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At the Rink blog

Hitchcock has Nashville bugaboo to erase

Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 3:38 PM

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

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At the Rink blog
Hitchcock has Nashville bugaboo to erase
NASHVILLE -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock needs to remind himself that he's won in this building before, but it's been a long time coming.

Heading into tonight's matchup with the Predators, Hitchcock, owner of 563 wins in his NHL career, doesn't have many of them here at Bridgestone Arena. In fact, the Blues' coach last won here four teams ago -- as coach of the Dallas Stars.

Hitchcock comes into tonight's game 0-11-6-1 in his last 18 visits to Nashville, spanning games coached with Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and now the Blues.

His last win here was on Feb. 13, 2001. So what's the key to winning here tonight and hurling that gorilla off Hitchcock's back?

"We've got to understand that the best player on their team is their goalie," Hitchcock said of Pekka Rinne, who is 12-5-2 lifetime against the Blues, including 4-0-0 this season. "It starts with outworking him. And you've got to plow through adversity.

"You're going to get adversity because they've got players who know how to win, they've got players who know how to play, they've got good structure, a good system. You're just plowing through a lot adversity and you've just got to stay determined like that. Nashville wins a lot of games by frustrating the opposition. ... They wear you down mentally and I think you've just got to be able to stay with it."

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Whether they like it or not, the Blues (36-17-7) will get acclimated with one another, and they'll do it away from home where the road record is not as good as they'd like it to be.

Of the next 16 games, 13 of them will be spent away from Scottrade Center, and after losing two in a row for the first time in regulation for the first time since Oct. 28-30, they'll get the opportunity to deal with some adversity for the start of a six-game trip.

"Good or not, it's coming," captain David Backes said. "We're going to play some tough teams on the road. We need to find a way to get points. We haven't had this streak of losses very often this year. The quicker we turn around, the better off we're going to be."

Added defenseman Barret Jackman: "It's definitely a big test for us coming up heading on the road for 10 days. It's going to test our team, but we're definitely ready for the challenge."

The Blues have not lost three in a row in regulation all season long. A loss here tonight would make that all come to fruition, but it's something they'd like to avoid heading down the home stretch.

"The year that I won the Cup (in New Jersey), we went on an eight-game losing streak before the end of the year and fired our coach," Arnott said. "We thought all heck was going to break loose and we ended up going out, coming together and winning.

"You just never know, but you don't want to go through those things. You want to go through the last stretch on a high and playing well together. Obviously things aren't going to go your way the whole time, but if you can narrow the gap down and play more of a solid game than just half, you're going to be better off."

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The Blues have suddenly gone south with their play in the third period, an area that has been rock-solid for this team in winning 36 games.

They've given up three goals to Chicago and one to Boston in third periods over the last two games. Prior to that, the Blues allowed a total of four third-period goals in 22 games, including a stretch in which they had 10 in a row without allowing anything.

"The last couple games for us, we've really liked our first 40 minutes. We've not liked our third period," Hitchcock said. "In order to beat a team like Nashville, it's a lot like beating us. You've got to trust your work. I think that knowing Nashville, both teams have been able to come back in games. It's because the other team's maybe let up a little bit. For me, tonight's a game about trusting our work, trusting our work for 60 minutes."

What's happened in the last couple third periods? Hitchcock said it's all about the team believing in what they do.

"We've got to trust our work a little bit more," Hitchcock said. "We're kind of pulling back a little bit and kind of allowing the other team to maybe even out the dictating part of the game. That's not how we're built, that's not how we're structured, that's not how we play.

"We're a very good team when we're in attack mode and staying in attack mode. You saw that in the last 10 minutes of the first period yesterday and the whole second period, we're a really good team when we play that way. That's the way we have to play is stay in attack mode. I thought we came off it again in the third. It's been two games in a row we've done that. We don't want to see that."
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