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Blues focused on 60-minute effort against Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

FLYERS (39-27-8) at BLUES (50-17-7)


Last 10: Philadelphia 6-3-1; St. Louis 6-3-1

Season series: It's the second and final regular-season game between the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues. On March 22, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek each had a goal and an assist to lead the Flyers to a 4-1 win in Philadelphia.

Big story: Despite leading the Western Conference in points, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he hasn't been satisfied with his team's effort the last few games.

"What I'm troubled by that I'd like to see changed is we're in the 40-50 minute range for hockey, not the 60-minute," Hitchcock said Monday. "We were great against Toronto [a 5-3 Blues win March 25], went to sleep for 10 minutes, game on. We were asleep for 10 minutes against Minnesota [a 5-1 Blues win March 27] and then game on. You all know what the playoffs are like; you can't sleep for 10 minutes. It's game over, not game on."

The Flyers continue their rough ride through the season. It will be their eighth game in the past 10 against teams currently holding spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; the other two are against teams within two points of a spot in the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs. Rather than dwell on the difficult schedule, coach Craig Berube sees it as good preparation for the postseason.

"Well, it doesn't hurt," he said. "It just shows you … we're going to St. Louis and we just played them, it's going to be another real competitive game. They're good teams for a reason. Good teams play with good structure and follow the system and they play extremely hard."

Team Scope:

Flyers: The good news for forward Steve Downie is he has passed his concussion baseline testing and his neck is feeling better nine days after a hard collision with the Blues forward Patrik Berglund on the opening shift of the game on March 22.

Downie has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, one he said Monday included whiplash. While he was a full participant in an optional practice Monday, he will not be in the lineup when the Flyers and Blues play again Tuesday.

While Downie says he feels good, he knows it will take a bit more time for him to return to game shape.

"It takes a couple of days to get back," he said. "I'm cleared and passed all the tests. I took a pretty weird shot to the neck in an awkward position. I had some neck issues but it's all cleared up right now. I'm healthy. It all comes down to getting your legs back and getting the timing back. A couple more skates and we'll see."

Blues: The Blues have gotten great seasons from their top line of Alexander Steen, T.J. Oshie and David Backes; the three rank 1-2-3 on the team in points.

However, Hitchcock knows that as well as his top line is playing, teams don't win the Stanley Cup with one line. That's why he's "probing" for someone to step up and provide secondary scoring.

"We're not looking for combinations that work; it's too late for that," he said. "We're trying to get people to understand when they play really well how it looks and what it feels like. We had some conversations with people [Monday], we'll have some more [Tuesday]. Try to get more people connected and involved in the finishing part of our game. I think all of us feel as happy as we are for the one line, you can't win with one line doing that. We're trying to get more people included.

"One of the reasons we're so high up in the standings as far as offense goes is that we've gotten great season from a lot of people other than Backes, Oshie and Steen and that's what given us that success. One of the guys is not there, [Vladimir] Tarasenko, so other guys, we're probing to see if we can get other guys to step up their game and fill out that void."

Who's hot: Flyers captain Claude Giroux finished March with six goals and 15 assists in 14 games. … Oshie was named NHL Third Star of the Week on Monday after totaling four goals and two assists in three games last week, including his first career hat trick March 27 against the Minnesota Wild.

Injury report: For the Flyers, Downie (upper body) and defenseman Kimmo Timonen (upper body) are out. … For the Blues, Tarasenko (thumb) is out and defenseman Jordan Leopold (ankle) is questionable.


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