Sunday, January 21, 2018

Blues shown some tough practice love by Yeo, coaching staff Sunday

Team put through hard practice, bag skate after listless loss to Arizona 
Saturday; Schwartz full participant in practice, unknown if available for Tuesday 

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The words resonated from Mike Yeo's press conference on Saturday night, and Blues players knew it was coming.

Picture Herb Brooks in 1980 and that infamous single word, 'Again!' It was used during the most notable bag skates of all time -- after a game no less.

Yeo didn't pull the Blues back on the ice after an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on home ice Saturday night; he waited until Sunday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Jake Allen (right) takes a drink from a water bottle after an Arizona
goal on Saturday. The Blues lost 5-2 to the Coyotes and were put through
a bag skate by coach Mike Yeo on Sunday.

Yeo put the Blues through an hour long practice, then had each line up for multiple sets of speed sprints. 

Not. Fun. At. All.

Just ask the players.

"Yeah, we definitely deserved to get pushed hard today," defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "Last night and last couple home games were pretty embarrassing for our team. We've always had the fans' support at all or most games and we want to show what we've got in front of the crowd and the past couple games, we haven't done that. It's been a tough 24 hours for us, but we got the work in today, we had a meeting and just reset the mind."

"Yeah, I've been around long enough," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "Last night was pretty inexcusable. We didn't really show up, so put some work in today, reset your attitude and move forward."

The Blues' practice, which included everyone except for Zach Sanford, entailed tough drills, corner wall and battle drills and then the wind sprints. It was a taxing day as a stark reminder that the coaching staff will not accept effortless games -- more specifically, effortless first periods -- like Saturday.

"I think everyone expected that," center Kyle Brodziak said. "We needed a bit of a wakeup call. That's what happens.

"... It's not like guys are going out there saying they're not going to try, it's just you don't have the focus level you need to have. Every team is so close now, you can beat the best team in the league one night and lose to the worst team in the league the next night. You have to be able to find a way, when you feel like you don't have it, to find a way to get it and get back into it. We just didn't do that."

Teams have slow starts to games. It happens. The response is normally what a coach looks for, and what a player seeks as retribution for a poor start. The Blues had no response, and their play continued to get worse, and the result was a 4-0 deficit after the first period that saw the 19,000-plus fans boo the home side off the ice after being outshot 23-7.

"Slow starts are going to happen, every team says, when you come off an emotional team on the road and you come home, it's kind of a pattern that's been known for years, that first game back home there's usually a letdown," Brodziak said. "You try to guard against it as well as you can, but for some reason, it still happens. When you come out to a start like last night, they get two or three goals in the amount of time they had, that should have been enough of a wakeup call, piss enough guys off, to get out of the clouds and get back into the game. For some reason, I don't know what it was, we just didn't have any push back last night. That's not really acceptable."

And that's why Yeo met with general manager Doug Armstrong, assistant GM Martin Brodeur and then his coaching staff before choosing a course of action for Sunday.

"I think as coaches, you have to be careful to just react off emotion," Yeo said. "Obviously you go home after the game and you don't just put that one to bed. That one sits with you all night and early into the morning. It's important as coaches that you take the time to really figure out what your team needs and obviously, that's where your assistants come into play. We've got a lot of support people around here, met with 'Army' and Marty again this morning. You try to determine a course of action. The players need to look at you and know that you're not just going to panic and overreact to every situation, but think they also have to look to you as the leader of the standards of the culture, and there's certain times where you have to do things a little differently."

And the message was?

"I think we got to work," Yeo said. "We're a work-based team. Start there.

"... It's our job to show up and to work hard today. We didn't work hard enough yesterday so we've got to work hard today. I think we did what was expected. We're at the point how where it just had to be the standard for us. That's who we are and that's what we do. I'm going to say that yes, the effort was good today, but that's what it should be."

Sure, there was a message sent, delivered and received. What do the Blues do with it moving forward is key.

"For me, we come to the rink tomorrow, we get better and Tuesday, we have to play hard," Yeo said. "There's certain things that when you drop the puck that are out of your control and some nights the puck's going to bounce your way, some nights it's not. But the effort part of it, that one's always in your control.

"There's different forms of disappointment, but I've seen the other side of this group. I know it's inside there and we just have to get there."

It comes down to that proverbial reset button players always say they have to hit. 

"It's up to everybody, I think, individually," Bouwmeester said. "You've got to get figured out what gets you prepared to play. Different guys have different roles in here, but at the end of the day, you have to be prepared and be ready at the start of the game. Words are words. It's more just showing up and doing it."

It does beg the question of why does a game like that happen?

"If anybody had the the answer, you wouldn't be asking the question and it wouldn't happen," Bouwmeester said. "It happens. We didn't have a good start. They scored early and we didn't respond very good and then it snowballs from there. At some point, if you can grab that, put a couple shifts together and turn the momentum, then maybe it's a different game. But it doesn't. It happens. You play 82 games in a year, it's gonna happen. It's happen before, hopefully it doesn't happen again, but as a player, you have to evaluate that and evaluate that and you have to move forward because we have another game on Tuesday, a team we just played and we played well against. Take this today as a working day, forget the game and move forward."

There really is no logical reason for it, though.

"Not really," Edmundson said. "Maybe we looked at the standings too much. We knew they were a good team, but they came out with a good jump. We just didn't have the push back. We need to have the mentality that we're playing a first-place all the time. If you look at the standings, we're fighting for a playoff spot and we've got to realize that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Center Kyle Brodziak (28) said the Blues "needed a bit of a wakeup call,"
after losing to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.

And that's why Yeo wants to see action, consistent action, and not just words.

"Talk is talk," he said. "We can have as many meetings as we want. We can can give you as many good quotes as we want, whatever the case is. Action is what matters right now and your play is your action. That's the only thing that matters, that speaks to your teammates, that you're playing for them and you're ready to lay it on the line. For me, that's pretty simple. You step over the boards, people watch you and that's the talk that we're looking for."

* NOTES -- Included in practice Sunday was left wing Jaden Schwartz, who was a full participant for the first time since injuring his right ankle blocking a shot in the first period of the 6-1 win at the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 9.

