Believe it or not, the Blues said there was a bright side after their third straight loss Thursday night.
The Blues slipped into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings following a 4-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings and they could find themselves out the final playoff position in the conference when they return to the ice Monday at Minnesota.
But afterward, Blues captain David Backes, who has seen his share of doom and gloom in seven seasons with the organization, stayed focused on the positive. The Blues have 15 games left in the regular season — just one before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline — and remain in control of their own destiny.
”We’ve been in worse situations here, where we’re 13, 14 (in the standings) and need help,” Backes said. “Now it’s,’Take care of business yourself’ and you like where you’re at. Stumble and fall, and it’s a coin flip at best whether we’re playing into May. Here we go.”
The next phase of the Blues’ schedule offers few favors as the club will play six of its next seven on the road, including two games versus No. 4 Minnesota and one apiece against No. 1 Chicago and No. 6 Detroit.
Keep in mind the Blues are coming off losses to Calgary and Edmonton, Nos. 13 and 14 in the conference when they knocked off the Note.
”We can’t be looking back on any of these games anymore saying we could have had two points here,” Backes said. “We’ve used our allotment of those games where we had two points sitting there. Now it’s time to grab those two points, whether it’s pretty, ugly or whatever. Put them in the bank and move forward and keep a ball rolling, build something here.”
Albeit in defeat, the Blues felt that Thursday’s loss to Los Angeles was a step forward. The score was tied 2-2 late in the game, but the Kings’ Mike Richards scored the game-winner with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left in regulation and Justin Williams added an empty-netter.
The Blues may have deserved a better fate, but there were still critical errors, including turnovers and penalties in the offensive zone by veterans Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 37 saves but surrendered a crucial goal that gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead.
”We’ve just got to get our game in order, all 20 guys,” Backes said. “You’ve seen it in stretches when we’ve got 20 guys going ... it’s a beautiful thing out there. And then you’ve seen when not everyone is going and it’s an uphill battle. We’ve taken strides and we’ve had long meetings internally the last few days to sort some of that out. I do think we’ve made progress, but it’s not where it needs to be yet.”
The Blues close out the regular season with seven of their last eight games at Scottrade Center. But after Thursday’s loss to the Kings, the Blues are 8-7-1 at home, which is one more regulation loss than they had all of 2011-12. Plus, if the club doesn’t maintain its position in the standings during the road-heavy stretch, it may be too late when the Blues come back home.
”We’ve just got to look at ourselves right now,” Steen said. “We’ve got to do whatever it takes to win the games. Right now, we’re not doing that. We’ve lost a couple big ones here at home. Now we need to take our stuff on the road and make sure we start playing better on the road (and) getting points. We’ve got to start getting points.”
DeKeyser picks Detroit
The Blues lost out on NCAA free-agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who agreed Friday to sign with Detroit.
After going undrafted, DeKeyser, 23, was a late bloomer in a three-year career at Western Michigan University, which is coached by former Blues coach Andy Murray. He was free to sign a two-year, entry-level contract with the team of his choice.
Nearly every NHL team expressed interest in DeKeyser, but the Blues were among a handful of teams believed to be legitimately in the running for the defenseman. General manager Doug Armstrong and senior adviser Al MacInnis met with DeKeyser and his agents Wednesday in Toronto and had a productive meeting.
But in the end, the Macomb, Mich., native chose to stay close to home and selected Detroit. He is expected to report to the Red Wings today.
Rivermen leaving Peoria
The Blues have notified the Peoria Civic Center that the organization will halt the operations of its American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, Ill., after the 2012-13 season, a source told the Post-Dispatch on Friday.
The story was first reported by the Peoria Journal-Star.
The Blues sent an email to Civic Center officials, notifying them of the club’s intentions. The team has two more seasons on its lease and will owe the Civic Center $90,000 to buy out of the agreement.
“It’s not legal and it’s not binding because it isn’t in ink on paper yet, but yes, they are gone,” Civic Center general manager Jim Wetherington told the Journal-Star.
The Blues are expected to sign an agreement to sell the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks. The club would then align itself with the Canucks’ current AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, who would own and run operations for the Blues.