Polak to miss 2nd game with sore shoulder;
Johnson still progressing after knee surgery
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Roman Polak's goal of playing a full 82-game schedule was steadily on course.
But in a split second, doing what he does best -- going hard into the corners in his own zone -- Polak crashed hard into the corner boards in the waning seconds Saturday against New Jersey, injuring his right shoulder with a little help from the Devils' Travis Zajac.
Polak, 23, missed his first game of the season in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Nashville after playing in 71 straight to begin the season.
It looks like Polak will miss his second consecutive game when the Blues (34-29-9) look to cling to slim playoff hopes when they face the Detroit Red Wings (36-23-13) at 6:30 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
Polak took part in the team's practice Tuesday before departing for the Motor City and was engaging in many aspects -- maybe not quite to the fullest extend. But after practice, he declared himself not quite ready to go.
Blues coach Davis Payne and Polak both said he is day-to-day. Payne listed his defenseman as questionable. Polak was more forthcoming. He did not accompany the team to Detroit.
"It was kind of alright, but it's still sore," Polak said after practice at Scottrade Center. "I don't think I'm going to be able to play tomorrow.
"I have to be patient and go day-by-day. Just make sure I don't want to hurt it more."
Polak said his shoulder was not hurt as seriously as it appeared on television and he wanted to play Sunday. He took part in the pre-game warm-up but it was decided that it was best for him to sit out as a precaution.
"He's a guy that plays a great deal of minutes," Blues coach Davis Payne said of Polak. "He does those D-zone situations, net-front strength, speed to corners, speed to assignments and winning those battles. He's a guy that does (all) that without question."
Veteran Darryl Sydor will play his second straight game after sitting out 12 in a row.
"I wanted to play against Nashville, too, but you have to think the other way," Polak said. "If it isn't 100 percent, I don't know if I can help the team if I'm not playing at 100 percent especially with my game because I like to go strong in the corners and hit people.
"That was one of my goals, to play all 82 games. I couldn't and that's frustrating. ... It was kind of painful to watch that game (Sunday). But it's hockey and it happens."
* Blanking the Wings -- In a rare feat, the Blues have an opportunity to go unbeaten in regulation against the Red Wings tonight in a season for the first time since 1980-81, when they were 4-0-0 against their Central Division rivals.
The Blues are 4-0-1 against the Wings this season, with the only defeat being a 4-3 shootout loss on Nov. 28.
But the Red Wings, who are in that eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 85 points, are healthy once again and will surely be looking for some retribution tonight.
"It's a scary thing when you've got the Stanley Cup champions (two years ago), being in the Stanley Cup finals a year ago ... the team that they have, when they're on a roll, they're one of the best in the league," Blues forward Brad Boyes said. "But we're playing well, too, and we've played well against them this year. We're looking to go in and not change anything, especially the way we've played on the road. It's going to be a good road test for us."
The Blues, who are tied with Washington for most road wins (22), won 1-0 in the only meeting in Detroit on Dec. 9.
"We've got a good sense of how they play, they've got a good sense of how we play," Boyes said. "I think we've just kind of swarmed them a bit and not given them too much space."
So what is the Blues' success this season against Detroit?
"I don't think anyone underestimates them," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "Everyone knows what they've accomplished. It's a team you have to be on your toes every play. I don't know what it is about playing against Detroit, but we always seem to find a way to get it done. Certainly going into that building is going to be tough, but we have to go in with the mentality we're going to get two points."
* Johnson still learning, feeling stronger -- Defenseman Erik Johnson, who missed last season after tearing both the ACL and MCL in his knee, said on Tuesday that the injury took time to get back into playing form and is nearly complete.
There have been some bumps and lumps sprinkled in here and there, but in the grand scheme of things, it's full speed ahead for the No. 1 overall pick of 2006.
"Ten times better," Johnson said when asked about the feeling in his knee Tuesday compared to the beginning of the season. "You're always going to deal with some kind of soreness, but for the most part, it's held up really well. There's been no issues with it. It's felt really good."
Johnson, who leads the Blues' defensemen in goals (seven), assists (26) and points (33), still feels like his game can be better despite the trials and tribulations of a season geared to get back on track after being derailed by the freak golfing accident that sidelined him for all of last season.
"Inconsistent would be the word I'd use," Johnson said describing his season. "I think I've had some good moments and some not-so-good moments, but there's going to be bumps in the road. It's just managing through those bumps and not letting it happen for a long period of time.
"You're going to have rough games, but it's about not dragging those rough games on and having them be a consecutive thing. I feel good, but it's about being consistent every night."
Johnson had no foresight for what his future had in store this season, just that he wanted to make a smooth transition and forget about not playing a year ago.
"I don't set goals as far as numbers," said Johnson, who has matched his rookie season of 33 points. "I set goals as far as how I want the team to do and how I can accomplish that within the team. I've set myself up to play as well as I could. It's hard to say how you're going to feel and how you're going to react after a surgery like that. There's been some good things, but there's been some things I can work on going into next year."