Schwartz took part in all battle drills and was even a skater during the sprints even though he had nothing to do with the effort of Saturday's game.

"It was a fun one for him to get back into," Yeo said smiling. "No easing him into it. He got the conditioning and he got the battle part of it and actually, he got through it, got through it well."

Is Tuesday against Ottawa a possibility?

"I don't know yet," Yeo said. "I've been busy with some other things."

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Blues first-period no-shows in 5-2 loss to Coyotes

Arizona jumps out to 4-0 lead during uninspiring effort by home side

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When the locker room doors opened for the media to embark in interviews, every Blues player was seated at his locker stall.

It's not often that it happens, but usually when it does, it's not for good reason.

Following an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Western Conference cellar-dweller Arizona Coyotes, the Blues (28-18-3) found themselves answering questions about urgency issues and the need to play with conviction, especially on home ice.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton (left) fetches a puck out of the net in the first
period of a 5-2 loss to Arizona on Saturday. 

But after falling behind 4-0 against a team that had lost five in a row despite gaining at least a point in four of them (0-4-1), having been thoroughly dismantled in every fact that resulted in Blues coach Mike Yeo waving the white flag for goalie Carter Hutton, who was yanked for the first time after allowing three goals on 12 shots (none of them his fault), it was a stark reminder that this team can't just show up half-heartedly no matter the opponent.

"This is embarrassing," Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. "We can't play like this, especially on the homestand and especially for our goalies, who actually do a lot of good stuff for us this year like always. We need to figure out ... we can't give up like 4-0 lead."

Especially not to one of the worst teams in hockey.

"Just not ready to play for whatever reason," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "I was no good. We were no good.

"Tough to come back from 4-0, then 5-0. Yeah, second half of the game we had the pressure on but we're (down) by four goals at that point. So it's just not acceptable, especially on home ice."

The Blues were blitzed from the opening faceoff and had zero response, befuddling the 19,235 watching and waiting for something -- anything -- to change.

Zac Rinaldo gave Arizona a 1-0 lead 1:53 into the first off a rebound to the left of Hutton, who initially punched out Christian Fischer's effort after the Blues lost a puck battle in their zone. Christian Dvorak scored the first of his two goals in the period at 4:02 off a deflection of Jason Demers' point shot and scored again at 7:06 to make it 3-0 after three Blues (Robert Bortuzzo, Colton Parayko and Patrik Berglund) got caught below the goal line leaving Dvorak alone in front long enough to pitch a tent.

Blues coach Mike Yeo made the change to Jake Allen at that point, perhaps trying to get Allen going, but after leaving the game, Hutton disgustingly slammed his paddle to the ground heading up the tunnel.

"I had to make the move, but I don't know if that was necessarily an opportunity to succeed either the way we were playing," Yeo said. "At that point, just trying to switch the momentum."

But Brendan Perlini scored a short side goal at 13:58 to make it 4-0. 

By period's end, the Coyotes outshot the Blues 23-7 and the home side was booed off the ice.

"I don't. There's no explanation for it," Yeo said on the first period. "To be perfectly honest, there's no explanation for it. 

"... It's pretty simple. You look at our division and you look at what's going on around the league and you'd think that you would come to the rink and number one, you can control your attitude and you can control your work ethic. You think the desperation would be there. This is a group that's won a lot and winning doesn't come easy. I can't imagine that we've forgotten the investment that's required. I can't imagine that we've forgotten that. I'm not sure. Pretty harsh from my view tonight."

The Blues spent the majority of the period in their own zone, spent much of the time watching the younger, more vibrant Coyotes skaters beating them to pucks, forechecking them into oblivion and forcing turnovers. 

The Blues looked like a cast of misfits that didn't know what hit them.

"It's just a lack of urgency at the beginning of the game," said Blues forward Alexander Steen, who tied Red Berenson for eighth on the Blues' franchise list for goals scored (172). "They plain and simple outworked us.

"It's that simple. They outworked us. They had more urgency in their game from the get-go and we got behind by four and in this league, that's too tough a hill to climb back. I think our response was late, we should have had an earlier response. Disappointing."

Beyond disappointing.

"Obviously the start was very, very disappointing," Yeo said. "Then the response to the start was even more disappointing, to be honest with you. 

"At some point, you've got to get pissed off and it didn't feel there was a lot of that. It didn't feel the emotional investment was there from the drop of the puck. We were just a little bit too OK with what was going on."

Fischer's power-play goal at 4:33 of the second pushed the Arizona lead to 5-0 and at that point, the crowd was in mock cheer mode and getting their most eventful scenes coming from the stoppages in play.

The only bright spot was the Blues did score twice on the power play (Steen and Brayden Schenn) for only the fifth time in a game this season; they were 2-for-35 the past 14 games and near the bottom of the league.

But it doesn't even come close to glossing over an uninspiring night to begin a four-game homestand, and the Blues, who started the season with five straight wins in this building, they've won just seven of 15 at Scottrade Center.

Coupled with their last game here (a 7-4 loss to Florida), the Blues have been outscored 12-6.

"This is usually a tough place to play," Pietrangelo said. "Or has been in the past. And this year for whatever reason it just isn't. So come playoff time this has got to be a place where teams come in and they're scared to play.

"We've got two and a half, three weeks here at home. We've got to make sure we take advantage of it because every other team is."

It's championship Sunday in the NFL, safe to say for the Blues, they will get to work on things to help correct what went wrong Saturday. It may not be fixed in one day, but it may be one of those days players don't necessarily like but know they need.

"I don't know. It's hard to say right now right after a game because emotions now," Tarasenko said. "Like I said, it's really embarrassing for us and embarrassing for fans seeing a game like this at home. We have a day tomorrow to figure out what's going on."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka (left) battles Arizona defenseman Niklas
Hjalmarsson for a loose puck Saturday at Scottrade Center.

That means the leaders and veterans need to grab this team right away.

