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Blues hope to continue home feeling on the road

Wednesday, 12.23.2009 / 6:10 PM / NHL Insider

By Todd Kimberley - Correspondent

CALGARY -- The keys to victory? Toiletry kits, garment bags, and charter flights.

No one loves to get the show on the road this season like the St. Louis Blues.

"We've moved all our home games to Peoria," quipped coach Andy Murray on Wednesday morning.

But seriously, folks ...

The Bluenotes are a puzzling squad this season. It's a Missouri-loves-company scenario at the Scottrade Center, where the Blues hold, unequivocally, the worst home record across the NHL, with just six wins and 14 points (6-11-2) in 19 games.

On the road, however, they're a different team altogether -- with the third-best winning percentage (.719) in the 30-team loop, and a 10-3-3 record heading into Wednesday's final pre-Christmas test against the homestanding Calgary Flames at Pengrowth Saddledome.

"It's attention to detail. It's having more substance in your game than flash," Murray told reporters. "We play hard. We play with good structure on the road. Substance simply means you're prepared to make direct plays; you're prepared to put pucks in behind the other team's defensemen."

The Blues' current road trip is a perfect case in point. Since the Flames moved from Atlanta starting with the 1980-81 season, St. Louis has made a three-game trek through Western Canada 27 times -- and has never swept all three Northwest Division clubs.

But they were on the verge of making history Wednesday, after a 3-1 win against the Canucks in Vancouver on Sunday and a 7-2 bombing of the Oilers in Edmonton on Monday.

"It's structure and work ethic," said Blues forward Brad Winchester, 28, of Madison, Wisc. "It's something we pride ourselves a lot on. We stick to that, the way we play when we're on the road, it's a good blueprint for us."

Offered Murray: "The game of hockey is no different than the game of basketball or the game of football. Football and basketball coaches talk about turnovers all the time; we in the hockey business tend to talk the same way. Football is all about time of possession. To me, hockey is all about time of possession as well. If you have the puck more than your opponents on most nights, you're going to be victorious.

"We tend, at home, to turn too many pucks over in front of the other team, and we feed their offense rather than ours," he added. "I think at times at home we've tried to play with a little too much flash, and we haven't played with the attention to detail that we need."

Heading into Wednesday's game, the Blues' power play had leapt to life, with at least one strike in the five of the club's past six games -- including a four-goal bonanza in Edmonton.

The offensive jump-start has allowed the Blues to jump from the Western basement up to 11th overall in the conference, five points back of playoff territory.

"Earlier in the season, it was a case of playing pretty well and not being able to score," said Murray, whose team's offense was 30th overall before its lopsided win in Edmonton. "If your special teams are plus-1 on the night, you should win. Our power play has generated chances all year. Right now, we've won some hockey games, and the reason is that the guys that are supposed to score, score. Those are the same guys who play on your power play.

"There's no secrets to your power play. You put your best five offensive players out there on one unit, and your next five on your next unit," added Murray. "You can have structure and system, and commentators will talk about traffic to the net, and shots from the blue line…but ultimately it's good players making good decisions and good plays."

Quote of the Day

That's today's game. That's one of the things you have to deal with when you're a championship team. Guys are going to earn more money based on their performance and what they've achieved, [and] deservedly so. [Saad] falls into that category.

— Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Brandon Saad, who was traded by Chicago to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason