© St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
April 16, 2003
As expected, the Blues-Canucks playoff series has been a hard-hitting, physical affair, which means it's perfectly suited for Blues winger Tyson Nash.
"I think the muckers out there can do their thing," Nash said Tuesday, a day most Blues took off to let their bodies heal for tonight's Game 4. "We have to be smart out there, but we can be effective. It's tight-checking hockey out there; it's a lot different than the regular season."
He cited Shjon Podein and Dallas Drake of the Blues and Brad May and Matt Cooke of the Canucks. "All those guys seem to be very effective out there with their hitting," Nash said. "You just keep it simple and do your job."
"That's his game," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's got to be an agitator, he's got to be hitting. But he's skating better, and that's what's getting him to the puck area quicker and that's helped him."
Nash has been throwing his body around with abandon and effectiveness in the series. Early in the first period of Game 3, he delivered a message by sending Vancouver's Brent Sopel over the boards and onto the Blues' bench. Later in the period, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin slammed Nash headfirst into the boards as Nash waited for a slow-arriving puck. Nash hit the boards, then the ice, and stayed down for a while before being helped off. Sedin got two minutes for boarding, and many thought he should have gotten five. Nash returned in the second period.
Nash has been one of the best Blues so far in this series. He had a goal and an assist in Game 1 and was a plus-2 for just the second time all season. He took two penalties he shouldn't have in Game 2 but stayed out of the box in Game 3. His time was down because of the hit, but he logged ample time on the Blues' penalty-killing unit, which got a great lot of work and has done an excellent job, killing 21 of 24 Vancouver power plays.
"Nash has been real effective in the series," Quenneville said. "His play over the year was OK, but he has stepped up his play in the series."
The extensive time the power-play unit has logged has left the group tired, but the frequent action has helped keep them sharp.
"You get a feel for what's working, what's not working," Nash said. "We're trying to keep the shifts short. When you're fresh, you can buzz aro und and create havoc. We're trying to take away their time and space now and not let them set up and make those pretty plays because they've got those guys who can make them."
With Jeff Finley's "upper body" apparently fit enough to allay any concerns the Blues had regarding his availability, defenseman Tom Koivisto, who was called up from Worcester on Sunday, was sent back on Tuesday. The Blues still have seven defensemen on the roster: Chris Pronger, Barret Jackman, Bryce Salvador, Alexander Khavanov, Finley, Christian Laflamme and rookie Matt Walker, who has yet to get in a game. ... Quenneville said the team will "probably know more maybe next week if the possibility is there" for forward Jamal Mayers to return to action in the playoffs. Mayers has been out since November with a knee injury. "I talked to him today," Quenneville said. "He said he felt good. Hopefully he gets clearance at some point." Center Petr Cajanek continues to feel better but won't play in Game 4.