"If we don't, then we're not going to make the playoffs," Yeo said. "That's the bottom line. If we think we can play two good games and then just not show up for one, that's not the way things are going to work from here to the rest of the year. I don't know if we think that we're good enough that we can get out with half effort or working hard two out of every three games. That's not the way it's going to work. We have a lot of guys inside our locker room that know that."

* NOTES -- Berglund played in his 662nd game Saturday, tying Garry Unger for sixth overall in games played in Blues history. ... Schenn lost a head-to-head battle with older brother and Coyotes defenseman Luke Schenn for the first time in seven matchups. ... The loss snapped the Blues' 12-game winning streak against the Coyotes and 16-game point streak (15-0-1). Arizona's last win against the Blues was a 3-2 overtime win here on Nov. 12, 2013, and its last regulation win against the Blues was April 6, 2012, a 4-1 win.

(1-20-18) Coyotes-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues are sticking with the hot hand, and whether Carter Hutton likes to hear it or not, he will stay in goal to open a four-game homestand against the Arizona Coyotes tonight.

The Blues (28-17-3), winners of two in a row, welcome the Coyotes (10-29-8), who have dropped five straight but are 0-1-4 in those games earning points in four of them. Puck drop is 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Hutton is 5-0-1 his past six starts with a 1.78 goals-against average and .935 save percentage and will start for the seventh time in nine games.

But don't call him the hot hand.

"I do (get tired of hearing it). I said that to my wife the other day, I try, I'm not being modest, I think I'm a really good goalie, I think this league is full of really good goalies," Hutton said. "It's just opportunities and playing well. It hasn't been like a little, small sample size. I think I've been good for a few years in this league. I just try to chip away at it. I continually beat a dead horse. You need two goalies to play in this league. It's an 82-game season. You need Jake [Allen] and I and Jake's played great. He got us in the playoffs, you look at last year, the start of this year, and now I'm getting a chance to play, last year there was a little stretch where I got to play. It's one of those those things, you need both of us, and we're going to continue to work hard and whoever's in net we're going to try to give our team a chance to win."

Allen on the flip side is 1-8-0 his past nine starts and continues to work in practice to get his game geared up, but Blues coach Mike Yeo is sticking with what's working right now, and that is Hutton.

Allen last started Jan. 9 against Florida but was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots, the second straight game he allowed five goals.

"We're gonna get Jake in at some point for sure," Yeo said. "Jake knows that, and obviously that's an important thing for us. We've gotta make sure that we give him the right opportunity to get in. But I think that again, 'Hutts' just deserves this game and I don't want to rush Jake back in. He's getting some good quality work in practice and so our mindset is not that we're not trying to get Jake in. Our mindset is we're gonna wait for the right opportunity and when he does get in there I'm confident that he'll be ready.

"I think [Allen's] had real good practices. For me, one thing that I really like is that I think in talking to Jake coming out of the bye week, I feel that he's put a lot of this on himself. And not that he didn't before. But in a good way, in a positive way. Knowing that he's not at the level he can play at. He didn't lose those games for us. There was a lot of games in there where we just weren't good enough and we could've given him a lot more help. But that said, obviously we have high expectations for Jake and he has high expectations for himself. He wasn't meeting those, so I think that that ownership on his part is allowing him to get to work right now in practice. And again, I think that's gonna help him a lot going forward."

But Hutton, who has allowed more than two goals only once in his past eight starts, is giving the Blues the best chance to win these days.

"It's a ton of games, (and) right now, Mike is making the decision to go with me, but no matter who goes over the boards, Jake's ready to go, I'm ready to go, we're professionals, and I think we show that every day," Hutton said. "You guys come to practice and see the way we take care of business and prepare and work hard. We're two pros, that's all that matters."

And when the Blues get good goaltending, the strong team game seems to go hand-in-hand with it.

"He's given us a chance to win every night obviously," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said of Hutton. "He's making big saves when he needs to, keeping us in every game. He's been great and we're trying to do what we can in front of him but when we kind of break down, he's there and he's keeping us in it."

- - -

The Blues want to build off two strong road games coming out of the bye week, a 2-1 overtime win over Toronto last Tuesday and a 4-1 win at Ottawa this past Thursday.

Prior to the Blues' two wins, they went 0-2-1 and allowed 17 goals and for a team that prides itself on defensive structure searching for offense, it wasn't a recipe for success.

"The way that we're playing is tighter and we're working more as a group," Parayko said. "That just generally will naturally create more defense and create a harder atmosphere for teams to get into our zone. Just little things like hard back pressure and tight gaps have made it tough for teams to get into our zone essentially and we've locked down our d-zone pretty good."

What the Blues want now is to get back to being a solid home team. After winning their first five at Scottrade Center and seven of eight, the Blues have gone just 7-7-0 here the past 14.

"It's two games. And they were two good games," Yeo said. "Real happy with the effort that we got, the focus that was there. Getting into this time of year it's hard to win games without everybody contributing and everybody being on the same page. We've had that. That said. Now we gotta keep it going.

"The biggest thing for me is we gotta get back to being a real tough team to play against at home."

And how do the Blues do that?

"You can't treat it differently," Yeo said. "Teams come in here, maybe at the start of the year there's a little more respect. There's a little bit more hesitation. Whatever the case is. This time of year, I hate to say it, but home ice doesn't mean as much. Teams, they come in here, and they're a little bit more seasoned as far as being used to the crowd noise. Being used to the momentum swings, whatever the case is. I think we just proved it in those two games we just had on the road.

"You have to go out and you have to continue to play the same way and we have to make sure we have that mindset. We can't come home and try to be cute now. That's not who we are. That's not our game. We're effective when we're a hard-driving north team, and physical, and tighten our structure."

- - -

Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz was a participant for the morning skate for the first time since he injured his right ankle Dec. 9.

Schwartz began skating last Monday and continues to gear himself up for a return to the lineup, something Yeo didn't rule out could happen prior to the All-Star break next week.

The Blues have two games coming up on Tuesday against Ottawa and Thursday against Colorado before taking a four-day hiatus.

"Both him and [Zach] Sanford, nice to have them both out there," Yeo said. "Talking with 'Schwartzy,' he's getting close. He's looking good. Obviously, 'Sanny's a little bit further away here but obviously it's pretty exciting, the idea that both these guys could be back in our lineup at some point here.

