last season. The 26-year-old goaltender from Switzerland began this season in the American Hockey League.

Berra's NHL debut was a memorable one as he stopped 42 shots Sunday to beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks 3-2.

He was the Blues' fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft and had been playing in the top Swiss pro league before making his North American debut in the AHL.

On Tuesday, the Blues got a shootout goal from T.J. Oshie and strong goaltender from Jaroslav Halak as they edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2.

Alexander Steen and Chris Stewart scored in regulation for the Blues, with Steen also pushing his scoring streak to a career-high eight games despite the Canadiens blocking a record 38 shots.

Halak had 25 saves against his former team, also turning away three shots in the shootout.

Tomas Plekanec had a chance to win it in regulation for Montreal. He was awarded a penalty shot in the final minute after the Blues were called for delay of game when David Backes knocked the net off its moorings, but Halak appeared to get a piece of the shot.

It was the first time the Blues were facing a penalty shot against Montreal since former Blues goalie Mike Liut turned away Montreal's Steve Shutt on Dec. 17, 1983.

The Blues opened the scoring at 2:38 of the first period when Steen collected his NHL-best 13th goal of the season.

Backes got it started by stealing the puck from defender Douglas Murray, who was playing softly behind his own net. Backes pushed Murray down and passed the puck to a wide-open Steen, who beat Price over his left shoulder.

Backes dished out a season-high nine hits, the most by a Blues player since Ryan Reaves had 10 on March 19, 2011 vs. San Jose.

Halak is off to an 8-2-1 start with a 2.30 goals-against average.

Stewart tied it again at 10:31 of the third period when he deflected a Kevin Shattenkirk blue-line shot off the post and past Price. It was Stewart's second goal in the last three games.

"Stewart was one of our best forwards," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "He was competitive, hard on the puck, dangerous offensively. It didn't matter where we played him. If this is the level he's going to play with, it's a good level."

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