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Blues remain confident due to home-ice advantage

by Louie Korac

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Despite losing two straight and seeing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks even their Western Conference First Round series, the St. Louis Blues won't lack confidence heading into Game 5 on Friday.

Each team is unbeaten in its home arena so far in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series, and St. Louis will look to continue that trend in Game 5 at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW).

"Nobody's panicking ... we're not in a bad spot," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said Thursday. "It's tied, and we still have home ice. We have a good opportunity here. I don't think anyone's worried where we're at or anything like that. We're not.

"We knew going [to Chicago] that it was going to be tough. It's not the easiest place to play. We still have home ice; we had a couple of close games [in Games 3 and 4]. It has not been one-sided games or anything like that. You just keep going. It's a three-game series now, and that's the way you approach it."

Center David Backes did not participate in the Blues' optional skate Thursday afternoon, and coach Ken Hitchcock offered no update regarding the condition of his captain. Backes has not played since sustaining an upper-body injury after a check from Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game 2. Seabrook can return for Game 6 after he received a three-game suspension for the illegal hit.

"He's not skating [Thursday], so read what you want from that," Hitchcock said. "He's not around, he's not skating, so we'll see [Friday]. Hopefully he's able to get back before Seabrook, so it doesn't turn into a little bit of an advantage for Chicago."

The Blackhawks have outscored the Blues 12-11 through four games. That Chicago total includes one goal into an empty net, indicating how even these two teams have been so far.

"The series is even, the scoring chances are even, goals for [and] goals against are even, special teams percentages are even," Hitchcock said. "So it's us getting to our game, them getting to their game. Whoever does it more [Friday] is going to win the hockey game. I think they've been good for half the game in playing the way they need to play. We've been good for half the game. The series is probably right where it belongs.

"Neither team is giving an inch. Both teams are, for me, fully invested and trying to win this series. Nobody is going away. They're not going away; we're not going away. Both teams have [an] injured player or suspended player that affects the outcome pretty dramatically. So you've got to get through that too. Everything is just so even, you get down to a best-of-3."

If the Blues are to retain home-ice advantage in this series, they'll need to get off to a strong start. Chicago scored first in each of the past two games.

"We've got to find a way to get into our game earlier," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We talked about that [Thursday], especially at home. When you have an opportunity to play in front of your home crowd and get to the game early, it's going to benefit us later on in the game.

"Playing in front of our own fans, we won both of our games at home. We seem to dictate more at home than on the road, so if we can get off to an early start in front of the home fans, it's going to give us a little bit of an extra jump."

Given the recent history between the teams, the Blues are not surprised the series is even. They are, however, confident, in part due to having home ice.

"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy series. If you watched the games we played [against Chicago] in the regular season, they were all one-goal games, for the most part," Pietrangelo said. "Coming home [tied] 2-2, we feel pretty good. We've got the home-ice advantage with two out of the three now."

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