(HockeySTL)-- Trips out west have never really been something the Blues have looked forward to, and in the last few seasons the trips could best be described as horrid. But the team is hoping to put the past in the rearview mirror, and is looking forward to forging a different, more successful record starting tonight.
The Blues, who are coming off of a four-day team-bonding excursion in Palm Springs, are ready to get back to playing hockey. Prior to the hiatus, the Blues split their first two games of the season. However, their win came against a rebuilding Calgary club. The next few games won’t be so easy.
“That’s why you can’t waste those days,” said goaltender Brian Elliott before the team departed for California. “It’s going to be a good measuring stick and you want to come out hard and show what you’re made of.”
Over the course of the next four days, the Blues will play two teams in the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks that combined for 216 points last season. The Kings, the team the Blues face off against to jump-start the three-game trip on Thursday, were the league champions last season. It was L.A.’s second Stanley Cup in the last three seasons. The Blues opened the season against the New York Rangers, the team the Kings beat this past postseason to clinch the Stanley Cup, and faltered.
“We played the Eastern Conference champs and now we are playing the Stanley Cup champs two of our first three games,” said Blues captain David Backes. “It’s going to be another measuring stick. We have to show that we are up to that level and we can play that hard, heavy game and show that skill that we have.”
Since the beginning of 2013, the Blues have posted a 4-13-1 record against the Kings and Ducks, which includes the club’s series loss to L.A. in the 2013 postseason. If you throw in the Blues’ record against San Jose, the Blues are 6-17-1 against the three California teams in that time span. The trip won’t be easy, but it will be telling in regards to where the Blues are currently at in relation to the league’s best.
“Yeah, I think it is,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock when asked if the upcoming trip was a measuring stick. “We have to take another big step here. Win, lose or draw, we have to take more steps.”
In-between the games against the Kings and Ducks, the Blues will make a stop in Arizona to face the Coyotes. While not one of the NHL’s elite teams, the Coyotes are off to a 2-1 start to the season and are tied for sixth in the league in goals scored.
“It’s going to be a very tough trip,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. There are still some areas we need to get better in and be more disciplined in.”
The Blues don’t return to St. Louis until next week and won’t play on home ice again until Thursday. The schedule-makers haven’t been kind to St. Louis to begin the season, but Hitchcock likes the idea of an early test.
“We are playing really good teams and we have to show that we can play with them,” said Hitchcock. I think we will.”