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Blues face big challenges before All-Star break

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

PITTSBURGH - Whatever the "it" is that helps you find consistency night-in and night-out, the Blues are trying to find it.

"We're coming back from California (after back-to-back wins against San Jose and Anaheim) and a lot of people are feeling really good about themselves," Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "There's a coaching staff feeling really good about themselves, players feeling really good about themselves and then five days later, it's like 'holy smokes! Let's get this thing turned around again.'

"You can live in the details that (struggles) aren't happening or deal with the issues. You know me, I prefer to deal with the issues and move forward."

The Blues are trying to deal with those issues despite a rugged schedule. Only two games remain before the All-Star break and a weekend away from the rink - for everyone but Vladimir Tarasenko - but the remaining games couldn't be any tougher. Tonight at 6 p.m. CT (NBCSN, KMOX), the Blues have a date with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins before traveling to St. Paul, MN, where they'll face the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild, who are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

"That's pretty good motivation right there," said Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. "Normally (these games are) a bit of a measuring stick, but for us, it's more of a get-back-on-track sort of game. If you have a good game, play well and play the way you're supposed to, you put a couple wins up and start feeling good about yourself. One at a time, but tonight is going to be tough."

Video: Blues face big challenge from Pens

The Penguins have won four straight games and currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They are 20-2-2 at home this season and are lead by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are tied for the team-lead with 54 points. Phil Kessel ranks third and is on a near point-per-game pace, recording 45 points in 46 games.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Hitchcock said of the matchup between the Blues and Penguins. "They're an all-in mentality. Everybody is on the page… When they're on their game, they're playing that way. And when they're not, they grab themselves. That's what championship teams do and I think we're capable of giving them a real go, we just have to stay with it."

"Both of these games before the break are huge," added Blues forward Jaden Schwartz. "We're going to need everybody because of who the two teams are. It should be a good contest for us and we're looking forward to the challenge. I'm sure everyone will be ready to go."

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