Hitchcock says Blues can resolve scoring woes with harder work

News-DemocratApril 7, 2014 

— With 18 goals during a 5-5 stretch, there is little doubt a scoring issue exists for the St. Louis Blues.

They have scored two goals or fewer in each of the last five games and eight of their previous 10.

And while injuries to goal leader Alexander Steen and Russian winger Vladimir Tarasenko are contributing factors, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock believes there is more to it.

"We need to see some of that old-fashioned second and third effort to create scoring chances like we did before," Hitchcock said Monday after back-to-back losses to potential Western Conference playoff foes Colorado and Chicago. "We need to get on the grind and stay on the grind and make a bigger commitment to doing those things.

"Everybody's got injuries right now, ours just happen to be in our top six. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is."

Hitchcock said it's important for the Blues to regain the form that helped them compile the second-most points (111) and victories (52) in the league.

"Let's take it really seriously because we've spent eight months getting here," he said. "Let's not just let it go. The danger side of letting it go is it's hard to get it back."

"I don't want us to sit and rest and wait it out and then expect it to change next week. I'd like to see some elements of (better hockey) start to come forward this week."

Seeking rest for some of their top players with the final four games coming up in a six-day span, the Blues had just 12 skaters at a Monday workout.

Steen, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, was on the ice for the first time since being sidelined.

Tarasenko is wearing a cast on his surgically repaired right hand, but still able to participate in many drills.

"No news really guys, sorry," said Steen, the Blues' top scorer with 33 goals and 60 points in 64 games. "Time heals. It's a matter of how much time you need."

Steen wasn't providing much in the way of information about his injury or status.

"I skated today," he said. "It was a step and that was about it. I think I gave you guys to much. Enjoy writing the story."

"I haven't talked to him so we'll see how he feels," Hitchcock said. "He skated, so that's a good sign."

What's not a good sign are some serious scoring droughts.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has gone 30 games without a goal, though he does have eight assists during that span. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (no goals in 18 games), forward Derek Roy (no goals in 17 games) and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (no goals in 12 games) have also struggled.

So have forwards Patrik Berglund (no goals, one assist in 11 games), Magnus Paajarvi (no goals in last 11 games, two in the last 23) and Steve Ott (no goals in his last 23 games, plus-minus rating of minus-11 in 19 games since joining the Blues).

"The games are wild right now," Hitchcock said. "They're very emotional because there's lots at stake. It's your seeding, it's getting your game in order for the end of the year. It's a very emotional time for everybody.

"When your emotion is up and your interest is piqued you're going to get a lot more physical play. This is way more physical than it was a month ago, so you've got to learn to operate in that atmosphere."

Despite their struggles, the Blues (111 points) are only two points behind Boston for the NHL lead and maintain a three-point lead over Western Conference leader Anaheim.

"We just lost to two awful good hockey clubs," Hitchcock said. "We've got a week to learn from what happened here -- and it wasn't just the Colorado game, it was the lead-up to it... some of the Philly game, some of the Buffalo game, some of the Dallas game."

Hitchcock knows NHL teams can't just flip a switch when the playoffs begin.

"This is a brand new week getting ready for a brand new season,' said Hitchcock, whose team plays host to former Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. "It's exciting. Whatever happens by Sunday, it's all over. I want us playing better so we have more confidence leading into the playoffs."

Scouting the Capitals

Coached by former Blues star Adam Oates, Washington (35-30-13) ended a five-game losing streak Saturday with a 4-3 win over the Islanders

Halak, traded by Buffalo to Washington after being sent to the Sabres by the Blues, is 4-4-3 in 11 games with the Capitals with a 2.53 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

He is winless in his last five starts; three were in shootouts.

Battling for a wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Caps' top scorers are Nicklas Backstrom (15 goals, 75 points) and Alex Ovechkin (49 goals, 74 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