Biggest challenge still to come for the Blues - KMOV.com

Biggest challenge still to come for the Blues

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St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his teamd uring the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011. Detroit won 3-2. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) By Carlos Osorio St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his teamd uring the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011. Detroit won 3-2. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) By Carlos Osorio
Ken Hitchcock skates on the ice during his first practice after being named head coach of the St. Louis Blues hockey team Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in St. Louis.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson Ken Hitchcock skates on the ice during his first practice after being named head coach of the St. Louis Blues hockey team Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
Ken Hitchcock, right, runs his first practice after being named head coach of the St. Louis Blues hockey team Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in St. Louis.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson Ken Hitchcock, right, runs his first practice after being named head coach of the St. Louis Blues hockey team Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson

(HockeyStL) -- Since Ken Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne 13 games into the regular season, fans have had the chance to see how dominant the Blues can be, but there still remains a hurdle that the Blues must overcome: road games.

The Blues have played a total of 38 games under veteran head coach Ken Hitchcock, but only 13 have been played away from Scottrade Center. In those 13 games the Blues are 5-5-3 which is where most teams would like to be, but if the Blues continue down the offensively deprived road they are on, it will get worse.

Being able to win on the road is a key component of a team's success as it can set a team apart from others. Generally teams are better in front of their own fans, and it is considerably harder to play the same style on the road, but if teams find a way to be successful on another team's ice, it is a much more rewarding win.

I point this out because in less than a month, the Blues are going to be hit with the wrath of the NHL schedule that has been dealt to them, and to remain in the playoff hunt, they will need to find ways to be successful on other team's ice.

So far this season, the Blues have seen little time on the road, but it has been clear that improvements must be made now if they hope to keep pace with the pack in the standings.

In March, the Blues will play 10 of 15 games on the road, and this includes a stretch of seven consecutive games on opponent's turf.

As of right now, the Blues hold an 8-11-3 record when away from Scottrade Center, and though this isn't terrible, it won’t coincide with the Blues goal of being first in the Central. Reaching this goal will not be an easy task as the Central Division is arguably the toughest in hockey and the limited amount of Blues home games remaining certainly doesn't help.

To be successful, the Blues will need to find a way to produce offensively on the road. The Blues have only scored 43 goals in 22 games on the road thus far, and while they have played less road games than any other team in the NHL, it is simply not enough scoring.

Defensively the Blues have been sound on the road allowing only 51 goals but as you can see, the difference between goals scored (43) and goals allowed (51) is something the Blues will need to work on.

The Blues are hoping to have Kent Huskins, Andy McDonald, and Alex Steen back before March, but the unexpected does happen and the Blues have grown accustomed to challenges presenting themselves at critical points in the season

The Blues have been known to have a road-heavy schedule in March because of the NCAA March Madness Tournament and a variety of other events taking over the Scottrade center. In the 2007-08 season the Blues started a 9 game road trip 29-27-10 and returned with a record of 30-33-12 which helped to land them the 14th slot in the Western Conference at the season's end.

One way or another March is a huge month for the Blues and if they can overcome the challenge it presents to them, they will make themselves a better team come playoff time.

--Andrew Allsman, HockeyStL

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