"If [Schwartz] is ready, he's ready. Obviously, you don't put a guy in a bad position. You don't put a guy with a risk out there of getting hurt. There's always a risk. But obviously, we're not gonna be foolish about that. But I think that we've already gotten to the point where we've been pretty careful about things. And now, when he's ready, he's ready.

The Blues are expected to practice on Sunday and the telltale sign will be if Schwartz is a full participant, which would include contact drills.

"Yeah. I'm not sure exactly what the plan is tomorrow, but obviously we got a couple good days here where we can get him integrated a little bit more with the group and get him involved," Yeo said. "The morning skate obviously wasn't real intense but he can be out there with our group. And now the next step will be getting a little bit more involved in some of the contact stuff."

- - -

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester did not participate in the morning skate but Yeo said he would play, which would put Carl Gunnarsson on the sideline for a second straight game.

Veteran left wing Scottie Upshall will be a healthy scratch for a third straight game.

Blues center Paul Stastny has a three-game point streak (one goal, four assists) and has at least a point in six of the past seven games (three goals, six assists).

Blues forward Alexander Steen has four goals the past six games after scoring four his first 36 games. Steen has four goals, two assists the past six games.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Brayden Schenn-Alexander Steen

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Tage Thompson

Magnus Paajarvi-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson, Scottie Upshall and Oskar Sundqvist. Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Robby Fabbri (knee) are out.

- - -

The Coyotes' projected lineup:

Brendan Perlini-Derek Stepan-Richard Panik

Tobias Rieder-Max Domi-Christian Fischer

Clayton Keller-Christian Dvorak-Nick Cousins

Zac Rinaldo-Brad Richardson-Jordan Martinook

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Jason Demers

Jakob Chychrun-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Alex Goligoski-Luke Schenn

Antti Raanta will start in goal; Scott Wedgewood will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Freddie Hamilton, Josh Archibald and Kevin Connauton. The Coyotes report no injuries.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

(1-16-18) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Former owner Shanahan passed away; Schwartz starts skating; 
Pietrangelo, Schenn pleased with All-Star selections; Blues back from break

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Former Blues owner Mike Shanahan, who owned the franchise from 1986-1991, died on Monday. He was 78.

The cause of death was not announced, but Shanahan recently had a double lung transplant.

He purchased the team in 1996 from Harry Ornest and became the fourth owner of the franchise after Ornest, poineer owners Sid Salomon Jr. and Sid Salomon III and the Ralston Purina company.

Shanahan is best known as a passionate and compassionate person who made some shrewd and some high-risk moves during his time as owner trying to bring a Stanley Cup to St. Louis. He helped bring general manager Ron Caron to St. Louis, who in turn traded for one of the greatest, if not the greatest player to ever don the Bluenote Brett Hull, brought Hall of Famer Al MacInnis to St. Louis among others.

"The St. Louis Blues organization is saddened to learn of the passing of former Blues chairman Mike Shanahan," current Blues chairman Tom Stillman said in a statement. "Mr. Shanahan set a shining example of leadership both on and off the ice. He captivated Blues fans and made an immeasurable impact on the organization. He will forever be remembered for his passion for the Blues, his engaging personality and his acquisition of Brett Hull. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Shanahan family, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time."

Shanahan was deeply revered by those who worked for him and the players that played for him.

"Mr. Shanahan was a very special man," Hull said on his Twitter account. "I looked up to and respected Mr. Shanahan in all aspects of life. He made people better and I know I am better having known him."

"Mr. Shanahan brought me to St. Louis and I will forever be grateful to him," MacInnis said on his Twitter account. "We have made STL our home and raised our kids here all because of his approval. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shanahan family at this time." #RIP

Shanahan was a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and St. Louis University Hall of Fame and starred in soccer for the Billikens and their national championship teams in 1959 and 1960; he was president of Engineered Support Systems Inc. He was asked by then Mayor Vincent Schoemehl Jr. if he would have interest in purchasing the Blues and providing local ownership.

Shanahan would sell the franchise to Kiel Center Partners, Inc. in 1991 and remained chairman through the 1994-95 season before being dismissed.

"This is a sad day for St. Louis," Blues broadcaster and Hall of Famer Bernie Federko said in a statement. "Mr. Shanahan had that incredible personality that touched everyone he ever met. It was under his ownership that the Blues reconnected with all our great fans.

"I feel blessed that I had the chance to call him a friend and to play under his leadership. He will dearly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Shanahan family."

* Schwartz returns to ice -- That No. 17 helmet was a familiar, and welcomed sight, for the Blues and their fans Monday.

Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz skated for the first time at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Mills Outlet Mall after he sustained a right ankle injury on Dec. 9 against the Detroit Red Wings.

Schwartz, who is third on the Blues with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists), has missed 16 games and was originally scheduled to be re-evaluated in six weeks.

He blocked a shot from Red Wings defenseman Mike Green during the second period of a 6-1 victory and did not return. 

"It's another positive; happy about that," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We'll see how he's doing here but certainly happy to have him back."

Yeo did not want to speculate on a potential return date for Schwartz, who did not travel with the Blues (26-17-3) for their two-game trip starting Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs after being off for six days.

Schwartz removed the walking boot and crutches he was using two weeks ago.

"Let's just see how he does here today and we'll kind of evaluate it as we go on here day by day," Yeo said. "The first thing we have to do here today is get him on the ice and see how he reacts to that and then depending obviously on how today goes and the next couple days, we'll have a better idea."

The Blues were 20-8-2 with Schwartz in the lineup, averaged 3.67 goals per game and allowed 2.53. They are 6-9-1 without him, their goals per game dipped to 2.06 and they're allowing 2.88.

"I don't know the time frame obviously, but just getting [Schwartz] on the ice is a good step in the right direction," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said.

Blues center Brayden Schenn is eyeing Schwartz's return. Schenn had 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) playing on a line with Schwartz in 30 games, eight points (two goals, six assists) in 16 games without him.

