By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- One player's misfortune is turning into another player's opportunity.
Russian defenseman Nikita Nikitin, who has looked strong in camp thus far and has been one of five players battling for two spots on the opening day roster, will have to put his showcase on hold after suffering a broken right wrist late in Thursday's 4-1 exhibition victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center.
Nikitin, 24, was injured according to Blues coach Davis Payne following a hit along the corner boards and subsequent fall to the ice. He will be sidelined a minimum of four weeks and will be reevaluated at that time.
"That obviously changes the picture for a lot of things," Payne said Friday morning following Friday's practice at St. Louis Mills. "It's unfortunate because you're talking about a guy who's playing pretty good hockey and was adjusting to the pace and the decision-making that has to go on. We all feel he thinks the game very, very well and was adjusting very well. It's unfortunate for him, but an opportunity knocks now (for somebody else)."
That somebody else includes Ian Cole, Alex Pietrangelo, Tyson Strachan and Nathan Oystrick, who are battling for at least two spots on the opening day roster and possibly three if Carlo Colaiacovo (hip-flexor) is not ready by the season opener.
"We're going to have tough decisions," Payne said. "It's up to these guys to make those decisions difficult. Plain and simple."
Nikitin, who played 17 minutes 41 seconds in the victory Thursday night, has a goal and an assist in three preseason games. He will have the opportunity to polish up on the English language, since he speaks very little to none of it at all.
"You take any situation, whether it's an injury like this or whether it's any sort of adversity or any sort of positive phase that you go through and deal with it," Payne said. "It's how you react to it. What he does with that, we feel there's a lot of positives that we can make out of it."
* Sobotka skates with teammates for first time -- Blues center Vladimir Sobotka, who has only been skating on his own since off-season shoulder surgery, was on the ice Friday with his teammates for the first time since being acquired from the Boston Bruins at the NHL draft for defensive prospect David Warsofsky.
Sobotka, 23, was wearing a no-contact red sweater but was participating in the drills. He likely will start the season on injured reserve but is on pace to return in the very near future.
"It was a great feeling for me to be finally skating with the guys and get a little bit of confidence back," Sobotka said. "It's great to skate with the guys and shoot the puck, try to skate fast and do all those things with them.
"I'm just trying to get back my speed and my shooting. I feel great on the ice. I didn't feel anything wrong. My legs hurt a little bit right now, but it's going to be fine. I just want to be healthy and strong and be ready for the season."
The injury time frame was expected to be four months, which is where it is right now. Sobotka is anxious but frustratingly patient for the healing process to end.
"It's pretty much the time I expected (to be sidelined). We're on schedule, and I can't really do anything about that," Sobotka said. "I have to wait for the doctors to say I'm OK to play.
"It is frustrating a little bit. I had to skate alone, but finally now I can skate with the guys and get the feeling again on the ice and be a part of the team."
Sobotka was sporting No. 17, which prompted Payne to jokingly say, "Yeah, I didn't know what number he was."
Payne added, "It was good to see him out there. He'll be slowly working in the drills, but this is part of the process. The body's got to heal and he's got to get ready. I'm sure it feels good for him too, to be back out on the ice, be around his teammates and kind of get into the flow of things.
"Conditioning's one thing, but you see the pace the drills are done at and the pace you need to execute at. There is a step there or two to be gained, but make no doubt about it, he's certainly going to get there."
* McDonald back on ice, cleared to play -- Forward Andy McDonald, who has been hampered the past couple days as a result of a hip-flexor strain, resumed skating Friday and looked good enough to be cleared to play in Saturday's exhibition game against Dallas.
McDonald, who initially suffered the injury Sunday at practice, then re-aggravating it Tuesday, did not play Thursday against Chicago.
"He looked fine," Payne said of McDonald. "It looked like he really had good jump. He told me this morning before the ice he felt pretty good. We'll see him tomorrow night.
"There was something there that we had to manage. The medical staff's done their job, Andy's done his job. He's back ready."
* Colaiacovo still not ready -- The news on Colaiacovo is that he is still five days to a week before he can resume skating after sustaining a hip-flexor injury on Sept. 24 in a 5-0 win over Minnesota.
Colaiacovo, who has not been on the ice since, is still on target to be ready for the Oct. 9 season opener against Philadelphia but Payne is cautiously optimistic.
"He's still probably ... 5-6 (days) to a week from getting back on the ice," Payne said. "These things take time and time frames change. We just have to allow the staff to do its part and Carlo do his rehab. We're certainly hoping once we do get into next week and we're approaching next Saturday that he's going to be available."
* Line combinations at practice for Friday --
David Perron-David Backes-Brad Boyes
Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen
Brad Winchester-Matt D'Agostini-Chris Porter
Nick Drazenovic-Dave Scatchard-Cam Janssen
Barret Jackman-Erik Johnson
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Eric Brewer-Tyson Strachan
Nathan Oystrick-Alex Pietrangelo
Jaroslav Halak-Ty Conklin