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Blues cruise to 6-0 win over Linkoping

by Dan Rosen

"I think our last three games we played pretty good as a team.  We got our power play going and our penalty kill has been pretty good throughout the preseason. We got better every game we played, which is good. We're ready for the season now." -- David Perron

LINKOPING, Sweden -- The St. Louis Blues closed out their preseason schedule Tuesday night exactly as they had planned -- with another win.
A 6-0 drubbing of Linkopings HC here at Cloetta Center was the last piece of on-ice business the Blues needed to tend to before their regular season opens Friday back in Stockholm against Detroit in the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere.
Of course, as coach Andy Murray noted, there are still many questions about this team that likely won't be answered until December, but the Blues won their last three preseason games using mostly their regular lineup by a combined score of 15-1.
"I think our last three games we played pretty good as a team," said Blues forward David Perron, who scored the first goal Tuesday just 1:12 into the game. "We got our power play going and our penalty kill has been pretty good throughout the preseason. We got better every game we played, which is good. We're ready for the season now."
Thanks to a gentleman's agreement Murray had with Linkopings coach Slavomir Lener, all 25 eligible players the Blues brought on the trip dressed and played in the game. D.J. King is headed to the injured reserve, so he did not play.
Paul Kariya scored twice and Perron, Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and Carlo Colaiacovo each had a goal. Chris Mason, Ty Conklin and Ben Bishop combined for the Blues' second shutout in their last three games.
Kariya's power-play goal in the second period was the Blues' seventh in that span. They also killed off 14 of their last 15 penalties, including a 5-on-3 for 1:25 in the third period Tuesday.
"It was different to mentally prepare for this game, but we did a really good job, or at least as good as we could," Mason told "We showed the other team respect that we're going to play them hard and we did. That was really good because it could have been a difficult game."
Perron opened the scoring and Colaiacovo scored a little over five minutes later off a cross-circle feed from B.J. Crombeen. Berglund got the first of the Blues' three goals in the second by cleaning up a loose puck in front of goalie Christian Engstrand at 9:49.
Kariya then scored twice within a span of roughly four minutes to make it 5-0. His first, the power-play tally, came after Keith Tkachuk tipped Brad Boyes' shot from just below the left circle. The puck was loose in front and Kariya scored from above the right post.
His second goal went off a Linkopings' defenseman. Steen scored 11:02 into the third period.
"Everything we have done up to this point is dress rehearsal and tonight was the last dress rehearsal," Murray told "Now we go for real on Friday."

Depth matters
-- One quick scan of the forward lines Blues coach Andy Murray deployed in Linkoping shows a heck of a lot more depth than they had even last season when the Blues went on their startling run to clinch a postseason berth.

A lot of it has to do with the return of Paul Kariya, who had both of his hips operated on last season and was limited to just 11 games.

"It's huge," Brad Boyes told in regards to the return of Kariya, who had 15 points in his 11 games last season. "We have a 1A, 1B sort of thing with Paul back. It gives us that 1-2 punch going out there and now we're all a threat, which is huge."

Kariya is playing on the left side of Keith Tkachuk and Boyes. David Backes is centering the other scoring line with Andy McDonald on his left and David Perron on his right.

The third line can be a scoring line as well, since it includes Patrik Berglund between T.J. Oshie and Brad Winchester. As rookies last season, Oshie and Berglund combined for 86 points (35 goals and 51 assists) in 133 games. Winchester had 21 points in 63 games.

The fourth line has Jay McClement centering Alex Steen and B.J. Crombeen. Those three combined for 76 points last season.

"Because the guys are healthy, our depth is great," Boyes said. "You look at in preseason, it's been guys on every line chipping in and that's what you need to be a good team. We learned that last year that you need to have all four lines contributing. It's great because we're all pushing each other, too.

Jackman happy with camp -- Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, who is entering his seventh season, told Tuesday that he believes training camp has simply been a continuation of how the Blues finished last season.

From Feb. 12 to March 12 the Blues went from 15th in the West to sixth. They eventually finished sixth by going 9-1-1 in their last 11 games.

"Everybody came to camp in great shape because most of the guys were in St. Louis by the second week of August and we were practicing pretty much as a group," Jackman said. "I think we've gelled. We have had some nice games, especially the last two against Minnesota and Dallas. We have really played the way we want to; moved the puck around well and our specialty teams were clicking like they were last year. We're excited for the year."

The Blues beat Minnesota and Dallas by a combined score of 9-1. They were 6-for-9 on the power play and killed off 11 of 12 opposition power plays.

Blues scavenge for clues -- Following their Monday practice, the Blues took a page out of the Pittsburgh Penguins' playbook for avoiding jet lag last season and sent the players out on a scavenger hunt around Stockholm.

They used the same company the Penguins used last year to organize it. The hunt took the players all around the city, so they could sightsee, bond and stay awake all at the same time.

"We wanted to get them out of the hotel because yesterday was a bad day to sleep," coach Andy Murray said. "So we organized a scavenger hunt where they had to go to different historical sites in the city so they could see the city. They had to run to catch buses, catch trains, catch taxis. They saw the whole city, the palace, the city hall, and it kept them awake. We ended up at a restaurant and had dinner together. We wanted to do some team-building stuff."

To make the most of it, Murray said he grouped the players "based on their lines and defense pairs so they had to communicate and try to get along." This was the second year in a row Darryl Sydor got to do the scavenger hunt, as he was with the Penguins last season.

Quick Wings update -- While we spent most of the day with the Blues, we were able to find out that Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg skated again in Tuesday's practice and, while in Linkoping scouting the Blues, Wings coach Mike Babcock told that he believes Zetterberg will play in the exhibition game Wednesday night.

The Wings will take a three-hour train ride to Karlstad to play Farjestads BK, one of the premier teams in the Swedish Elite League.

"It would be nice to get some action before Friday," Zetterberg said after the Wings' workout Tuesday. "If not, just have to deal with that."

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