"He was having a great year, doing it all for us at both ends of the ice and making stuff happen," Schenn said.

* Pietrangelo, Schenn pleased to be all-stars -- Both Pietrangelo and Schenn will be making their All-Star debuts when the NHL's annual extravaganza takes place on the last weekend of January, this season being at Amalie Arena in Tampa the weekend of Jan. 26-28. The game itself will be on the 28th.

Schenn is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko, who was not selected to represent the Central Division after being an All-Star the past three seasons, with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists).

It's been quite the first season for Schenn, acquired by the Blues from the Philadelphia Flyers in a draft day trade on June 23.

"It's obviously a huge honor," Schenn said. "Starting with a great opportunity here Since Day 1 with obviously getting traded here and a (new) coaching staff, playing with good players along the whole way and playing a lot of minutes. Without the help of a lot of people, that's obviously not possible.

"It's not an easy thing to be selected for. There's a lot of great players in this league. It's a huge honor being selected. There's guys in this locker room that are definitely capable of going for sure. I'm just thankful and happy I got picked."

Pietrangelo will also be an All-Star for the first time in his 10-year career, much to the surprise of Yeo.

"I was actually really surprised to hear that that was 'Petro's first time," Yeo said. "Very happy and very deserving. A great accomplishment and both are real good team guys. You're always happy for those types of players."

Pietrangelo, playing in his eighth full season, leads all Blues defensemen in goals (7), assists (23) and points (30).

"I take that as a compliment," Pietrangelo said referring to Yeo's comment. "It's cool. I think it's 'Schenner's first one, too, so it's a good experience. It's going to be fun. I think after having played in the World Cup, Olympics, you get to know a lot of the guys in the league, too. It's a good opportunity to see those guys again. I heard it's a great event, so we're looking forward to it.

"It's going to be fun. It's obviously a huge honor. 'Schenner' probably said the same thing, but it's a good opportunity. It's in Tampa, too, get a little sun maybe and enjoy it. Not many people get the opportunity to do it. I'll make sure I enjoy it. ... It's one of those things where you look at this stuff on the wall (names of past Blues players) and it's nice to see that. It makes you feel good. I guess it's an accomplishment like anything. I know 'Schenner' feels the same way."

* Back to work -- After a five-day break, the Blues were back on the ice Monday in preparation for a five-game stretch that will take them into another four-day break for All-Star weekend.

After taking on Toronto Tuesday, the Blues are off to Ottawa for a date with the Senators on Thursday before beginning a four-game homestand to end January.

"It's a good week to kind of get your mind off things and reset. It came at a good time," Pietrangelo said. "We've played a lot of hockey and I think you just reset. We look back on what we can do better as a team. I know guys wanted to clear their mind the best they could. I know for me, a day or two and then I just tried to enjoy the week with my wife and my family. We've got to get back to playing aggressive. We've got to get back to playing on our toes around here. That's when we're at our best."

It was even a good time for coaches to get away, especially after the Blues ended the pre-break schedule with three straight losses and allowed 17 goals.

"It was a good break," Yeo said. "We've got five games here before another break, so a good opportunity for us to kind of focus on these five games and make sure that we play five real strong team games.

"The only way that you can make sure that that happens, that you play five good games is that we prepare for that one game tomorrow and after that, you hit the reset button and you get ready for the next one, but I think putting it on a short focus here is not a bad idea for us.

"The work ethic was there (Monday), the energy was there and obviously getting into the game tomorrow is going to be a different story, a different level, so we'll have to adjust to that."

Yeo didn't announce his starting goaltender for Tuesday, but it very well could be Carter Hutton, who has played stellar hockey all season long.

Jake Allen is 1-8-0 with a 3.39 goals-against average and .896 save percentage, but the Blues' No. 1 goalie isn't sweating those recent numbers despite allowing five goals in each of his past two starts and 28 the past nine games.

"It was good, a good break, good to get away from all these losers," Allen joked. "But no, I think it was good for everyone. It's something that we got implemented in the league so you might as well enjoy it. Every team gets to have the same break and it was good to get away.

"We had a meeting this morning and I don't think a lot of guys even remembered who we played last, which is, I think, a good thing. You don't think about hockey. It's easier said than done. Keeps in your brain because it's your life, but just to get away and not worry about that stuff. We have five games until we have another break, so pedal to the metal for these five games, have another break and then go from there, so I think that's our focus right now. We don't think of anything ahead, standings. We just have five games until another break and might as well go all out.

"I am, really looking forward to (playing again). I felt like a lot of us had a lot of jump, including myself today. Everyone's really excited to be back at the rink and that's what the break does. You're always happy to be back at the rink, but it gives you that extra gear now. You're back and you're in your routine."

Part of getting back in the saddle as a team is the Blues have to get back to their staple, and that's being a tough two-man team in goal and playing a lockdown defensive game after starting to find some of their offensive game.

The Blues allowed 2.56 goals per game when Schwartz was in the lineup, 2.88 since he's departed it.

"It goes hand in hand where I think sometimes we're worrying too much about the defensive game, we're not controlling the puck enough in the o-zone," Pietrangelo said. "I always say it's tough for the other team to score when they're in their own zone. I feel like when we're at our best defensively, we're at our best offensively controlling the puck, controlling the pace of the game whereas now, I think we're sitting back a little bit. When we're on our toes being aggressive, that's when we seem to have the most success."

"For us to go away for four or five days came at a good time for us," Schenn said. "We weren't playing our style of hockey, we were getting a little bit stale and those were resulting in losses. We don't play an easy game, we play a hard game and we got away from that a little bit and that resulted in a 7-4 loss at home. Hopefully (the break) came at a right time for us and we can get back on track here before the all-star break.

"Guys step away from the rink and refresh their minds. ... Maybe for us, we step away, regroup, refocus."

Yeo said the defensive gaffes are fixable mistakes and ones that will get the Blues (26-17-3) going again.

"I know that they're fixable and we'll get back to it," Yeo said. "We have to make sure that we get back to our identity and do our team game. That's a staple of who we are and that's what we have to be night after night.

