ST. LOUIS - Home sweet home.
That’s where the Blues will be for the next 22 days as the team begins a season-long seven-game home stand.
And it’s most welcome, too. Of the last 23 games, 16 have been on the road.
“It’s great sleeping in your own bed and being in your own house, your own rink,” T.J. Oshie said. “It’s a different element. It’s really nice to be back.”
“It’s nice - we love playing at home in front of our fans,” Jaden Schwartz added. “It gives us a lot of energy and we’re home for a few weeks now, so we’ll settle in and make sure it starts tonight with a good heavy team in San Jose. We don’t want to look too far ahead, but at the same time, we know we have a seven-game home stand, but we’ll focus on tonight and we’ll look at the other games later.”
Tonight brings the San Jose Sharks to town, a team that will be hungry for a win after getting beat by the Blues 7-2 last Saturday at SAP Center. In that game, Oshie scored his second career hat trick and a four-point night, while Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk also scored four points.
Oshie said there’s plenty to take away from that game.
“I think (we take) what we did good - getting pucks deep, trying to wear their ‘D’ down and try to do it again tonight, but we expect a real big push from them,” he said. “We got the best of them that game. We always have great games, the score is rarely like that when we play San Jose.
“It’s going to be a good game tonight, it’s going to be tough, and we’ve got to be ready to drop the puck.”
Added Shattenkirk, “How successful we are at home, how well we play in this building - we look at it as a very exciting opportunity for us to make a little push here and catch some of these teams that are ahead of us. It’s such a tight division and such a tight conference, you have to use your home games to your advantage.
“We’re a team that plays well in Scottrade Center, and for us to let this slip away would be a real shame.”
The Blues are 13-4-1 at Scottrade Center this season.
The Blues are on a two-game winning streak, in large part to the success of their special teams so far in January.
The penalty kill has given up just one goal in the last 12 opportunities (91.7%), while the power-play has converted on six of the last 14 chances (42.9%).
“The power play has been good, no question there, but the PK has been better,” Schwartz said. “It’s a big reason why we’re putting some wins together now. Before, teams were scoring a lot more than we liked, and special teams are huge, so we want to be on the winning side of those.”
Regarding the power-play, Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said the difference is in the team’s ability to make adjustments.
“That’s the number one thing. We’ve adjusted to the opposing team more this year than any time. We haven’t been stuck on our way of doing things,” Hitchcock said. “We haven’t been stuck on ‘this is where we place our players’ and become predictable. We’ve adjusted, and now we have multiple options because of it.”
The Blues lead the League with a 25.7% success rate on the power play this season.
THE GOALIE SITUATION
Brian Elliott will start in goal tonight, making his fourth appearance in the last five games.
Hitchcock was asked this morning if it was reasonable for the team to carry three goaltenders.
“Doesn’t bother me, but I’m not the guy waiting for the third net,” Hitchcock said. “I think as long as the starter gets his work, the rest of the guys will get their work like they did today, in the last 15 minutes (of practice). Our focus right now is on Elliott and keeping him and up and running. The other two guys are going to have to wait their turn.
Jake Allen will back up tonight, while Martin Brodeur will be the healthy scratch.
“If it doesn’t bother the goalies, it shouldn’t bother us,” Hitchcock said of carrying three goalies. “There’s a lot that Marty brings to this team. It’s a real revealing situation when you bring in players of winning pedigree, the way they look at the competition, the way they look at improvement and adjustments, it’s really refreshing and revealing to bring in people with that type of pedigree.”
Ryan Ramshaw, the fan whose mask design was voted the winner of the Design Jake’s Mask contest in November, will meet Allen tonight after the game. It’s also the first time he’ll see the mask in person. Ramshaw’s design was selected out of the over 400 submissions.
David Backes is the first player to score four consecutive goals in one game since Ilya Kovalchuk did for the Atlanta Thrashers on Nov. 11, 2005.