Blues hope break has rejuvenated the team -

Blues hope break has rejuvenated the team

(HockeySTL) -- After a three-day break, Blues players, rejuvenated by holiday festivities, were back on the ice Saturday. The team’s morning skate, prior to their game against Dallas marked the first time the team had skated together since the disappointing 5-0 loss to Colorado on Tuesday.

“You don’t want to go on a three-day break after that so I think everyone kind of let that one go,” T.J. Oshie said. “Definitely a concern, we don’t want to take a turn going that direction but it was nice to forget about it and have a nice three days off with the family.

“You learn from it but for the most part you have to throw it away and move past.”

It was a cliché thrown around in the team’s locker room Saturday morning, but it appeared to be a true one as players reflected briefly on the tough road trip that ended in Colorado and made the motion to put it behind them.

The three-game trip, which started in Los Angeles more than a week ago, took the Blues to San Jose and Colorado. It ended with the Blues grabbing just one of six possible points.

“There were some positives but still, we have to get two points whether we are playing good or not,” Oshie said. “At the end of the day the two points are what’s important.”

The Blues had leads in each of the first two games, a three-goal lead against the Kings and a late one-goal lead versus the Sharks. Both were coughed up.

“The L.A. game wasn’t that good, I know I wasn’t,” said Oshie. “The San Jose game was pretty good but we have to find ways to close those out. Colorado was Colorado.”

Immediately following the disaster in Colorado, the team flew back to St. Louis to begin their holiday break. For the players and coaching staff, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“For sure,” said goaltender Jake Allen. “I’m sure everyone around the league would say the same thing. Two full days off was nice but it’s good to be back and have a chance to redeem ourselves.”

“It was good, I guess, mentally, to stay away, just stay at our apartments,” Vladimir Tarasenko said. “But now we are ready to play. We can play better.”

Oshie spent the break with his family. He said his little girl, Lyla, received a toy roller coaster as a gift.

“She is loving it,” he said. “I have a sore lower back from bending over so much but it’s great.”

For head coach Ken Hitchcock, no break is ever truly a break, but he admitted it was nice to get away from the rink for a bit.

“Our job is to worry; that’s what we do,” Hitchcock said. “We gave ourselves lots to worry about. I think just getting a break, not looking at video, going to movies and other stuff, it’s a good break.”

Hitchcock returned to hockey a day earlier than his players. He began looking ahead at the chances the Blues will have to garner revenge.

“We started, as a coaching staff, dialing it up yesterday. Players came in today. I think every team looks at this as how many games do we have until the All-Star break. We have 12. Narrow our focus three or four games at a time and we will see where we go.”

And quickly, it’s back to business for the entire team, which sits in fourth place in the Western Conference, third in the Central Division, with a 21-10-3 record and 45 points. Prior to the rough Western swing, the Blues had won six consecutive. The Blues also had a seven-game win streak earlier in the season. The trendy success this year has the Blues feeling hopeful that they can jump out of the funk.

“We feel like we are right in the mix but we haven’t played our best hockey yet,” Hitchcock said. “We think we have more potential in us but we are right in the mix with everyone else. Part of it is a good feeling and part of it is how do we get more?”

Four points separate the Blues and the last Western Conference playoff spot. It’s a cushion, but it’s not much of one. It makes the next three games, all against Central Division foes, that much more important.

“You have two groups of teams,” said Hitchcock. “Those who are catching up and those who have built cushion and want to keep the cushion. I think these three games against division opponents, they really get our attention.”

The Blues are hoping, following the break, that they can find more consistency throughout the lineup. If the team had a Christmas list, that item would certainly have been on it.

 “We have got the record we have by extraordinary at times during the competition but we haven’t had enough of that real sound team game,” Hitchcock said. “That’s our goal. We are capable of it and we know what it feels and looks like. It’s just a matter of getting back to it quickly.”

The Blues hope to buck the recent trend Saturday against Dallas, but more importantly, they look to rediscover the style of game that has led to so much success the past few years.

“I think it’s going back to what we are,” Hitchcock said. We aren’t built like Dallas or Colorado. We are built differently so we have got to get our game in more minutes during the game.”

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