Polak, Pietrangelo return; penalty killers kept Blues in game Monday
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Blues defensemen Roman Polak and Alex Pietrangelo returned to the lineup for the Blues against the Vancouver Canucks, giving the team their full compliment of d-men for the first time since late October.
Unfortunately, their return didn't pay dividends on the scoreboard as the Blues fell to the Canucks, 3-1 at Scottrade Center.
Polak, who picked up an assist upon his return after missing 24 games because of a severed right tendon in his right wrist, played 18 minutes 20 seconds in his return to the lineup. He was paired at the outset with Carlo Colaiacovo but found his way back to his partner of old: Barret Jackman.
"It's tough when you haven't played in six, seven weeks," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "People are in places in a hurry. I thought (Polak) skated fine. He kept himself in pretty good position. Roman doesn't lose too many battles. I don't think he lost too many tonight."
Polak has been out of the lineup since Oct. 23, when he was cut by the skate blade of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. He had surgery to repair the tendon on Oct. 28 and was expected to be out roughly eight weeks or longer but returned a bit sooner that expected.
"The recovery was faster than we thought," Polak said Monday morning. "Actually, we just had that time-frame to let the tendon heal, but after that, it was just rehabbing. It all went good and I'm ready.
"I'm totally fine. The range of motion is good. Everything is working fine. ... It was two hard months for me. I was just waiting to get back on the ice as soon as possible. ... I'm excited."
Pietrangelo, who missed three games with an upper-body injury (presumably his right shoulder), returned but didn't quite have the same results.
He played 20:07 in his return but lost the puck that led to Vancouver's first goal. he was minus-2 with a pair of blocked shots.
"It's tough. Roman's missed I don't know how many games ... like 20 games," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "Petro's been out and we mix and match the lineups.
"It shouldn't take too long for us to get back going, but it's definitely a little bit of a transition period."
* Blues PK strong -- The Blues, despite allowing a late power play goal that put the Canucks up by two, were very strong on the penalty killing unit against the third-best power play team in the league.
"They're one of the best power plays in the league," Jackman said. "They kind of get you running around in your zone. Their fore-check was really good tonight. They really made it tough on the D to exit the zone."
Vancouver had four power play opportunities, including a 35-second stretch where they held a two-man advantage that kept the game scoreless and gave the Blues a chance.
"I thought our killers did an outstanding job in that period," Payne said. "We had some penalties with some high sticks that we need to work harder to find a way to avoid those, but I thought getting through that period and having our killers do that kind of job against that power play ... Jaro (Halak) giving us that kind of period, I felt like we'd get our game underneath us.
"After killing some penalties and feeling like we were starting to generate a little bit more zone time ... I felt that being one shot away against that hockey club, especially after having to kill that many early, we were in decent shape. The game came down to a late power play. Now all of the sudden, it was a little bit out of reach."
The Blues just can't use the PK to enhance the offensive chances.
"The penalty kill is not the stimulator for our offense," forward David Backes said. "It's something that needs to be great night in, night out, but we need to stay out of the box as much as possible, keep all five guys on the ice and roll through our lineup and bring that energy."
* Power-less power play -- Scoring two goals in two home games, which includes scoring only one goal in five of the last seven home games, puts the onus in one area.
Not only does the 5 on 5 game need to be better, so does the power play. And the Blues are without a power play goal in four of those last seven home games, including 0-for-3 Monday night.
"Our power play wasn't very good tonight," winger Alex Steen said. "... Obviously, that needs to be better. We need to gain momentum from the PP. (Vancouver) did a lot of up-ice pressuring. We knew they were going to do it, too. We didn't get around it properly. That needs to be better.
"We started slow today. We have three or four penalty kills in the first period, which kind of puts us back a little bit."