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Blues hope team-bonding trip pays off

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have gone a full week without playing a game while the rest of the NHL is flying past them in games played.

Other than the New York Rangers (eight games), everyone else in the League has played at least two more games than the seven by the Blues, who got an unusual early quirk in the schedule.

So instead of practicing and lounging around St. Louis and having some training camp-type practices, the team was able to get away for a few days for some rest, relaxation and a few workouts on the eastern coast of Charleston, S.C.

A little bit of everything was involved, from golfing to fishing, guys getting away to see a movie, shopping at some of Charleston's finest stores and good old-fashioned team bonding.

As the Blues (5-1-1) get set to play in back-to-back games this weekend (Friday against the Vancouver Canucks and Saturday at the Nashville Predators), players said the time spent together was beneficial.

"It was good to get away for the week and spend some time together just to relax and have a few laughs, play a little bit of golf, get some dinners under the belt," forward Chris Stewart said. "We had the rookie dinner too, which was fun. It was a nice little break to get away as a team."

And what was the gist of the rookie dinner? Typically it involved some razzing with the youngest players picking up the check, which tends to be quite expensive due to the dinner being held at a swanky restaurant.

"What goes on there stays there," Stewart said with a laugh. "You've got to ask Adam Cracknell. He's the rookie, not me."

"That place was probably one of the best steaks I've ever had," Cracknell said. "… I got hit pretty hard, so I had the biggest steak I could find on the menu because I was paying for it.

"It was a good trip to go on. … It was nice to get away. We don't get to go deep-sea fishing or golfing on nice golf courses on the water. Any time you take advantage of that it's good. We had team bonding, nice dinners, just see a part [of the U.S.] we might never see. It was a great town and it was just a good trip to get away."

Forward Jaden Schwartz, who played golf, shopped and took in a move, decided to stay away from the boats.

"I was going to go, but I thought I might get seasick," he said. "I decided to stay away.

"It was fun to get away for a bit rather than being here for a week. We did some things as a team. We still practiced, which was nice. We had some things to work on. But overall it was a good trip. We had fun and we enjoyed the hospitality there."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he wanted his players to enjoy some time together without relying on a set schedule.

"The players never get an opportunity to spend any time with themselves," he said. "Everything is structured. Their lives are structured, their travel's structured, their days are structured. Other than the hour-and-a-half or two hours we spend at the rink, their days weren't structured. They had time with each other, time to do things together without somebody organizing it.

"The team building they get is by being able to talk to each other and visit with each other and get to know each other. It's interesting to get to see different dynamics unfold. On the trip, what started out as people together ended up with different people together. It's fascinating to me how guys gravitate towards each other."

The Canucks are at the opposite end of the spectrum, with this being their 13th game, the most in the League.

Vancouver comes in off a 3-2 shootout win at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. This one will be the last of a seven-game trip (they're 4-1-1 thus far) and they come in banged up.

Both David Booth (lower body) and Dale Weise (lower body) were injured Thursday and are not expected to play Friday. The Canucks, who did not skate Friday morning, recalled forwards Pascal Pelletier and Darren Archibald from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.

The Canucks held an optional morning skate with limited skaters on the ice, including Alexandre Burrows, who hasn't played since the season opener due to a broken foot. There's a chance he could come off injured reserve and make his return to the lineup Friday.

Defenseman Andrew Alberts, who played 1:49 Thursday, also was on the ice, along with backup goalie Eddie Lack.

The Blues' probable lineup, along with the Canucks' projected lineup:


Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Magnus Paajarvi - Derek Roy - Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart

Brenden Morrow - Vladimir Sobotka - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Adam Cracknell, Ian Cole

Suspended: Maxim Lapierre


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Ryan Kesler

Chris Higgins - Mike Santorelli - Zack Kassian

Brad Richardson - Jeremy Welsh - Tom Sestito

Pascal Pelletier - Darren Archibald

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Alexander Edler - Jason Garrison

Ryan Stanton - Christopher Tanev

Andrew Alberts

Eddie Lack

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Yannick Weber

Injured: Alexandre Burrows (foot), Jordan Schroeder (ankle), Jannik Hansen (upper body), David Booth (lower body), Dale Weise (lower body)

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