Sobotka to miss at least a game; Crombeen on the ice with teammates
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- After taking a puck to the mouth late in the third period of Friday's 2-0 win over Calgary, Blues winger Vladimir Sobotka will need a game to get himself back together.
Sobotka will miss Sunday's game at Columbus with what coach Ken Hitchcock called " a fracture in the bone area of the teeth," but is expected to join the team in Washington for Tuesday's game against the Capitals.
"He's got soreness. ... He got hit in the mouth ... upper (lip) and below it," Hitchcock said of Sobotka, one of the Blues' best forwards through 22 games. "The freezing has worn off, and now you've got the real pain coming.
"He's got a fracture in the bone area of the teeth, so that's probably what's causing the problem. We'll leave him here overnight and he'll join us in Washington."
Sobotka was hit after a clearing attempt from within the Calgary zone struck him flush in the mouth.
Although Hitchcock said a final decision wasn't made yet, it looks like Chris Porter will step in and play on the third line against the Jackets with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner.
"We haven't really talked about it, but leaning probably towards Porter because it's going to be a quick game tomorrow," Hitchcock said after Saturday's practice. "We want to keep (Brett) Sterling in because of the energy that he's bringing. So I would say probably right now Porter. He'd be the guy. He's played with Langs and Arnie."
* Blues option D Fairchild -- After the game Friday night, the Blues sent defenseman Cade Fairchild back to Peoria in time for this weekend's games against the Chicago Wolves.
Fairchild, 22, was brought in as an extra defenseman, but the Blues wanted him playing this weekend's games. There's the likelihood the Blues recall a D-man after the game Sunday to take to Washington, but they will only carry six to Columbus.
"Not too sure after that," Hitchcock said. "We'll determine what's going on after Sunday's game."
* Crombeen skates -- There was another body skating in David Perron's former red jersey, and it was B.J. Crombeen.
Crombeen, out since fracturing his clavicle (left shoulder) on Oct. 1, the Blues' final preseason game against Dallas, was on the ice with his teammates for the first time after beginning skating roughly a week ago.
"It makes it a little easier when you can get around the guys," Crombeen said. "... I've been skating on my own just getting the conditioning back and getting out there.
"It's nice getting back around the guys and feeling you're more a part of it. There's still a way to go but it's good to get out there and start feeling more and more comfortable."
Crombeen is not cleared for contact nor will he be for some time still but he's able to shoot, stick-handle and all the other aspects of gaining back range of motion.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "There's still obviously a ways to go, but I think it feels about as good as it can at this point. It's improving every day so that's obviously a good sign. ... Jan. 1st is still the hopeful timeline, but it's tough to put it on a dead-set timeline."
* Russell returns -- Not only is Hitchcock returning to Columbus after being fired there two seasons ago, defenseman Kris Russell will play as a member of the Blues against his former team for the first time.
Russell was traded to the Blues for fellow defenseman Nikita Nikitin on Nov. 10 and both will face their former squads for the first time since the trade.
"It's going to be weird," said Russell, who spend four-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets. "It's going to be a little different. I've never been in a situation like that.
"Columbus treated me very well. ... It's going to be a bit different, but once the game starts, hopefully I simplify things and get in there quick."
* Scouting the Jackets -- The Blues, who face the Blue Jackets at 5 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), are seeing a team finally catching its stride.
After an NHL-worst 2-12-1 start to the season, Columbus has gone 4-1-2 in the seven games since, and they've added some important pieces back that the lineup was missing.
"A very mature team and a very mature game right now," Hitchcock said. "That's a veteran hockey club playing really well.
"(Jeff) Carter back in really solidifies things. That guy's a helluva player. He really kind of organizes the lineup. You're not trying to scramble around trying to find a spot for somebody to play with (Rick) Nash. You know who's going to play with Nash.
The thing with Carter that he never gets credit for is he's hard to defend. He makes plays off the rush that people don't think he can make. He's really good. He can shoot it. He's strong and he can score from distance, but he can also make plays off the rush, and that's difficult to defend."
The Blue Jackets were also missing defenseman James Wisniewski, who was suspended the first eight games of the season. He's been paired with Nikitin to form the team's top defensive pairing.
* A look back -- The Blues received many contributions during Friday's 2-0 win over Calgary. Namely, the 24-save effort from Brian Elliott, who earned his third shutout of the season, as well as more top-line work from David Backes (one goal, one assist), Alex Steen (one assist) and T.J. Oshie. Also, Alex Pietrangelo scored his second goal in as many games.
But looking back on what Hitchcock didn't like was the fact the Blues allowed three breakaways and other qualify scoring chances.
"Calgary activated their defense against us more than any team all year," Hitchcock said. "Their defensemen were up in the rush, they were in the zone, they were active as hell and that gave us trouble for the first period. They created scoring chances with their defensemen more than any team because they were in around the net area and taking risks more than any team we've played all year. We took a while to get adjusted."
The players heard about it, too.
"There's pretty much nothing he hasn't seen in this game," Langenbrunner said of Hitchcock. "He knows what to say when the situation presents itself. The scoreboard doesn't really dictate what message he's sending. It's the way we're playing.
"A great example last night: we're ahead 1-0 after the first period, but we all knew we played an off game and he let us know that we have to be better than that and we got lucky."