Blues hope to head to break on winning note

News-DemocratFebruary 7, 2014 

Besides the worrisome trend of seeing two-goal leads vanish in the third period of the St. Louis Blues' last three games, coach Ken Hitchcock has identified another problem that needs fixing.

"We had some people step up and be more competitive," he said of the team's response to Boston tying it up 2-2 before Blues winger T.J. Oshie won it in overtime. "I think we still have to drag more people into the fight."

No one has to drag Oshie anywhere. A definite force this season, Oshie continues to create energy and intensity with each shift as he prepares for his first Winter Olympic experience with Team USA.

His forechecking led to his own game-winning goal Thursday as Oshie forced a turnover by Bruins defenseman Carl Soderberg, then bulled his way to the net and kept whacking away until it went in.

"We felt like it was our two points to get," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who saved the game by getting a stick in the way of Jarome Iginla's shot toward an empty net. "You watch overtime (and) there was a little bit of extra jump that we had. Osh had a big goal for us."

The Bruins erupted for the tying goals in a span of 2 minutes, 8 seconds.

"It's not the two-goal lead for me," said Hitchcock, whose club plays its final game before the Winter Olympics break at 1 p.m. Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets at Scottrade Center. "It's the same mistakes. Mistakes ending up in the back of our net are the same mistakes from three, four games ago.

"We're trying to correct them. It's like a finger in the dike. You fix one part and another part pops up. I think if we compete collectively at a higher level and we communicate through the competition level, I think we'll be a lot better."

Another issue is the NHL's second-ranked power play, which hasn't produced a goal in its last 12 opportunities.

Still another is a lack of secondary scoring from some of the team's top veteran forwards. Derek Roy hasn't scored a goal in 24 games since Dec. 12 while Patrick Berglund and Chris Stewart are each mired in 13-game goal droughts.

Berglund has four assists during that span and Stewart has two.

Asked about sometimes being labeled as a streaky scorer, Stewart said to look at the big picture.

"It's just hockey," said Stewart, whose 15 goals rank fifth on the team. "I don't really go at the end of the year and look back at when I scored or when I scored or how I scored. Your offense is going to take care of itself and that's just how it is."

Still only 26, Stewart has 63 goals and 115 points in 209 games with the Blues. He led the team with 16 goals and 36 points in 48 games a year ago and has two 28-goal seasons to his credit.

Stewart, whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors, has been playing on the top line with David Backes and Alexander Steen.

"We've got the speed, we've got the physical edge," Stewart said. "We've got the ability to protect the puck down low and we have the ability to make plays off the rush."

*Saturday will mark the 700th game for veteran Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, the team's 1999 first-round pick and the longest-tenured professional athlete in St. Louis.

The only players with more Blues games than Jackman are Bernie Federko (927), Brian Sutter (779) and Brett Hull (744).

* A special pregame ceremony is planned to honor the 10 Blues player selected to play in the Winter Olympics. Nine Blues are headed to Sochi, Russia for the games with forward Vladimir Sobotka missing out because of a leg injury.

* Blues winger Jaden Schwartz has two goals and five points during three-game point streak.

Scouting the Jets

This is the Blues' fourth of five games against their new Central Division rivals and the first three were decided by a single goal.

Now 2-1 on a four-game road trip, the Jets (28-26-5) have lost only three times in 12 games under new head coach Paul Maurice.

The Jets' top scorers are Bryan Little (18 goals, 47 points), Blake Wheeler (22 goals, 46 points), Dustin Byfuglien (13 goals, 42 points) and Andrew Ladd (13 goals, 41 points).

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service