"We have to make sure we don't sacrifice the one for the other. When we're on top of our game defensively, it actually creates more offense for us, it creates more puck possession time for us. We just have to make sure we have the right mindset shift after shift, game after game. There's going to be some games things don't go your way, but that doesn't mean that you can't change or even if things aren't going the right way through the first period, you can't change. We have a way to play the game and we have to do it shift after shift and game after game. When we do that consistently, when we do that night after night, then the results will follow.

"It's important that we have that mindset and we understand that right from the drop of the puck and play the game accordingly. We have to come out and be aggressive in the game, but we have to be smart in how we attack it as well. They're going to be in the same boat as us. Both teams are coming off their bye week, both teams are going to have to adjust and the teams that adjust to the pace and to the level of the play quickest are going to have a leg up."

* Dunn, Thompson, Barbashev recalled -- The Blues, to no one's surprise, recalled defenseman Vince Dunn and forwards Tage Thompson and Ivan Barbashev from the American Hockey League.

Dunn and Barbashev were assigned to the Chicago Wolves, while Thompson, who was given the day off Monday after playing on Sunday, was assigned to the San Antonio Rampage.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Allen pulled, Blues go into break off discouraging 7-4 loss to Panthers

Goalie removed after allowing five goals on 23 shots; St. Louis 0-2-1 
past three games despite goal, assist each from Stastny and Tarasenko

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- A two-goal came quickly and briskly for the Blues. 

The first eight minutes couldn't have gone any better against the struggling Florida Panthers, who had lost the first three games of a four-game trip, and it was a chance to get goalie Jake Allen up and running. 

Fifty-two minutes of good, hard, well-played hockey separated the Blues from a 4-1-1 stretch heading into a bye week than a discouraging loss.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) makes a save Tuesday during a 7-4 loss to the
Florida Panthers. Allen was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots.

Oops.

Not even scoring more than three goals in a game for the first time since Jaden Schwartz went down (Dec. 9) could save them. 

The end result wasn't quite what the Blues were hoping for, nor expected. Allen was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots, and the Panthers put a good old-fashioned seven burger on the home side in the Blues' discouraging 7-4 loss on Tuesday before 18,783 frustrated and at times, angry fans at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (26-17-3) now head into a five-day break knowing they've lost three in a row allowing 17 goals, and Allen has been in goal for two of them.

Allen, who was starting for the second time since Dec. 29, is 1-8-0 in his past nine starts and has a 3.39 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. He allowed five goals in a second straight start and 28 in those nine.

"Jake's going through a hard time right now," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Let's be honest. I think he had a good start to the game and next thing you know, we're doing some things that put him in a bad position."

Allen's teammates were not ready to lay any blame on him.

"I think he's still playing good," Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "Lots of those goals were the five guys in front of him. They were mistakes, we were turning the puck over. They had clear shots. It's not just him, it's the whole group."

The Blues were simply sloppy with the puck and poor in defensive coverage, and it was the five-man group. Allen was for the second game in a row hung out to dry on some shoddy play from his teammates, but when coach Mike Yeo pulled Allen after allowing Vincent Trocheck's goal to make it 5-3 at 16:37 of the second period, it was evident a shaken goalie needed removal.

"Obviously the second period, we know that that's not the level that Jake can play at," Yeo said. "Going into every game expecting Jake to play what we saw last year. That's who he is, but we also have to help him out, too. That was disturbing tonight."

Trocheck scored two goals with one assist, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and two assists, and James Reimer made 26 saves for Florida (18-18-6), which won once on a four-game road trip.

It's the first time in seven games the Panthers have scored more than three goals.

Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko each had a goal and an assist for St. Louis (26-17-3), which will be off for six days.

The Panthers scored three times in 4:14 of the second period to take a 5-3 lead. Radim Vrbata tied it 3-3 at 12:23, Huberdeau put Florida up 4-3 at 15:55, and Trocheck made it 5-3 at 16:37. Allen was pulled and replaced by Carter Hutton, who made 11 saves on 12 shots.

"There's nothing to do about Jake, him and 'Huttsy' have been really good for us the whole year," said Blues forward Ivan Barbashev, who had two assists giving him five points in the past three games. "It's just as a team, we're playing pretty bad right now and we have to fix it as soon as possible."

The Blues took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Stastny at 48 seconds and Colton Parayko at 8:05. The Panthers tied the game 2-2 on goals by Aaron Ekblad at 9:14 and Barkov at 16:57.

"Yeah, I think we felt we had it in the bag I guess and then we took our foot off the pedal," Edmundson said. "When you do that in this league, teams are good enough that they're gonna shove right back at you."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) scores against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. It
wasn't enough as the Blues lost 7-4.

Florida shoved. The Blues didn't have an answer.


So why does a team take its foot off the gas?

"That's a good question. I wish I knew," Edmundson said. "I think we think it's gonna be easy. But to win in this league, it's a challenge. So we have to come out every night, we have to be 100 percent and outwork the other team. And tonight we got outworked."

They did get another lead when Tarasenko gave the Blues a 3-2 advantage at 4:17 of the second period, but it was short-lived.

"I thought they played harder than us tonight, plain and simple," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "They worked harder for 60 minutes, they deserved (to win)."

Colton Sceviour scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 13:02 of the third period to make it 6-3, and Tage Thompson scored at 17:19 to make it 6-4. Trocheck's empty-net goal with 2:04 remaining made it 7-4.

(1-9-18) Panthers-Blues Gameday Lineup

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have been waiting for the arrival of Ivan Barbashev for most of the season.

The Blues were expecting Barbashev, who the Blues selected in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft, a pick acquired from Edmonton that sent David Perron to the Oilers, after the 22-year-old had 12 points (five goals and seven assists) in 30 games last season. There was an expected buildup there.

But when Barbashev was sent to the Chicago Wolves on Oct. 22 after playing in six of the first nine games this season, it was a disappointing few weeks. Coach Mike Yeo was hopeful that Barbashev would recapture some of the solid play that captivated the Blues and their fans at the end of last season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But after a stint in Chicago having to endure some tough love, Barbashev has seemed to be on the road to gearing his game back to that level of last season.

