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Blues battle travel delay before facing Sharks

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- It was supposed to be the end of a successful three-game trip for the St. Louis Blues.

The trip ended with a 4-3 shootout win at the Vancouver Canucks, and they were supposed to board a plane home, with an estimated arrival of 4 p.m. local time Monday.

That didn't quite go according to plan, however.

Instead, the Blues didn't leave Vancouver until after midnight Pacific Standard Time, and finally landed in St. Louis at 6:30 a.m. CT on Tuesday. The 14-hour delay was because of mechanical issues with their charter plane. So rather than get a day's rest then take the ice for the morning skate ahead of a game Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), the Blues were at home ... and in bed.

Blues right wing Chris Stewart, asked if he experienced anything quite like this, wasted little time thinking about an answer.

"No," he said. "That's as close to the American [Hockey] League travel you're going to get there as far as rest.

"We can take her one of two ways. You can mail it in, pack it in, not show up and play tonight, or we can keep this win streak alive and build some good character here."


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Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, toting a hot cup of coffee in his hand, remembered an all-too-familiar experience recently.

"The first game in Finland [playing for TPS Turku during the lockout] was crazier than this," Shattenkirk said, "so I should be ready to go.

"It's pretty unusual. It's going to take a lot to draw whatever we have left here, pour it into tonight, and we'll worry about [Wednesday's game at the Colorado Avalanche] when tomorrow comes."

The Blues did not skate Tuesday, and only associate coach Brad Shaw was at the rink to observe the Sharks' skate in preparation for the game.

It's not exactly the way to embrace the challenge facing the Blues, who went 3-0-0 on a swing that took them to Detroit, Calgary and Vancouver. Awaiting them is a Sharks team that began the season 7-0-0 but since then has gone 0-4-3. However, the Sharks haven't played since Friday, making them far more rested than the travel-weary Blues.

"We can't feel sorry for them or ourselves right now," Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe said of the Blues. "We've just got to play our game."

Clowe, who was an assistant coach with the San Francisco Bulls of the East Coast Hockey League during the lockout, recalled a similar incident for himself recently.

"When I helped coach [the Bulls], I remember once we bussed to Utah and we got in at like 7 in the morning and played that night," Clowe said. "I was like, 'I don't know how you guys do this.' These guys [the Blues] were probably taken back to their minor-league days."

Blues left wing David Perron tweeted late Monday night: "This whole trip reminds me of when we were young playing 3-4 games a day during tournaments on the road."

The Blues began showing up for pregame meetings at 4:30 p.m. local time after getting in roughly six hours of sleep in their own beds and spending time with their families. The timeline of Monday was out of their control.

"Once you realize you're not going to get home, you kind of just put it in the back of your minds and realize it's out of your hands," Stewart said. "You can't really read into the rest situation. We've got to be pros with it. You just take it as it comes."

It prompted Sharks coach Todd McLellan to issue a challenge to his players, who are searching for their first win since Jan. 31.

"The message is pretty clear. The obvious one is, 'Let's win,'" McLellan said. "But the question is, how do we get to that win? And I think the first one is you've got to look across the hallway at a pretty good team, a competitive team. Our memories aren't that short in how they play and how they battle and compete.

"They're also a team that's played a lot of games, had a tough travel day [Monday]. We're the fresh team, so we have absolutely no excuse about not being able to out-work or at least be able to out-compete that team all over the rink, or attempt to. That's the first message, because if you don't out-work teams, you don't win."

"I don't know how they're going to react," McLellan added. "They're well-coached. They're going to be well-prepared. They're playing at home. They're going to play hard and compete. But we know what it's like to travel. We know the toll of being on the road. We know the toll of traveling late. We're fresh. There isn't a player in there that can't say they don't have an energy level that isn't where it's supposed to be, so at the end of the night, whatever happens, I can't come out here and say, 'Boy, the Sharks were tired,' or, 'We're worn out.' We're fresh and we're ready to play. The effort and the commitment level should be there to match that and then we'll see what it does for us in the game."

The Sharks are in the middle of a six-game trip, but days off allowed them to head home after a game Friday in Chicago. They traveled to St. Louis on Monday and are well-rested for Tuesday night.

"It's one of those things that's happened to every team," Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau said. "It's a little adversity. Sometimes teams rise above it, but we've got to focus on what we can control, how we're going to come out and play, because we know how they're going to come out and play hard."

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