By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- It's getting down to the final days for those that are fighting for spots on the Blues' roster, and the moments are getting anxious for some.
Forward Nick Drazenovic is no exception.
Drazenovic, 23, who was drafted by the Blues in the 6th round (171st overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has had a string of bad luck trying to crack the big boys' roster. But he's here now and among the final cuts and is hoping for the best.
"My first year, I had a broken rib, the second year I had mono," Drazenovic said Thursday morning before the Blues faced the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center. "Last year was my first year I got a good shot at it, but there wasn't many spots. I feel like I had a good year in Peoria. Hopefully this camp, it'll work out."
Drazenovic, who had 19 goals and 39 points in 58 games with the Rivermen last season, was supposed to be a late-season call-up last year but was struck with bad luck again, when he suffered a broken wrist.
All is well now, and Drazenovic will get another shot tonight playing with Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund.
"Everyone's playing for a spot, so I just got to go out there and play like I can," Drazenovic said. "I'm with Bergy and Steener tonight, and I just have to show I can play at their pace, play at their level and be responsible out there; let Payner trust me to know I'm not a liability out there.
"After the first cuts there, I was like, 'Okay, I've just got to not think about it and just play hockey,'" Drazenovic said. "Then there were cuts after the Colorado game ... I just wanted to go play in Colorado and I can't control what happens after that. I seemed to have slid through and I get another opportunity tonight."
Blues coach Davis Payne coached Drazenovic in Peoria and knows a thing or two about the 6-foot-1, 200-pound right winger.
"He's an offensive guy who's gained an understanding on the other side of the puck, which makes reliability to go up and all of the sudden to play more minutes," Payne said. "His skating's come along, he's better in traffic, he's better going to the net; still would like to see him shoot some more pucks, but he's going to get a good opportunity here tonight with Bergy and Steener. We want to find out where he's at and just how close he really is."
Whether Drazenovic makes the final cut is still to be determined, but he's doing his best to keep it all in stride.
"It's funny because my family's calling and wondering how camp's going," Drazenovic said. "I'm trying to stay even-keel about it and not play too much about it to them. I'm telling them it's okay and everything's fine, but inside you're anxious and a little bit nervous playing with guys I've watched for years."
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Another guy vying for a spot is Ian Cole, who has had a very nice camp thus far and judging by his minutes on the ice, the Blues feel so as well.
But Cole, who will be playing in his fourth preseason game tonight, does not shy away from a heavy workload. He's averaged over 20 minutes each game, including a game-best 26:08 against the Minnesota Wild.
"I recover quick enough to get back out there without being too long on the bench," Cole said. "I can handle playing those minutes. Heck, in college (at Notre Dame), I was playing upwards of 32-33 minutes. So this is nothing (Cole was joking of course). This is a walk in the park.
"I've never complained about too much ice time. ... You never complain about too much ice time. Up here, you have to go all-out all the time."
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The Blues (3-2) will host the Blackhawks (1-3) and will use a predominantly regular lineup tonight. The forward lines look like this:
David Perron-David Backes-Brad Boyes
Alex Steen-Patrik Berglund-Nick Drazenovic
T.J. Oshie-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen
Cam Janssen-Matt D'Agostini-Brad Winchester
Andy McDonald (mild hip-flexor strain) skated this morning but will not play.
Barret Jackman-Erik Johnson
Eric Brewer-Roman Polak
Nikita Nikitin-Ian Cole
Carlo Colaiacovo (hip-flexor) was not on the ice this morning and should be less than a week away from skating.
Jaroslav Halak will make his second appearance in goal after starting the preseason opener. Ty Conklin to be the backup.
Other scratches include Chris Porter, Tyson Strachan, Dave Scatchard, Alex Pietrangelo and Nathan Oystrick.
The Blues optioned goalie Ben Bishop to Peoria Thursday afternoon, trimming the roster down to 28 players.