He has a goal and two assists the past two games after starting the season with no points in 14.

Barbashev had a goal and assist in Philadelphia before setting up Vladimir Tarasenko for a goal in Washington on Sunday.

"Yeah, I felt pretty good," Barbashev said. "I thought I played my best games out there in Philly and Washington. I've just been working hard every single shift and every single game. It just kind of helps me.

"... I knew I didn't play my best here. I knew I would probably get sent down. Once I got there, I got my game back. I got my legs going and it helped me out a lot, to be honest. I think it was a good thing for me."

Barbashev went to Chicago and produced only four goals and four assists in 18 games but felt he needed to find himself again, perhaps taking for granted that he had to continue to work to maintain a level of excellence playing in the NHL.

"I probably came here with a mindset for this season," Barbashev said. "I actually had a pretty good season here last year and had some points. When I got here, I was probably thinking too much about it. But even like right now, I'm just thinking about playing every single game hard, as hard as I can and just get better every single game.

"Every single day, every single practice, you just have to work hard. I've been working pretty hard here (lately) and have just gotten better."

That's why coaches have to at times have to be sort of parent-like with their players and give them the tough love they don't necessarily want to hear but need to.

Yeo did that.

"For me, a lot of goes back to he spent some time here but he wasn't in the lineup," Yeo said. "During that time, he was doing extra skating during that time, he was spending extra time in the gym. I think that's probably what he needed more than anything else. I said kind of earlier in the year that it looked like he lacked some pop. Now I think he's got the pop back in his game. He's playing with more pace, he's more physically stronger in his 1-on-1 battles and I think because of that, he's more engaged in all areas of the game. I think that was the important part for him. He looks like he's in a better spot now and better able to play the game that he needs to.

"No question, and I think he understands that now. I think there's no question of where he's at right now and doesn't want to lose that."

So what has Barbashev's biggest challenges been?

"Probably skating's the biggest thing," Barbashev said. "I've been skating faster and I'm just going every single shift. In the d-zone, I've just got much better. I know those little things got me going to be honest."

- - -

Jake Allen will get the start for the Blues (26-16-3), who will enter a six-day break after Tuesday's game against the 17-18-6 Florida Panthers (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Allen, 1-7-0 his past eight starts with a 3.00 goals-against average that ranks 43rd in that stretch and a .906 save percentage, will start for the second time in three games but just the second in the past six games after Carter Hutton went 4-1-1 with a 1.75 GAA and .945 save percentage.

"It was a pretty easy decision," Yeo said of starting Allen. "'Hutts' has deserved some games here. He's done a phenomenal job for us. We would expect him to continue to do that. We've been looking for an opportunity to get Jake back in the lineup too. I was disappointed with the game we played in front of Jake in Philadelphia (a 6-3 loss). That was not on him at all. I would like to see us play a real strong game here tonight. I'm confident Jake is going to have a good game tonight."

- - -

The Blues were involved in a trade.

Sort of.

Their first round pick of 2017, center Robert Thomas, was traded from the London Knights, his former Ontario Hockey League club, to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Here's the release by the Knights for complete details: http://londonknights.com/article/london-and-hamilton-complete-trade

- - -

Oskar Sundqvist will enter into the Blues lineup for the first time in seven games.

Sundqvist has been a healthy scratch the past six games and will replace Chris Thorburn in the lineup.

"Part of the thought process, obviously, No. 1, he's been out for a little bit, want to make sure everyone stays involved," Yeo said of Sundqvist. "Also, when we moved 'Barby' up with 'Stas' [Paul Stastny] and 'Vladi' [Vladimir Tarasenko], that was part of the reason why we had to break up the [Kyle] Brodziak, [Alexander] Steen and [Patrik] Berglund line, we felt we needed a centerman for that fourth line. We'll bring 'Sunny' in and that will give us a chance to reunite that line."

Sundqvist has three assists in 29 games this season.

"I think the biggest thing for me tonight is not to think too much," Sundqvist said. "When it's been a while since I played, you start to think how you're going to skate, where you need to be and things like that. I think it's more not to think too much and trust my instincts."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Brayden Schenn-Tage Thompson

Patrik Berglund-Kyle Brodziak-Alexander Steen 

Scottie Upshall-Oskar Sundqvist-Magnus Paajarvi 

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches will be Dmitrij Jaskin, Chris Thorburn and Vince Dunn, who is still recovering from the flu. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Zach Sanford (shoulder) are out. 

- - -

The Panthers' projected lineup:

Jonathan Huberdeau-Aleksander Barkov-Evgenii Dadonov

Connor Brickley-Vincent Trocheck-Denis Malgin

Colton Sceviour-Jared McCann-Nick Bjugstad

Micheal Haley-Derek MacKenzie-Maxim Mamin

Keith Yandle-Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson-Mark Pysyk

Ian McCoshen-Alexander Petrovic

James Reimer is expected to start in goal; Harri Sateri will then be the backup.

Healthy scratches are expected to be Jamie McGinn and MacKenzie Weegar. Roberto Luongo (lower body) and Radim Vrbata (illness) are expected to be out.

Monday, January 8, 2018

(1-9-18) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Schwartz sheds walking boot, still on target according to Yeo; looking back 
at loss to Caps in OT; Dunn activated, Walman reassigned; Sanford skating

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- He's not on the ice, but just the sight of Jaden Schwartz walking without restrictions is good news for the Blues.

Schwartz was at Scottrade Center with his teammates, many of who were part of an optional skate.

But for Schwartz, who's been out since sustaining a right ankle injury on Dec. 9, he was walking without a boot, no crutches and no limitations or restrictions.

"I haven't talked to Ray [Barile] yet today on that, but I saw him without a boot last week," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schwartz. "That was really encouraging for me. I would just say that the last thing I heard is that everything's on pace right now, everything's on schedule. You're not going to put him in a bad spot and try to rush him back too quickly. Obviously we're eager to get him back. Maybe tomorrow I'll get more of an update for you."

