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Blues aim to end road losing streak in playoffs

by Louie Korac /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues' 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round confirmed that the series will return to St. Louis for a fifth game.

The Blues were focused on evening the best-of-7 series 1-1 and were able to accomplish that, avoiding an 0-2 deficit as they go on the road for Games 3 and 4. But coach Ken Hitchcock said after an optional skate Sunday that he feels the Blues haven't shown their best yet, and that they won't be intimidated going into the opposition's building.

The Blues will be looking to end an eight-game road losing streak in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, during which they've been outscored 25-11.

"It's just business. It's one shift at a time, it's one focus, and that is win the shift," Hitchcock said. "... This is gonna be as loud a building as we had, and it's a very emotional building. This series is as important to their franchise as it is to ours, so we're expecting their best game, but I still think we've got our best game in us.

"I thought the second period of last game was our best so far, and that's what we want to copy and try to build off of. And if we can get to that type of game more often, then it's gonna help us. But right now, we need to make sure that we got a real narrow focus and we're playing our game and get it out there as quickly as possible."

The Wild undoubtedly want to establish their tempo early in Game 3 to get their boisterous crowd into the action, much as the Blues did in Games 1 and 2.

The Blues will have to find a way to neutralize not only the Wild and the jump they'll have in their first home Stanley Cup Playoff game but their crowd as well.

"They've got a fun building to play in. It's loud, it's electrifying, it's bright," goalie Jake Allen said. "They love their hockey in Minnesota, just like they do in St. Louis, so it's going to be fun. We had the fortune of starting at home, and now we go into their territory and try to do our thing there. So just keep playing a simple road game. We were a pretty good road team all year this year, so hopefully we can take that positive mold into [Minnesota]."

When the series began, it was touted one in which the Blues would try to wear down the Wild with physical play, with Minnesota trying to counter with speed and finesse.

But the Wild have matched the Blues in hits (each team had 36 in Game 2), and the Blues will look for more of the same at the start of Game 3.

"Playing in a different building, they're going to have a lot of energy coming out to start and probably feed off their crowd a little bit," left wing Jaden Schwartz said. "I've heard it's a loud building in the playoffs and we'll expect a big push from them early."

The Blues lost the home ice advantage when they lost Game 1. Their sole focus is to get it back with at least one win, if not two, away from Scottrade Center.

"I don't think [Game 3] is any different than Game 4 is gonna be," Hitchcock said. "It's wrestling home ice. It's getting home ice back. You know, you dig a 3-1 hole, you're living on the edge. So to me, we knew this was gonna be a very long series, and it's our job to make it long now and get home ice back again. So for me, it's play Game 3, and whatever happens, happens, and then it's get ready for Game 4. So to me, it's put our best game out there.

"I think for us to win in their building ... I think we're gonna have to play our best game."

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