Blues attempt to build on Sweden success story

Thursday, October 8, 2009

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues' season-opening trip to Sweden had a lot more than sightseeing, highlighted by a pair of come-from-behind victories over the Detroit Red Wings.

They'll try to build on that success stateside amid the pomp of the home opener tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers. In a postgame ceremony, the Blues will unveil a statue in the likeness of Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis outside the Scottrade Center.

"It was a great experience, but this is where we want to play," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "I think the atmosphere is going to be pretty electric in this building, so it's nice to be back."

Coach Andy Murray made certain players didn't get smug over their impressive opening in Stockholm. St. Louis rallied from two-goal deficits in 4-3 and 5-3 victories over Detroit last weekend.

Murray put the team through a brisk workout Monday, hours after the return flight.

"It's a good start. Basically, that's what it is," Murray said. "There are so many more games to play. We're not patting a lot of guys on the back right now, we're challenging them to be better."

Just like the Red Wings, the Blues were far from home playing in Stockholm. Most of the Blues felt like the visiting team, though, judging a pro-Red Wings crowd that outnumbered St. Louis partisans 4-to-1.

"We kind of like that," forward David Backes said. "We like the underdog side of things where people are counting us out, taking us a little bit lightly, and not giving us a lot of credit.

"We're going to earn that foot by foot in everything we get this year."

The Blues were on the road for eight days, including a preseason game in Dallas, before returning to practice Monday and working through jet lag.

"I look at the big picture," forward Keith Tkachuk said. "Obviously, Sweden's a beautiful country and we got two big wins, but getting over there and bonding and doing things as a team, focusing on that environment, was really healthy for our team being a younger team."

Despite their success, Murray has had players working this week on what didn't go so smoothly on the ice in Sweden. Murray said the Blues took unnecessary penalties and leaned heavily on big saves from goalies Chris Mason and Ty Conklin.

"To get the four points was unbelievable considering the starts we had to both games," Mason said. "Obviously, we realized we weren't playing to our capability."

Team captain Eric Brewer, sidelined by a knee injury lately on top of lingering back woes, returned to practice earlier this week for the first since Dec. 11. It'll likely be a while before the defenseman is ready for game action, though.

"This is nothing short term," Murray said. "We have no idea whether it's going to be two months or six weeks, but he's out skating again."

The Thrashers beat Tampa Bay 6-3 in their season opener Saturday night at home behind three-point nights from Ilya Kovalchuk and Rich Peverley.

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