ST. LOUIS --
The old adage for teams coming off extended trips away from home is that first game back, teams tend to be flat.
In the case of the Blues, a 5-1 trip is something to be proud of since the road hadn't been all too kind to them this season.
So when the Blues (41-18-7) host the rival Chicago Blackhawks
(36-24-7) tonight at Scottrade Center, the Blues will have to guard against that flat start.
Or do they?
"I think playing Chicago gets our attention," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've had our number the last couple games. It's kind of our turn to respond. They've outplayed us, they've outplayed us for more minutes than we've outplayed them. So it's our chance to respond.
"They beat us in this building (5-2 on Dec. 3), and then they took it to us in the second half in that game in Chicago (Feb. 19, a 3-1 result) and nipped us at the end. They got our attention off of that. We'll see where we're at."
The Blues don't feel like there will be an issue, considering they haven't played since Saturday night.
"We had a tough trip and we were away for a while, but I think guys are excited to be here back at home," forward Andy McDonald
said. "Travel's tough on the way back, but we've had a few days of rest. There shouldn't be any excuses. We should be ready to go. ... The extra day really helps so we should be ready."
Winger T.J. Oshie
"Coming out flat isn't really going to be an issue for us," Oshie said. "We've been playing good at home this year, so we want to protect that."
Since coming back from a concussion that forced McDonald to miss 53 games, the veteran center/winger hasn't missed a beat being out of the lineup.
McDonald, 34, has 9 points (6 goals) in 12 games, including 5 points in five games. But there's always more adjusting to do.
"I'm still adjusting. There's some areas that I'd like to clean up in my own game," McDonald said. "I thought that I'd be in top shape by now, but there's some of the timing things that I'd still like to improve on. That's what I'm trying to do. Hopefully our line can (continue) to produce and generate offense every time we're out there but also be strong defensively."
Playing with Patrik Berglund
and David Perron
in recent games seems to have elevated the production from the line in general.
"He's a veteran player and he's been through it before," Hitchcock said of McDonald. "He knows how to pace himself. He knows what to work on. I don't think he pays much attention to it. I think he went through the initial phases where he was enthusiastic and careful, and now he's playing hockey. He's a big part of our team right now. He's a very effective player. We don't have a lot of those rush attack chances, but when he's on the ice, we do. I think that's a threat that makes other teams nervous."
If McDonald has another gear, there will be plenty more points on the table.
"I just remember him and (Brad) Boyes playing catch on the power play," Hitchcock said of McDonald, remembering when he used to coach against the Blues with Columbus. "That's all I remember was bing-bing-bing and in the net. Our sticks were turned over half the time when they had it on the power play. That's what I remember about him from here.
"I think he's a lot stronger than people think he is. I think he surprises people because he can strip you of pucks, he's strong on the puck and he's got great courage to score. He's a great help for us right now."