ST. LOUIS --
If the sellout crowd Tuesday night didn't notice who was killing penalties against the Blackhawks, that's understandable.
It's not often Patrik Berglund
and Chris Stewart
are playing against the man advantage. As a matter of fact, they never play there at all. They are typically playing on the Blues' power play. But new coach Ken Hitchcock has changed that as well. Only he hadn't realized the two members of the Blues' second line never played in those situations before.
"I didn't know that they weren't on the PK," Hitchcock said. "They just looked like they could check so out they went.
"I just felt like that anybody that's got a good stick and anybody that's got a smart stick needs to kill penalties. I trusted Stewy before. He was a good player. I had him for a month (for Team Canada at the World Championship this summer), but he was a darn good player for me. He's got a really good stick, Berglund's got a great stick. For me, you've got to have those guys kill penalties."
"To me, good players have to play 20-plus (minutes)," Hitchcock said. "Your top forwards have got to play 20-plus because you've got all these stoppages and time outs. You've got three or four periods where you've got 90 seconds. There's all kinds of time to rest. I don't know why these guys can't play those types of minutes.
"When you play top players in critical situations, there's ownership that takes over. They know that they can't get scored on, they know that the coach trusts them and plus, there's only one way to kill penalties: You have to stop and you have to start. There's no easy ice. You've got to make sacrifices, you've got to block shots, you've got to get pucks out, playing against other teams' best players, you've got to compete like hell ... it forces you to compete.
"You have no choice, because everybody's counting on you. I've always done that. I've always played top players killing penalties. I haven't worried about a shot off an ankle or whatever. That's the chance you take. (Mike) Modano killed penalties, (Rick) Nash was an unbelievable penalty killer. I just feel like the top players have to be out there in every situation. Nothing more unnerves a power play when the top players are going out there because they're one bobbled puck away from giving up a 2-on-1 or a goal against. They anticipate the play."
Both players have taken the added responsibility accordingly.
"It's a really tough mission to go out there and kill penalties, a big responsibility," Berglund said. "You've really got to work hard for your teammates. I just tried to stay aggressive and move my feet."
Added Stewart, "A game like yesterday, if you weren't on the PK, you were going to be sitting on the bench a long time. It shows that (Hitchcock) trusts me to put me in a situation like that, so it's obviously a big confidence booster.
"I'll invite all the ice time I can get. I want to be a guy who can play in those key situations."