Brewer welcomes second child; Bishop ready if needed
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Eric Brewer finally missed a game Friday night. Injuries have plagued the Blues' defenseman in the past. But this was most definitely an excused absence.
While his teammates were busy breaking a 0-3-1 funk by downing the Edmonton Oilers Friday, Brewer was with his pregnant wife, who went into labor. And finally early Saturday morning, the couple welcomed a baby girl into the world, a second child -- both girls -- into the Brewer family.
"Early this morning, they welcomed a baby girl into this world," Blues coach Davis Payne said after Saturday's practice at St. Louis Mills. "We're all happy for him and we're excited for him and his family."
There was some question whether Brewer would accompany the team to Tampa for the trip but he indeed made the flight Saturday night and should be in the lineup this afternoon.
The Blues were able to down the Oilers 5-3 Friday night, but getting Brewer's valuable experience and leadership back against the Lightning will be vital.
Brewer has eight goals, 14 points and a plus-5 rating in 49 games this season, arguably his best in a Blues uniform.
* Bishop glad to be back -- Goalie Ben Bishop, the surprise backup to Ty Conklin Friday night against Edmonton, had quite an eventful couple days leading up to his recall from AHL Peoria Friday afternoon.
Bishop stopped 35 shots in the Rivermen's 4-1 victory at Oklahoma City on Thursday night, then got word that there was a good chance he would be called up to the parent team.
After flying into Oklahoma City for Thursday's game, Bishop caught a flight to St. Louis Friday afternoon and arrived at Scottrade Center in time for the Blues' game against the Oilers.
"It was a nice call to get," Bishop said. "... This is where you want to be, but you've got to put your time in. Hopefully, I'll be here soon."
Bishop has compiled a 13-11-1 mark with a 2.59 goals-against average and .913 save percentage and a pair of shutouts playing with the Rivermen. Bishop and fellow netminder Jake Allen have helped the Rivermen become one of the top teams in the Anerican Hockey League this season.
"It's awesome. (Allen's) doing great. We're both playing well and the team's playing great too, which helps a lot," Bishop said. "We've obviously got a good team down there, which makes a big difference. It's a lot of fun."
Bishop credits Blues goaltending coach Corey Hirsch with his ascension. The two have a good working relationship and stay in contact a lot.
"Working with Hirschy and being a lot more patient, I feel like I read the play a lot better down there," Bishop said. "Things just seem to be slowing down a lot down there. Things are going well, but working with him helps a lot.
"He's awesome. You can call him whenever you want. You get a lot better every time you work with him. That's a big plus."
Bishop also accompanied the team to Tampa with Jaroslav Halak dealing with an upper-body injury.
"I'm here to work hard and to try and get better," Bishop said. "I'll be prepared for anything."
* Banged and bruised -- Defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (eye) and Erik Johnson (face) along with Halak are all dealing with various ailments.
Colaiacovo was on the ice for the first time with the team Saturday wearing a cage on his helmet and did make the trip to Florida.
Colaiacovo said he will not play today but did not rule out Tuesday at Florida against the Panthers.
"He's making progress but still has a way to go," Payne said. "But getting into drill situations and getting out on the ice and executing with other players as opposed to by yourself is always a good step."
Johnson, who lost three teeth during practice Monday, took a skate to the face in the third period of Friday's game. He did not practice Saturday, as Payne called it, "Just a maintenance day there. He's feeling sore and battling with a lot of stuff."
Halak, who initially was injured in the morning skate of Tuesday's postponed game against Colorado, was on the ice prior to practice working with head trainer Ray Barile.
Halak is questionable at best to play today.
"I wouldn't call it good," Payne said when asked if there was a good chance Halak plays. "We'll make that assessment today and tomorrow morning based on how everything went treatment-wise today and how it feels. We have some early, early ice for that game tomorrow. We'll test it, see if he's able and ready. If not, we'll obviously have to go with one of the other guys."
* Nikitin making strides -- Russian defenseman Nikita Nikitin, on his second recall from Peoria, has raised some eyes with his play during this stint.
Nikitin, who initially thought he scored his first NHL goal in Friday's game only to have it changed to Matt D'Agostini, did collect an assist on the play for his first NHL point.
The Blues have really liked Nikitin's play on the point while on the power play.
His one-timer from the blue line was redirected in by D'Agostini.
"I think we saw a little of that when we had him up early," Payne said of Nikitin. "He's got some poise, (he's) older than what would be determined a rookie based on his age and his experience in the KHL.
"He's making better reads, he's moving his feet better, the pace is not something that's surprising him. Obviously his ability to shoot the puck is something that we've kind of keyed on a little bit on here on the power play. Another good game by him last night. I thought his game built like the rest of ours did as it went along. His decision-making process is getting cleaner and cleaner, which is great. ... He's got directives and he followed them pretty well last night."
Nikitin's ice time in the three games since the recall have gone from 9:14 to 17:08 to 14:48 Friday night. His season-high is 23:11 on Nov. 11 against Nashville.