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Blues reminded about importance of shootouts

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The Blues participated in their first shootout of the season Thursday night against Buffalo, winning 3-2 on a goal by Alexander Steen.

The shootout came in the Blues' 20th game of the season, which puts them on pace for about four this season. They played in 13 last season.

The new 3-on-3 overtime format has reduced the number of games that advance to the shootout and, with a limited number this season, the Blues are putting less focus on them.

"It’s more of a rarity this year and hard to kind of find a flow and remember what you do on a shootout," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was denied on his attempt Thursday. "We’re not practicing as much."

Whereas the Blues used to end some practices with a shootout competition, that type of work is now left up to the individual player.

Blues assistant coach Kirk Muller "gives me a handle on it," head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He gives me a report on almost a daily basis. 'This is who did really well on shootouts.' But I think some of the key guys haven't done it. Vlad (Tarasenko) does it quite a bit, but I'm not sure if Steen or Shattenkirk have done it."

That could change after the Blues were reminded about the importance Thursday. 

"This is a good lesson for us," Hitchcock said. "I think we should anticipate that the people who are doing it, that's another point that is very valuable. We'll probably have to pay a little attention to it. I'm guilty of it, too. I didn't even imagine with all the scoring chances that both (the Blues and Buffalo) had, that this thing would get to a shootout."

But it did, and while the Blues may not have a lot of experience in them this season, Steen remembered Rule No. 1: pay attention to what your teammates before you do. He scored on his chance, which was the lone goal of the shootout.

"I felt like (Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark) was coming so far out on Shatty and (Tarasenko) that if I make a quick move and beat him to the post, I'd beat him," Steen said.

Steen did beat Ullmark — barely — and then Jake Allen closed the door on the Sabres' final chance by Evander Kane.

Allen improved his career-record to 5-2 in shootouts, and in those seven shootouts, he has turned aside 16 of 20 attempts.

"I always like shootouts," Allen said. "It's exciting. Just have some fun with it."

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SKATE GUARDS

Paul Stastny isn't the only Blue wearing "Shotblockers" in the wake of the broken foot he suffered Oct. 16 in Vancouver.

Immediately after the injury, the Blues mandated that all players wear the shock-resistant skate guards in practice. The club is leaving the decision of wearing them in games up to the individual and some like Shattenkirk are seeing the logic in doing so.

"If you don't feel comfortable wearing them in games, you're not going to be forced to wear them," Shattenkirk said. "But I think if you can prevent anything happening in practice — a shot getting through and breaking a foot in practice — then that's the goal. Paul got hit more on the toe, so I think even if he's wearing (a skate guard) it probably doesn't prevent it. (But) with the way guys are shooting the pucks now, if you can get something in there to protect yourself, it helps."

Dmitrij Jaskin wears the guards in games.

"It's a good thing, it doesn't really bother me," Jaskin said. "It's the team's decision. They just want to make sure that nothing happens in practice because it's stupid. If it's not a shot, you get a couple of slashes in the game, so it's good to have them. You don't have to put ice on your feet after the game. So I think it's better to wear them (in practice) and for the games, it's everybody's decision."

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ODDS & ENDS

• Jake Allen improved to 5-2 at Scottrade Center this season and now has an NHL-best 1.69 goals-against average on home ice (minimum five starts).

• David Backes had a game-high seven hits Thursday. In 20 games, he has 69 total hits, which ranks sixth overall in the league.

The Blues are scheduled to practice at noon (CDT) today at the St. Louis Outlet Mall. There should be an update on whether defenseman Colton Parayko, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, could be available for Saturday's game against Detroit. 

 

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Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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