ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have lost a number of key players this season at some point with serious injuries. Why not add couple guys to that list?
Already playing without Andy McDonald (concussion), T.J. Oshie (ankle), Carlo Colaiacovo (various injuries), Barret Jackman (knee), Roman Polak (wrist) and Vladimir Sobotka (foot) for long stretches and David Perron (concussion) out for most of this season, the Blues will lose winger Alex Steen for 4-6 weeks with a high right ankle sprain, sustained in the second period of Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win in Columbus. Also, the Blues announced Jackman is lost for 4-6 weeks after having surgery on a broken index finger today.
Both were injured in Wednesday's overtime win at Columbus.
Blues coach Davis Payne wasn't specific with the injury, calling it a "lower-body injury," but Steen was on crutches this morning with a walking boot. A source indicated that it is a high ankle sprain on his right leg.
In the past, previous players with such injuries have taken anywhere from 4-6 weeks minimum to recover, so it's possible Steen's season could be over.
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Blues defenseman Ian Cole could only laugh off when officials in last night's game at Columbus waved off his first NHL goal.
Why? Because it wasn't Paul Coffey-esque or a Raymond Bourque-type of end-to-end goal that is seen everywhere.
"That's what I was saying, the first one was a little ugly," Cole said. "It wasn't very pretty -- behind the goal line. I'm kind of a goal line in the offensive zone player. It's kind of like my office, me and Wayno (Wayne Gretzky)."
Of course, Cole was joking, and it was OK when his goal was waved off because officials called Cam Janssen for goalie interference when he was clearly shoved into Mathieu Garon from behind by Jared Boll. But what really irked Cole was the delay of game penalty called on him in the second period that led to a Columbus goal, another obvious gaffe by officials Kevin Pollack and Dan O'Halloran when replays slowed Cole was shoved into Jaroslav Halak, knocking the goal off its moorings.
"I was much more (upset) about the penalty that led to a goal than my goal getting called back," Cole said. "A goal getting called back, it's no big deal. But that penalty call, especially leading to a goal was pretty infuriating just because I didn't push the net off at all. You get pushed into the net ... it was definitely one of those tough things to swallow."
Said Payne, "There were some blips there that we had to fight our way through, including ourselves. We look at some of these blows that we were dealt ... I thought it was a good goal, and that we were influenced into knocking a net off. All of the sudden, we're not only up one but down one on a turnover, which started some of that momentum that we can't allow our opponent to generate. Now, things can happen and they did. We dealt with them accordingly. ... It was a good statement by our club."
Cole would go on to collect his first NHL goal in the third period of the come-from-behind Blues win, one which they overcame a 3-0 deficit.
"Definitely emotional scoring my first NHL goal," Cole said this morning. "At the same time, we were losing, it was an away barn. It wasn't as loud. The atmosphere wasn't quite there. ... It was awesome that it happened, but we still had some more work to do."
Cole and defensive partner Kevin Shattenkirk, who played together on the U.S. U-18 Developmental squad from 2005-07, have been a perfect match since Cole's recall on March 4th.
"It was part of the plan when we were needing to put new pairs together," Payne said. "We land in New York, Ian's in and we've got to find some sort of way to create immediate continuity and knowing that these guys at least know each other's names is a starting point. They were able to communicate a little bit better. It's translated fairly well. I thought both guys have played really well."
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The goalie matchup was in fact confirmed this morning: Halak against Montreal's Carey Price.
Halak was triumphant in his return after missing 11 games (broken right hand). He stopped 19 shots in the victory.
"I think Jaro understands who he's playing against," Payne said. "He's a pro that stays even-keeled through his preparation, through his performance. I expect there will be some added motivation, but I don't think it's something that's going to get him off-track in any way. He prepares for the games and approaches the games with the right sort of mentality and I think he'll be able to lean on that for a good performance here tonight."
