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At the Rink blog

Blues eager to finally get going post All-Star break

Friday, 02.03.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

ST. LOUIS -- Of the 30 teams in the NHL, 29 have already began their post all-star schedule. Only the St. Louis Blues have yet to unlatch the starting gate.

The Blues (29-13-7) will finally get their schedule back on track tonight, when they play host to the Los Angeles Kings (25-16-10) at Scottrade Center.

The Blues haven't played since Jan. 24, a span of 10 days. They have spent three of the last four days practicing on the ice, but are eager to get back to playing games.

"We're pretty well-prepared now though," winger T.J. Oshie said. "With the success we've had in the first half, especially towards the middle and end of the first half, we're excited to get back out there.

"Obviously the first period we've got to keep it simple, but other than that, I think we're ready."

Keeping it simple will be the point of emphasis for the Blues, who understand a lengthy in-season layoff can throw off certain nuances to the game.

"What takes your energy away is getting bogged down," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "For us, we're going to just try and play as straight lines as we can. Basically, not try to do anything cute or fancy, just try to play as fast as we can towards their net and see where it takes us.

"I think sometimes you come into this thing, when you're practicing, you're trying to make plays and when you've got time off, you get into that summer hockey mode a little bit. But I like the way we practiced the three times we did it. We went really hard. We shortened it up. We started with an 80-minute practice and worked it down to a 50-minute practice in the third session. We went with almost the same drills all the time and went really hard and in a game-like situation. Mentally, we're there. Whether we're there physically or not, it's going to take some time to get going. We just need to hang in there for the first half of the game."

Now that the Blues are back in full gear, they'll compress their final 33 games into 64 days, which doesn't allow much down time.

"It's totally hockey here from now on. It's 110 percent," power forward Chris Stewart said. "Not to say it wasn't before, but we're going to be playing every other day, we're going to be on the road for a long time (20 games). It's going to be a good time for the boys to go on the road and we'll get close with each other. It's a good thing you're playing every other day because you're not dwelling on any bad losses. You've got another chance to redeem yourself the night after."

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The St. Louis Blues continue to wait for the returns of forwards Andy McDonald (concussion) and Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) to the active roster, but will have to wait a little longer.

Hitchcock said after Friday's morning skate that neither will play tonight and they will not accompany the team on a three-game trip that takes them to Nashville on Saturday, Ottawa on Tuesday and New Jersey on Thursday.

"They're fifth-line guys and fifth-line doesn't play," Hitchcock said. "Maybe in the NFL it does, but not here. They're not ready and they're not making the trip so we'll see next week.

"They're getting closer every day, but they're not part of the team right now, so we're not going to take pre-game skates with them and stuff like that. They've got their own agendas and own schedules."

McDonald has missed all but three games this season. Steen has not played since Dec. 27.

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild