Jackman could return to lineup tonight;
Blues ahead of last season's pace
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues could get a big boost to their lineup tonight when they play at Nashville against the Predators.
Veteran defenseman Barret Jackman, out since Nov. 4 with a sprained right knee, skated once again at full strength Tuesday at St. Louis Mills and could make his return to the lineup tonight.
Could is the operative word here, as coach Davis Payne would not tip his hand despite being pleased with Jackman's progress since hitting the ice.
"He looked better today," Payne said Tuesday. "This is what we're looking for, the response after the intensity and the volume of work goes up. I think we had a real good response. We'll see how that pans out as the day goes on. We wake up in Nashville tomorrow and obviously have a decision to make."
The decision could be the Blues keep seven defensemen on the current roster and make one of the last pairing (either Tyson Strachan or Nikita Nikitin) a healthy scratch, or they could option Nikitin to Peoria of the American Hockey League and allow the big Russian to play there.
* Blues hit quarter point -- The Blues, 11-5-3 are ahead of their pace of a season ago when they were 7-8-4.
One big reason why the Blues are off to such a terrific start is the play on home ice.
The Blues, who are the only team in the league without a regulation home loss, are 8-0-1 on Scottrade Center ice. The only blip on the radar is a shootout loss Nov. 11 against Nashville.
The Blues, at this time a season ago, were 2-7-1 at Scottrade Center.
"At this point, they're not going to start stringing banners around here, blowing horns or anything like that because we've put ourselves in a good position," Payne said. "This is what we've had to do. You look at our conference, you have to do it now, you have to do it over the next 20 (games), the third quarter and then the fourth quarter. It's the way it is. It's all part of having success and getting into the playoffs. We've got to now be better on the road. We know when there's areas of our game that don't go well, we've got to tighten those up. It's an adjustment and it's a growing process every day. We're not looking to hang our hats on anything just yet."
The Blues, who were among the best road teams in the NHL a season ago, are 3-5-2 away from home ice.
"We've played good hockey," Payne said. "We don't talk about making sure our home record is good. We talk about making sure we play good hockey at home, making sure we play good hockey on the road. ... We never got into conversation of yeah, we needed to start well, we needed to reclaim home ice. We knew there was work to be done, we knew if it hadn't happened, we'd still have work to do. That's a product of the work we've put in. We've got to keep doing it. It's as simple as that."
* Winchester earning his keep -- Brad Winchester, who has mainly played on the Blues' fourth line this season prior to suffering a knee contusion, has played some of his best hockey since joining the Blues two seasons ago.
The past couple games, Winchester has found himself playing on the Blues' second line with Patrik Berglund and Matt D'Agostini.
"We want to be a merit-based hockey club," Payne sad. "So guys that are getting the job done, guys that are doing the job continue to get more opportunity. Winny's been a guy that's done his job very well, (he's) gaining an opportunity and now he's doing that next job well. He'll continue to get that ice time."
* Perron continues to sit -- Payne said Tuesday that there is nothing new to report on Blues forward David Perron, out since suffering a concussion on Nov. 4 against San Jose.
"There's no updates on any of the concussion symptoms," Payne said. "He's out with a concussion. He's day-to-day until there's some more information. Right now, that's the information we have. Of course, we were concerned right from the time it happened. These things are difficult to deal with and we have to be very careful. That's where it sits with him right now."
* Who's in goal? -- Payne wouldn't drop his guard, but it is expected that Jaroslav Halak, who blanked the Predators in Nashville on Oct. 28, will get the start in goal for the Blues tonight.
"We haven't made that decision, so can't divulge at this point," Payne said.
The Blues will play three games in four nights beginning tonight, so it is also expected that Ty Conklin will see action at some point.
The Blues will immediately fly out of Nashville following the game and go to Dallas, where they will face the Stars Friday night. The two teams will meet again here in St. Louis Saturday.