DENVER, CO. - The Blues got back to work on Monday at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Ariz. before departing for the last leg of their five-game, 10-day road trip against the NHL's worst team, the Colorado Avalanche.
The Blues have won three of four games on the trip and remain six points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings (81-75) for the second wild card in the Western Conference with a game in hand. The Kings lost again Monday, 2-0 at Edmonton, and have 10 games remaining. The Blues have 11.
The Blues fell out of third place in the Central Division after the Nashville Predators beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1. But the Blues have Tuesday's game in hand and own the tiebreaker on the Predators based on a 37-34 regulation/overtime wins.
But for the Blues, this is a chance at earning a possible eight of 10 points going through a grueling three-game, four-night stretch through California before playing the Western Conference basement teams, the Coyotes and Avalanche.
"We're all looking at the end here," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We know what day we're going home. I think the big thing for us, if we can go home on a note like that, it's going to be a good thing. We've had a couple days to take a break and kind of refresh our minds. The schedule doesn't get any easier. We don't really have a lot of down time. It's a quick turnaround for us, but I think we'll have some new life going home just being excited."
When the Blues embarked in this trip that involves three time zones, going into it, if they knew they had the chance at taking eight of 10 points, it's almost the perfect scenario.
"Oh yeah, I think so, no question," goalie Jake Allen said. "Especially three tough games where after we already had a three in four at home against three big teams in 'Cali' and a team like Arizona that's been playing really well. For us to get that win was big. Points are crucial right now. It doesn't matter who we're playing. Every game's a must-win for us and that's our mindset."
The Blues were put through a crisp, fast-paced roughly 40-minute practice after taking Sunday off. They had finished a stretch of six games in nine days with a 3-0 win against Arizona Saturday and coach Mike Yeo wanted them to get back into the swing before traveling to Denver.
"It looked like we had come off a long stretch and had a day off," Yeo said. "It took us a little while to get our level back up. ... We had to push through it. We knew that. Obviously a day off yesterday was needed. It's obviously a tough stretch and it's hard to get that energy level back up today and to get the pace back up and the execution back up, but that's why we hit the ice today because we don't want to have to travel and flip the switch tomorrow.
"That's a great opportunity (to go 4-1-0). We should really get excited about that opportunity and really look forward to that game tomorrow. I know that they lost their last game, but they were well within winning that game and beating Chicago and probably had an unfortunate set of circumstances that changed that game for them so we better be ready."
"It would be awesome. I think that's our goal here," goalie Carter Hutton said of the possibility of going 4-1-0. "I think our confidence is where it needs to be right now. Every night we know we can win. That's something for a while there, we were up and down. I think even from our standpoint, from a fan's standpoint and from the media standpoint, we didn't know what team was going to show up and right now, we're finding that consistency to bring it every night and if we do drop one here or there, it's right back at it. It wasn't for a lack of effort. It was we played well. So it's just finding that consistency and I think we've all kind of said and Mike's said it a lot if we take care what's in our locker room and what we do, it's going to really lead us to good things and that's where we're headed now and we're going to stay on that."
The Blues (38-28-5), who have won seven of the past eight, are doing it in different ways, according to Yeo.
"We've had shutouts, we've had games where we've scored four goals and needed to win that way," Yeo said. "We've had games where it's been special teams and games where it's been 5-on-5. When you get going pretty good, I think that's usually the case. I think that we're seeing more consistency in our game. When that happens, then you give yourself a better chance night after night. Certainly our top games, you look at a game like L.A., you look at a game like San Jose, these are games where everybody's on the same page and we're going at it there and we're really strong in our team game and that's a good sign that we're seeing that more frequently."
But now the Blues go into another encounter against a team they should beat. The Blues won at Pepsi Center 3-0 on March 5 and return again for a game on March 31. But Yeo said he's tired of hearing about the Blues' supposed easy schedule; they play nine of their 11 remaining games against non-playoff teams.
"These teams win games at the end of the year; they always do," Yeo said. 'We have to make sure they don't do it against us.
"Yeah, because it's not easy. First off, the games, they present different challenges. Look at the skill they still have in their lineup. For me, it's the skill, but it's also the challenge of the games, it's making sure you're able to get yourself mentally and physically prepared the way you would against a team that you're locked in a playoff battle with and make sure that you have the intensity that you would in those types of games, make sure that you don't get caught up in sort of a loose, free-flowing game because they have nothing to lose. So they're going to go out and they're going to play for jobs and we have to make sure that we recognize that it's a different challenge than playing like a team like going into L.A., we knew what was at stake there. These games are a different challenge and ones we have to prepare for."
* NOTES -- Blues right wing David Perron missed practice Monday with what Yeo called a maintenance day. Perron took a big shot when he scored an empty-net goal Saturday, but Yeo said it was "just precautionary."
-- Forward Dmitrij Jaskin skated Monday and did strenuous cardio with head athletic trainer Ray Barile. Jaskin has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury after a collision with teammate Robert Bortuzzo.
"I just talked to him actually," Yeo said after practice. "He did a lot more and was capable of doing a lot more out there than I expected to be honest with you. Good sign that he's coming along. Don't have a time table on him yet, but certainly he's getting closer."
Yeo had no new update on center Jori Lehtera, who missed a fourth straight game with an upper-body injury and has not even been on the trip.
Lehtera was hit in the side of the face with an errant clearing clearing pass.
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