The Blues originally said Schwartz would be re-evaluated in six weeks, which would put his timetable around Jan. 20, meaning Schwartz will miss a minimum of at least three, possibly four more games. But he still has to get on the ice and skate, and to the knowledge here, that hasn't happened yet.

* Looking back to OT loss -- A couple things on the Blues' 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals had Yeo talking teaching points but also feeling like he liked a number of things in the game.

One, it wasn't overly egregious, but Yeo felt there was a slash there from Nicklas Backstrom on Colton Parayko that ultimately led to Backstrom's goal with 43 seconds remaining.

Parayko skated across the Caps' blue line into the offensive zone and as he did, he encountered Backstrom, who took a chop at Parayko's stick, knocking it out of his hands, and former Blue T.J. Oshie.

With no call made, Backstrom was able to circle back around and head up ice, taking Oshie's stretch pass as the Blues were changing. Backstrom beat Carter Hutton with a quick snap shot high blocker side to end the game.

"I thought it was a potential slashing penalty, but what are you gonna do? We certainly could have got the call there and things might have turned out different obviously if you get a two-minute power play in overtime obviously," Yeo said. "Disappointing that it ended like that, especially given that we had a few really good chances in overtime. It was probably one of our best overtimes just in terms of the way we were controlling the puck and generating chances. But that's the way overtime goes."

There was also the frustration from Blues fans that Vladimir Tarasenko didn't need to make a line change in that situation and thus left Hutton in a vulnerable spot having to face a breakaway. 

Fans felt Tarasenko could have backtracked or at the very least, stayed on the ice and perhaps prevented Oshie's long stretch pass or at the very least, provided opposition to Backstrom on the play.

"I think we could look at a number of things that always could be handled a little bit differently," Yeo said. "We could have asked that he could have handled things differently. You could look at the three chances that we had and they could have handled things differently. That's what 3-on-3 is, it's sort of an opportunity one way and quite often those opportunities are one-attack scenarios that turn into one-attack scenario going back the other way."

But the teaching moment to all this comes from Parayko's play, which saw him really skate into bad ice and leave himself in the vulnerable position of losing the puck or having something happen with more real estate to work with instead of cornering himself like that surrounded by two Capitals skaters.

"Yeah, I do think so. I'd like to see him probably delay and kind of realize that you're skating into sort of an area where you're going to get sealed off and run out of room," Yeo said. "Absolutely, there's a teaching opportunity there. I think that's the good thing about 3-on-3 is there's still opportunities to learn and get better at it. It's relatively still new for teams and players. In a situation like that, certainly I think you go back, use the ice that's behind you to sort of generate another opportunity to attack with speed."

Where the Blues (26-16-3) really hurt themselves is A) not putting the Caps away with high quality scoring chances when leading 2-1 in the second when they outshot Washington 17-6, and penalties that fueled the Caps' power play with two goals.

"No question. I mean, Tage [Thompson] hit a post there, 'Vladi' [Tarasenko] hit one, I think even two posts. We had some really good looks. For me most importantly, we responded with a really strong game. We knew that they were a good team and they've won a lot of hockey games and I really felt we did enough things to win that hockey game. It was a really strong game from us, generated a number of quality scoring chances. Good to score again three goals in the game. Not perfect by any means but considering back to back games against that opponent, it was a solid effort from our group."

* Dunn activated, Walman reassigned -- Blues defenseman Vince Dunn was activated off injured reserve and was back on the ice after taking a week off to recover from flu-like symptoms. 

With Dunn skating again, the Blues assigned defenseman Jake Walman to the Chicago Wolves.

"A little better, but obviously he's a little run down," Yeo said of Dunn. "But it takes a little time to come back from that. Good to have him back with the group."

Dunn won't play in the Blues' final game Tuesday against the Florida Panthers before a six-day break, but he's glad to be skating again.

"I'm feeling better," Dunn said. "I don't know if I could say I could play, but I'm headed in the right direction.

"All my head, my chest. It wasn't stomach at all. My body was aching. I didn't really have any energy to play, so I thought it was kind best just staying home and rest. I didn't really see it coming. I don't really know where I got it from, I was inside most of the time. None of the guys got it here. It was just kind of colds going around."

Dunn's spent a lot of time in bed and away from the team obviously to prevent anything from spreading.

"Just rest and water," Dunn said. "Just been chugging liquids. Not eating too much but just trying to get in as much into me as I can. A lot of soup lately. That's all I've been eating the last week. I'm getting sick if it.

"I've just got to get my strength back, put the time in the gym now. That's when I can take advantage of it. Maybe put in a little extra work over the break that I (normally) would. I've got be ready for after the break, for that second half of the season."

* Sanford continues to practice -- Blues forward Zach Sanford, who's missed the entire season thus far with a dislocated left shoulder, was one of 13 skaters (including goalies Jake Allen and Hutton) on the ice.

Sanford isn't taking any contact yet and said that won't come for a while still, but is feeling good to continue to progress.

"The contact part is definitely a ways away," Sanford said. "I still got a lot of work to do with my strength and conditioning and everything. That part's been going good, but I'm kind of taking it day-by-day, week-by-week, whatever the doc says, it goes. When he say I can take it up a notch, that's when I'll go with it.

"I think it's just a lot of strengthening still. My shoulder's still weak. I've got the program going and all that. Even in the gym here with my legs and conditioning, that's all come along. Jut a little more time here and some more work, hopefully I'll be back soon."

Sanford is given the ability to increase his workouts as long as he feels up to it, more so doing "whatever I feel comfortable with," but from a mental standpoint, just being back on the ice is reassuring to him.

"That's been huge for me," Sanford said. "A lot of us joke around here that I've become a hockey player again and part of the team again. I couldn't do much and it wasn't anyone else's fault. Its good to get around the guys more and get back out there and get back into a bit of a routine."

Sanford, who was acquired on Feb. 28, 2017 from the Washington Capitals for Kevin Shattenkirk, said he still plans on playing this season.

"If everything goes to plan, hopefully I can get back here the last part of the season," Sanford said. "I feel that'll be a good time for me to be able to step in and hopefully bring some energy and hopefully help the team out at the end of the year."