Blues back at work with tough practice;
Colaiacovo, Sobotka still nursing injuries
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Maybe a day off was not such a good idea for the Blues. Or was it?
After three days of games over the weekend, Blues coach Davis Payne gave his players a day off Monday to get refreshed and reenergized for the week that lies ahead.
Well, when Tuesday morning rolled around, the Blues hit the ice at St. Louis Mills at 10:30 a.m. By the time all was said and done, roughly two hours later, it was one of the more intense practices in recent memory -- most certainly in Payne's short era here. It even prompted one visiting reporter to say they've never seen anything like it before.
But instead of pouting how much they exerted themselves on the ice, the Blues were peppy and upbeat in the locker room. Most talked about the need to get locked into regular season mode, which is a mere 10 days away.
"It was a grind today. It was good, though," forward Brad Boyes said. "There was definitely a point to it with the way the drills were scheduled, especially at the end.
"I think it was pretty obvious when we did a little skate there at the end, we tired each other out and then went to a battle drill to finish it off. The mindset was keep going, keep going, never stop. (Payne's) drilling it in, and that's good."
* Colaiacovo, Sobotka updates -- Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who suffered a hip-flexor injury during Friday's 5-0 exhibition win over Minnesota, was not on the ice Tuesday and according to Payne, is at least a week away from joining the Blues.
That means that the competition for the last two spots on the defensive unit could turn into competition for three positions should Colaiacovo miss more time.
Those prospects bode well for the five players battling it out in camp, including Alex Pietrangelo, Ian Cole, Nikita Nikitin, Tyson Strachan and even Nathan Oystrick.
"It's making it very tough," Payne said of the looming decisions on D. "I think you look at the games we've (played over) the weekend, Ian Cole's strong game (against the Wild Friday). I thought Petro's game in Colorado (Sunday) was the better of the games he's played. Nikitin (is) very, very strong and very poised in all the situations both offensively and defensively. Then you've got a guy in Nathan Oystrick and Strachan who've got some experience and understand the way this game's played at this level. I think it's a wide open competition and I think all guys are doing a great job making it difficult.
"With Carlo not on the ice and we're a man down, it opens a door for another guy to step in as long as the opportunity is there."
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Vladimir Sobotka, who has skated on his own but not with the team since camp opened nearly two weeks ago, is still on the mend from a shoulder injury sustained while playing for Boston in the playoffs this past spring.
Payne said it'll be another "week to 10 days" before Sobotka, acquired at the draft for prospect David Warsofsky, can engage in contact and getting on the ice with his teammates. Payne didn't sound optimistic Sobotka would be ready to play in the season opener Oct. 9 against Philadelphia but didn't rule it out either.
* Backes, McDonald back to yesteryear? -- The early talk of camp is that both Andy McDonald and David Backes would be looked at back at their regular positions, which for McDonald would be center and right wing for Backes.
But Tuesday, there was Backes centering a line between Brad Boyes and David Perron. McDonald was on left wing with Patrik Berglund at center and T.J. Oshie on right wing.
One thing certain is that Payne likes the combination of Perron, Backes and Boyes. He feels they are playing well at both ends of the ice.
"I would clarify where all the talk was coming from in that we thought that we would take a look at some things," Payne said. "It would be dependent on how certain guys played and how certain guys fit together.
"David (Backes) and David (Perron) and Brad have looked really good together. We want to continue to see how that evolves. We've got three righties there that provide a little bit of everything and a little bit of a different element to the line. We like what we see so far and they've clicked pretty well on the power play. For now, we're going to see that look."
* Hensick to Peoria -- The Blues trimmed their roster by one Tuesday, optioning T.J. Hensick to Peoria after the center cleared waivers Tuesday.
The move leaves the Blues with 29 players in camp, including the injured Sobotka and Colaiacovo.