Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blues lose preseason finale, winger; make final roster cuts

Elliott wins backup job; Crombeen out indefinitely after fracturing left shoulder

ST. LOUIS -- The final audition for those searching for a roster spot with the Blues didn't bring out any ringing endorsements Saturday afternoon.

The Blues used a makeshift lineup against the Dallas Stars, which did include eight regulars including goalie Jaroslav Halak, in their exhibition finale. And for those looking to stick here in St. Louis, a 4-0 loss to the Stars was not what some of those fringe players wanted.

Despite outshooting the Stars 33-24, the Blues didn't get good performances across the board, including Halak, who allowed those four goals on the Stars' first 15 shots. He finished with 20 saves.

"Just turn the page. It's preseason and it's behind us," said Halak, who finished exhibition play with a 1-2 record. "Everyone now starts the regular season."
The Blues' T.J. Oshie (74) battles for a puck with the Stars' Eric Godard.

When asked where his game was a week away from the regular season opener, Halak said, "We'll see when we play the first game. Nobody wants to lose 4-0. No one wants to lose a last exhibition game, but it happened. You've got to turn the page."

Other skaters, including the four that were recalled from Peoria Friday, didn't assert themselves either with a final preseason performance that saw the Blues end 5-3.

"I don't suppose you'd tell a very good story out of that one," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We still wanted to see some impressions. Unfortunately, some of our guys we called up didn't leave great ones. We've got some moves we've got to make, we've got to get the roster down, we've got to get to work."

Some roster cuts were made Saturday afternoon, and those that will stick around here a while longer include Evgeny Grachev, Ryan Reaves and Chris Porter. Porter likely stuck it out after news came down that winger B.J. Crombeen suffered a broken
scapula fracture in his left shoulder and is sidelined indefinitely.

The Blues' B.J. Crombeen reacts after injuring his left
shoulder Saturday against Dallas. Crombeen fractured
his shoulder on the play and is sidelined indefinitely.

"I feel for B.J.," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "In a game that wasn't going our way, I thought he was one of the few bright spots that we had with his competitive level.

"Before the injury, he was talking to some of the players on the Dallas team and letting them know that he wasn't happy with the way things were going. It's unfortunate that he got injured because I thought he was one of the bright spots in the game for us. It's something that we'll deal with. We have the depth to deal with (it) and right now, I just want B.J. to recuperate as quick as possible. But it does provide someone like Ryan Reaves as excellent opportunity as well as Porter and Grachev."

Going back to Peoria will be forwards Jonathan Cheechoo, Brett Sterling, Philip McRae, Anthony Peluso, and Adam Cracknell, defensemen Ian Cole and Mark Cundari along with goalie Ben Bishop.

So that means Brian Elliott, signed in the summer to a one-year, two-way contract, has won the backup job behind Halak.

"I was definitely shocked," Bishop said Saturday evening. "I wasn't very happy with the decision, but you've got to respect the decision. They're obviously your bosses. They tell you what to do. You might not agree with it, but you've just got to take it and use it down in Peoria and play well and hopefully be up here soon."

And the decision, according to Armstrong, came down to Elliott's experience.

"I felt they were very equal in training camp," Armstrong said. "I don't think either separated themselves. Davis and I talked a lot and we talked before the game (Saturday) and I felt we could drag this a couple days and we could let it play into next week, but watching the game, I got a feeling I needed to let Davis work with a small group.

"The decision was based basically on experience. We're going with the experienced guy. On a positive note, Ben wasn't happy. He was disappointed and somewhat ... he was disappointed and I think he has to take that fuel and put it in the right direction. I think he's going to get an opportunity at some point this year. All goalies seem to get an opportunity. You just have to be ready. At the end of the day, there wasn't enough to differentiate between the two in our mind and we decided to go with the experienced guy to start with."

Added Payne, "I thought both guys had good camps. Both guys battled hard, both guys made our decision difficult."

There's some question whether the fact that Elliott needed to clear waivers and Bishop didn't weighed in on the decision, but Armstrong said, "I don't really respond to (that question). My job is to put the team on the ice that I felt comfortable with. That's what I've done."

Bishop was 2-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .907 save percentage, while Elliott was 1-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .917 save percentage.

"I felt almost 100 percent positive that I thought I was going to be up here," Bishop said. "I felt real happy with the way I came into camp, the shape I came in and the games I played and the practices. I had the faith in the guys in the locker room and I think they had the faith in me. It was tough when I found out the news. I wasn't happy with it, but now I've just got to put the past in the past and go to Peoria and win games and hopefully get up here soon.

"Elliott's obviously played more games than I. You're not always going to agree with the decisions, but he has been around a little longer than I. I was hoping to get that experience to start the year, but hopefully that'll come halfway through the year or a month or who knows, so you've just got to be ready when you're called upon."

Bishop said he's taking the high road and used a couple prime examples of why good things come to those who wait.

"That's exactly how you have to look at it," Bishop said. "You kind of think about it for a little bit; not sulk, but you have to get over it real fast because you've got a job to do down there. You look at the brighter side, (Vancouver's Cory) Schneider was in the American league for four years, (Detroit's Jimmy Howard was in there for four years. If it takes four years, it takes four years. People turn out to be pretty good goalies in the NHL. Hopefully, I'll be on a team by then, whether it's this year or next year."

Payne also said that test results came back negative on defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who suffered a chest injury in Thursday's game against Colorado. He could be back on the ice as early as Sunday or held back until Tuesday but looks like he'll be ready for the home-opener next week against Nashville.

"It sounds like everything will be good," Armstrong said. "I'm not sure if he'll be on the ice tomorrow in practice, we think he may be, but for sure we expect him to be ready to go on Tuesday."

Veteran Scott Nichol said despite Saturday's lethargic outcome, the team feels good about heading into the regular season.

"In here there's no doubt in our mind. We have a great team," Nichol said. "We've been doing a lot of the little things that's going to make this team win a lot of hockey games. We are disappointed in the end result (Saturday), but I think our overall training camp has been outstanding."

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