Johnson, Polak, Pietrangelo all skate
for Blues; Colaiacovo quietly shining
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A sight that hadn't been witnessed in some time was clearly visible Friday at St. Louis Mills.
Can anyone remember the last time Roman Polak, Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo were on the ice together, skating, working, shooting, doing all the necessary things to be in the lineup?
It's been nearly two months since they've stepped on the ice -- and took part in what was actual competition.
It may have only been practice, but with the Blues and the rash of injuries that have besieged this squad, any positive step is a breath of fresh air.
What's most remarkable about all of these is that Johnson, who took an awkward spill while getting tangled up with Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk Wednesday night, was back on the ice Friday morning.
Some had quietly thought the worst for Johnson, who tore both ligaments in his right knee two seasons ago, the same knee that he injured Wednesday. But MRI results taken Thursday only showed a "slight" sprain of the knee, according to Blues President John Davidson.
Johnson, who is listed as day-to-day and was unavailable for comment Friday, appeared at or near 100 percent during Friday's optional skate.
"The fact that EJ doesn't have any significant damage in there, that's a good thing," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "That means the timeline is shorter than it could have been."
Pietrangelo, out with an upper-body injury believed to be a shoulder, skated for a second straight day and continues to progress after initially injuring himself against Columbus on Dec. 9 and again on Dec. 11.
"It feels good. It's gotten better everyday, see how I feel in the morning," Pietrangelo said. "My legs are fine. I can skate and handle the puck. It's just certain situations in a game, I don't really know how it's going to feel. I just have to go out there, keep skating and see how I feel tomorrow."
Both are not guaranteed to play against San Jose Saturday but they're not completely ruled out yet either.
"This is a test here to see how the upper-body (Pietrangelo) and the lower-body (Johnson) respectively respond to the work they had today," Payne said. "We'll get a report here this afternoon, get a report here in the morning and see where that leads us."
As for Polak, the road to recovery has been arduous in recent weeks.
Polak, who suffered a severed tendon in his right wrist Oct. 23 against Pittsburgh, has skated with teammates on occasion during morning skates on game days. But this is the first time he took part in a full practice with teammates, despite the limited numbers out there.
"I can finally start practicing with the guys, so I'm just going to do game stuff, 2 on 1, more shooting and keep going," Polak said. "I've been skating for a month so I feel good. I feel great out there. My breathing and everything; I'm in good shape right now."
Polak, scheduled to be reevaluated the first week of January, doesn't know when he'll be ready to go, but judging by his pace Friday, the horizon is near.
"I just can't wait to go and play," Polak said. "It's going to be something like two months already. I just want to go out there and start playing.
"Everything is fine. There's no pain (in the wrist) whatsoever."
* Colaiacovo performing well -- With the Blues' defensive unit playing undermanned since injuries took place, one veteran has stepped up and made a difference at both ends of the ice.
Carlo Colaiacovo, who missed seven games with a concussion, quietly is elevating his game to levels that the Blues are fond of.
After setting a career-high in assists in a game with three during Thursday's 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings and also tying a career-best for points in a game, Colaiacovo has 10 assists and 14 points in 23 games this season.
The Toronto native is on pace for 38 points this season, which would be a career-best.
"That's a big part of my game and a big part of what's asked from me," Colaiacovo said. "With the guys that we're missing on the blue line with Johnson and Petro, I'm asked to elevate my game a little more, to bring more to the table and continue to contribute and help this team win games.
"That's something that I'm relishing right now. I'm enjoying that opportunity, playing a lot more and playing in better situations. That's something that I really want to make myself comfortable with. When those guys get back, it will just come natural."
Colaiacovo only trails Pietrangelo (15) in points among Blues defensemen.
"Well, I think he's contributing in the right areas," Payne said. "I think that last night was a game that for Carlo and for the rest of our guys, was a good step for us as far as maintaining body position and limiting opportunities against big, strong, skilled forwards. We'll see the same thing out of San Jose tomorrow night.
"When you talk about Carlo's game, I thought it was solid in both ends of the ice. And really, that contributes to the opportunity moving up ice, it contributes to good reads on the power play. He made good decisions in those areas, saved the right ice on the (Brad) Winchester goal, got that play to the right area. It was again, a game we needed from him, a game that he's certainly capable of giving to us, and repeating. It was a good one for him."
* Blues prospects named to the WJC -- The Blues announced on Friday that prospects Vladimir Tarasenko (Russia) and Sebastian Wannstrom (Sweden) have been added to their countries' respective rosters for the upcoming World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y.
Tarasenko was the 16th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, while Wannstrom was chosen in the second round (44th overall) this past summer.
They will join Jaden Schwartz, who was chosen to represent Canada. Schwartz was the Blues' first round pick (14th overall) in 2010.
* Cracknell reassigned -- The Blues also assigned winger Adam Cracknell back to Peoria of the American Hockey League.
Cracknell made his NHL debut with the Blues on Wednesday. He was plus-1 in the game and hit the goal post vying for his first NHL goal and point.