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Blues won't blame fatigue entering Game 4

St. Louis looking for energy from goalie switch in Western Final against Sharks

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- If fatigue and the aftermath of playing two straight seven-game series are excuses why the St. Louis Blues are down 2-1 in the Western Conference Final and changing goalies against the San Jose Sharks, they're not using it.

The Blues, who will start goalie Jake Allen instead of Brian Elliott in Game 4 at SAP Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), ran the gamut against two fast, quick-transition teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars, in the first and second rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The fact St. Louis didn't put away Chicago until Game 7 when they had the Blackhawks down 3-1 in the series, and had Dallas down 3-2 before losing then winning a deciding game, had the Blues playing two more games than the Sharks going into this series.

Is it taking a toll? Are the Blues running out of gas against the Sharks' grinding, checking, physical style that St. Louis likes to play?

Some suggest it is, coming off back-to-back shutout losses (4-0 in Game 2 and 3-0 in Game 3) for the first time in their playoff history, a scoreless string at 150:45.

Video: STL@SJS, Gm3: Jones turns away Stastny

"I don't think so," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "After the last series, we had a few days to rest the bodies and get ready for this series. That's not an issue for us. I think the way we've played these last two games has kind of played into their hands a little bit.

"They made some adjustments after Game 1, and positionally we were very good last game, and I felt like we were forcing pucks, we weren't as composed as we had been in prior series and in Game 1 and kind of almost fueled their game plan as opposed to helping ourselves."

Elliott started all 17 Blues games this postseason, and played all but 49:57. Hitchcock mulled starting him in Game 7 against Dallas before choosing to. On Saturday, he is going to use Allen.

"Any time we lose, we talk about energy level," Hitchcock said. "For me, I looked at that first and foremost. Where is the energy? When I saw him at the rink the next day (before playing Dallas), I saw him stopping pucks, there was no question we were going with Brian.

"This is different though. We need a little bit of a change right now. We're paying for the few mistakes we make. That's what teams who are so dialed in to checking do. The few mistakes we're making, we are paying for it right now.

"We made them pay in Game 1 (a 2-1 win). They're making us pay in 2 and 3. We have to have a little bit of a change in attitude towards that."

Video: STL@WSH: Allen denies Ovechkin on the doorstep

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said playing back-to-back seven-game series isn't an excuse. He said there has been no toll on their bodies.

"No," Pietrangelo said. "We got depth for a reason; we're playing everybody. So are they. I think it's more so us executing our game plan and doing what we need to do."

San Jose ended its first two series in 12 games, and having the luxury of more rest, its physical nature has enabled it to wear down St. Louis.

"It's different games," Steen said. "In Game 1, we have the lead and we play a different game than Game 2 and 3; we're chasing the score and they're able to play a little bit differently than had it been a tie game or we would have been up."

The Blues didn't practice Friday; they looked at video, and Hitchcock said if they can clean up a certain few areas, they give themselves a chance moving forward.

"We gave up [16] shots (in Game 3)," Hitchcock said. "The feeling I have is, if we clean up the transition stuff and stop giving up these odd-man rushes like we did ... like we gave up five odd-man rushes in the first half of the game yesterday all based on us having the puck, not them having the puck. And if we can clean that stuff up, then I think we're really going to give this a go, but that's the key. We've got to clean that stuff up because those are the ones that are burying us."

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