Also lost among the former teammates facing one another is Blues winger Matt D'Agostini, who will be facing the Canadiens for the first time since being traded to St. Louis March 2, 2010 for prospect Aaron Palushaj.- - -
Don't look now, but Chris Stewart is quickly helping Blues fans forget the memory that was Erik Johnson.
With two more goals last night, including the game-tying goal in the third and game-winner in overtime, Stewart has nine goals in 11 games with the Blues and 22 goals in the season.
"A guy going to the right areas," Payne said of Stewart. "He finds a way with good, solid team foundation decisions.
"It's amazing. You tell guys to go there and the guys who get it and go there, get rewarded. The winning goal's a little bit different. It takes some abilities to recognize the advantage that you have on the rush. Not only to be the guy but to also finish."
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The Blues (30-28-9) held an optional skate in preparation for their game with the Canadiens tonight. Those players included Polak (foot) and Philip McRae (knee).
With Steen's injury, center Dave Scatchard was recalled on emergency basis from Peoria this morning, but Payne indicated that B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) will be a game-time decision and could play tonight. Polak, who's missed the last three games, is also a game-time decision.
McRae still has time to go.
"Phil's still got some work to do," Payne said. "Basically first time on the ice for him. We want to make sure that injury heals itself. He's got some time yet."
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Here is the Blues' probable lineup:
Andy McDonald-David Backes-Matt D'Agostini
T.J. Hensick-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Chris Porter-T.J. Oshie-B.J. Crombeen
Cam Janssen-Adam Cracknell-Ryan Reaves
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk
Nikita Nikitin-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak will face his former team tonight for the first time since his trade here on June 17.
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The Canadiens (37-23-7) come in with a five-game winning streak and six of seven.
Former Blue Lars Eller, the team's top pick in 2007 (13th overall) will make his return to St. Louis after being in the package that brought Halak to St. Louis.
Eller, who netted three goals in his first 57 games in a Canadiens uniform, has four goals in five games since.
"There have been ups and downs, but lately, pucks have been going in," Eller said. "I think I found my game and I'm playing more consistently with the same linemates with the last stretch of games. Right now, I feel good.
"I've been looking forward to (tonight). Once the game gets going, you focus on the game. it's going to be like any other. I really looked forward to it for some time."
Said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin, "Lars has been very good. I think right from the start, Lars shows he has a good understanding of the game, has done a good job defensively at both ends of the ice. Lately has gotten some more production. He's a young player who's got lots of talent and just adapting to the National Hockey League's pace of the game or adapting his game to get more results."
Cole was a teammate of Eller in Peoria and if the two cross paths on the ice, he joked, "Rough him up for sure. A cross-check to the face, knock out some teeth."
Montreal, of course, is riding into town on a wave of emotions following the horrific injury to 2007 No. 1 pick Max Pacioretty, who suffered a severe concussion and fractured fourth vertebrae following a hit from Boston's Zdeno Chara Tuesday night.
Chara did not receive a fine and/or suspension from the league, quietly making those in the Canadiens organization irate.
"With Max, I think he's recovering at the hospital and still being under observation," Martin said. "Obviously, we're not pleased with the league decision, but the organization is looking after the representation and that comes out of the leadership of (general manager) Pierre Gauthier."
Montreal police have launched an official investigation into the incident.
"I think the organization is looking after doing the representation on the incident," Martin said, evading the question of whether he thinks it's the proper channel taken. "I think to me, that's up to the organization's responsibility."
Pacioretty was the 22nd pick in '07 and playing on the Canadiens' second line, producing 14 goals and 10 assists in 37 games this season.
Montreal's probable lineup includes:
Michael Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec-Jeff Halpern
Benoit Pouliot-Scott Gomez-Brian Gionta
Andrei Kostitsyn-Lars Eller-Travis Moen
Ryan White-David Desharnais-Tom Pyatt
Roman Hamrlik-James Wisniewski
Hal Gill-P.K. Subban
Paul Mara-Alexandre Picard
Carey Price is 1-0-1 in two career starts against the Blues, with a 2.81 goals-against average and .889 save percentage.