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At the Rink blog

Blues tightening up at even strength

Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:46 PM

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Blues tightening up at even strength
ST. LOUIS -- After the month of October, where they surrendered 20 goals in 11 games playing 5-on-5 hockey, the Blues have really buckled down in the month of November.

Through eight games, the Blues have surrendered only four goals playing 5-on-5, including three in six games with Hitchcock as coach.

"I think they bought into the checking part of hockey," Hitchcock said of his players. "They were already partly bought-in, and we just kind of continued the program.

"If they buy into it, the harder they check, the more they score and then they see results. I think what happened was we came out checking hard and scored because of it. The buy-in was a little bit easier."

Playing with a sense of urgency each and every shift seems to have paid dividends.

"I think we keep our shifts short," center Scott Nichol said. "I don't think we really over-extend ourselves. When you over-extend yourself and get tired, your game starts slowing down and you don't react quite as quick.

"All year long, we've done a good job of staying fresh and rolling our lines."

Added captain David Backes: "When you're playing at that high rate changing lines over quick, it's tough to play against when the guy against you is going 100 miles an hour. Even when we're making mistakes, we're making them at full speed so we can recover and get back above the puck. Other guys are bailing guys out when mistakes are made. It's a good recipe."

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Blues winger David Perron was cleared for full contact drills and has participated in five days now without the no-contact red jersey. Perron, out since Nov. 4, 2010 (concussion), has been involved in two days of hard practices where contact has been evident with no ill effects.

"It's hard when your player comes to full contact that he's not ready to play, but then you see endurance stuff," Hitchcock said. "He's getting closer from an endurance standpoint, and that's encouraging.

"I think for us, for him to be able to go through every day and then not have any repercussions the next day ... our focus is all on the next day. How does he feel the next day? He's had all the hockey soreness stuff and all the areas that you like with no repercussions at all. For us, that's good news.

"The next step is when does it slow down in his head? The tempo we practiced with the last two days, he had to keep up with it. I think the first day was a struggle for him, and yesterday was a lot better. We're getting closer. Now is just a matter of taking the next step. Taking the leap of faith and say it's time to go. He's the only guy that's going to know that. He's going to have to tell us when he thinks he's ready to go."

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Blues winger T.J. Oshie, who sat out the last two practices with a sore wrist, has been deemed good to go by Hitchcock. But there is still no news as far as winger Andy McDonald (concussion) is concerned.

"I haven't seen Mac at all," Hitchcock said. "I don't really have a comment on it because I haven't even seen him here in person here. ... He's not able to participate yet."

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring) will miss his third straight game but Hitchcock said there is progress.

"He feels better," Hitchcock said. "We're hopeful that towards the end of the week he can get back on the ice. We'll go from there, but he feels better.

"We need him back in the lineup. That's an injury where you don't know until you get on the ice. It's a hamstring injury. It might be good in 24 hours and you just go from there or it might take a few days. He's made improvement and that's a good sign."

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic