Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blues lose defenseman to injury

Huskins to be sidelined indefinitely with ankle fracture

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will be missing a piece of their defensive corps that has given them some pleasant, steady playing time since being inserted in the lineup.

Veteran Kent Huskins suffered a fractured bone in his left ankle and will miss Sunday's game at Edmonton and will be sidelined indefinitely. Huskins, 32, will be reevaluated by team doctors when the Blues return from their trip Monday.

The Blues took eight defensemen with them on their Western Canadian trip, and that means either Nikita Nikitin or Taylor Chorney, claimed on waivers from Edmonton Oct. 11, will be in the lineup when the Blues play the Oilers at 7 p.m. Sunday.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Kent Huskins (6) was injured in the Blues' 3-1 loss at Calgary
Friday that will sideline the defenseman indefinitely.

It was late in the second or early in the third period ... it was down to our right," Blues coach Davis Payne said Saturday. "It was a bad-angle (shot by the Flames) and the guy just went to throw it to the net. Husky went out and blocked it and just caught it in the perfect spot.

"We'll get him back home, get him evaluated and get a real clear diagnosis on a time line. He's going to be out for a bit."

Huskins, who was scratched in the season-opener against Nashville, has played in all nine games since, totalling two goals and two assists to go along with a plus-6 rating, which was the best among the team's defensemen.

Playing with Alex Pietrangelo, Huskins was averaging 16 minutes 54 seconds of ice time. Pietrangelo will likely get friend and familiar partner Carlo Colaiacovo back on his pairing, and either Nikitin or Chorney will likely play with Roman Polak for the time being.

"We developed chemistry on and off the ice," Pietrangelo said of Huskins. "It's tough to see a guy playing big minutes go down. But we have guys who can step in."

Nikitin has not played since Colaiacovo returned from a concussion four games ago. His last action was Oct. 18 in Los Angeles. He's played in six games and has no points and a minus-4 rating, being a healthy scratch the last four games. Chorney has not played a game with the Blues, being a healthy scratch for eight games.

Payne said a decision had not been made yet as to who would be inserted in the lineup.

Hulsizer signs purchase agreement to buy Blues

Chicago businessman would get
majority stake to become team's new owner

ST. LOUIS -- The sale of the St. Louis Blues appears to be heading into the home stretch.

It has been learned that Matthew Hulsizer has signed a purchase agreement to buy the Blues, which also includes the lease to Scottrade Center, the American Hockey League's Peoria Rivermen and also Peabody Opera House, according to multiple sources.

The agreement still needs league approval but that would not be an issue since Hulziser, the co-founder and CEO of PEAK6 Investments, had already received league approval to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes in 2010.

Its unknown the purchase percentage Hulsizer would buy from current owner Dave Checketts but its expected to be a majority stake.

Sources indicated previously that the price range is in the neighborhood of $190 million.

Checketts, who is the chairman of SCP Worldwide, officially put the Blues up for sale in March when the principal investment group, TowerBrook Capital Partners, decided to divest its 70 percent ownership interest in the franchise. Checketts' group owns 20 percent of the team while minority owner Tom Stillman, who is chairman and CEO of Summit Distributing, Inc., owns 10 percent of the club.

Checketts and TowerBrook bought the Blues from Bill and Nancy Laurie for a price tag in the neighborhood of $153 million in 2006.

Hulsizer's bio: (

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When Blues have a void to fill, D'Agostini fits the bill

Winger's versatility invaluable, has him tied for league lead in plus-minus

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The way Blues winger Matt D'Agostini sees it, the plus-minus statistic can sometimes be overrated. But it's also a stat that players take some pride in, especially when one's on the right side of it.

When D'Agostini, who is tied for the NHL lead early in the season at plus-7, finished at minus-17 two seasons ago with the Montreal Canadiens in 59 games, "I was saying how much of a crock the plus-minus is," D'Agostini joked. "I'm going to ride it now. It's my favorite stat so far this year."
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Matt D'Agostini (right) defends against Dallas' Alex Goligoski
in a game earlier this season. D'Agostini leads the Blues in goals (four)
and in plus-minus (+7).

When the Blues take on the Vancouver Canucks at 9 p.m. today, D'Agostini enters the game tied for the league lead with Boston's Tyler Seguin and Toronto's Dion Phaneuf.

There's still plenty of hockey yet to be played, but when a player's on the plus side of the ledger, there's one known fact.

"It means you're on the ice when goals are scored rather than giving them up," D'Agostini said. "Sure, it's something a player takes pride in. You never want to be out there when the other team's scoring.

"Sometimes, it has nothing to do with you and stuff happens, but that's the way it is so far. We've been scoring even strength obviously because our power play hasn't been scoring. If we keep scoring even strength goals, we're going to win games."

Since joining the Blues via trade, D'Agostini, who leads the Blues with four goals this season, is plus-12 in 97 games. In 94 games with the Canadiens, he was minus-29. What makes D'Agostini's numbers noticeable is he seems to thrive in whatever situation Blues coaches put him in.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native has taken shifts on all four units in the Blues' lineup. When he was needed on the top line last season with David Backes and Andy McDonald because of injuries, D'Agostini stepped in well and in the end, finished with a career-best 21 goals and 46 points. He's also had stints on the second, third and fourth lines without missing a beat.

"He's dropped down in situations where it's not necessarily creating depth, but the message he usually brings back is that he's capable of contributing in a number of different areas," Blues coach Davis Payne said of D'Agostini. "The thing for him is playing the game with good pursuit, with good physical intent. He now becomes a much more effective player.

"He doesn't need too many opportunities to finish off plays. That's the skills that we'd like to see him use. But in order to get to those spots and get to those moments, he's got to make sure he's doing some of the other things ... stopping on loose pucks, staying in pursuit ... he just becomes a much more effective player when he does that."

D'Agostini will line up tonight on the left wing with Patrik Berglund at center and T.J. Oshie at right wing on the team's second line for the third straight game.

"I like it," said D'Agostini. "They're obviously gifted and talented players. They create a lot of open ice because they can break a check, they can juke guys out of their skates and all of the sudden, they shake defenders pretty well. If they just keep playing their game, I'll try and find open spots."

(Getty Images)
Matt D'Agostini (right) celebrates a goal in Philadelphia
with Vladimir Sobotka Saturday.

D'Agostini's scored two goals in as many games and seems to have found a niche playing with Oshie and Berglund, taking a role that was vacated -- at least temporarily -- by Chris Stewart, who's been elevated to the top line with Backes and Vladimir Sobotka in the wake of Andy McDonald's concussion.

"He adds a lot of of speed. He's definitely a fast skater," Oshie said of D'Agostini. "I think that backs opposing teams' D off when you see a guy flying like he can. Also, he's got a quick-releasing shot. It's quicker than any I've probably ever seen. When he can get his shot off, which doesn't take very long, it usually catches the goalie by surprise."

According to Oshie, his job -- along with Berglund's -- is easy.

"Just go to the net. He's definitely a shooter," Oshie said of D'Agostini. "Me and Bergy just get to the net ... hopefully there's a second chance. Then again, hopefully there's not a second chance because he's likely going to score."

There's no telling what line D'Agostini will wind up on Friday night in Calgary or beyond. If all goes well, expect things to continue as they are. If not, the Blues know they can find a spot for D'Agostini's versatility.

"He's stepped into a lot of different roles in a year and a bit now," Oshie said. "He's answered the bell most of the time.

"It's fun to have him on the line. I told him whenever I have the puck and have time, just go and I'll try and find him because he's got that breakaway speed. It backs people off and it really opens things up for me and Bergy."

All D'Agostini wants is the ice time ... no matter where it is.

"We take whatever role's given to us and try to make the best of it," D'Agostini said. "It's nice to see the coaches growing more and more confidence in me to put me out there in better situations. I'll just try and make it worth their while."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


                                Arnott's offense a pleasant surprise; team
opens three-game Western Canada swing

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the Blues signed Jason Arnott to a one-year deal, there were areas of their game they thought they could improve upon.

The Blues knew what they were getting from Arnott in the face-off dot, which includes a 53.4 percent clip so far this season -- tops on the team.

Arnott wasn't someone that had a penchant for scoring points at a point-per-game clip. His career-best was a 76-point season with the Dallas Stars in 2005-06, so when the Blues play at Vancouver today (9 p.m. on FSN, FRESH 102.5-FM), the oldest player on their roster at 37 years of age leads the team in scoring with seven points in eight games, which averages out at .88 points per game.
(Getty Images)
Jason Arnott (left) celebrates a goal with teammate Alex Steen in a recent
game. Arnott leads the Blues with seven points in eight games.

It's early, but Arnott's three goals and four assists so far could be more than what the team bargained for. So far, playing that third line -- with Jamie Langenbrunner and Alex Steen these days -- is paying off.

"He's just a smart player," said Langenbrunner, Arnott's teammate in New Jersey last season. "He puts himself in the right situations, the right positions. He's got the ability to capitalize on them. He's so easy to play with. He plays in the right spots and you know where he's going to be. He's got a great shot and he's a big, strong guy. He's also getting some opportunities. He's playing the power play, playing with Steener and has been playing pretty well."

Blues coach Davis Payne said it's all about Arnott using his wits.

"He's played a smart game," Payne said. "He's shot pucks when necessary. He's made intelligent plays. That line's going pretty good.

"Do you anticipate it carrying forward? I don't know if you ever look at numbers and projections. That's for you (media) guys to do and get all excited about."

* Lineup likely won't change -- With wins over Carolina and Philadelphia and riding a two-game winning streak, it's not likely the Blues will change anything going into tonight's game against the Canucks.

That includes in goal, where Brian Elliott won both games on back-to-back nights while No. 1 netminder Jaroslav Halak continues to find his game.

With the Blues and Canucks, they both face similar challenges with their top netminders. Halak is 1-4-0 with a 3.47 goals-against average and .835 save percentage. For the Canucks, Roberto Luongo, who makes $6.7 million this season, isn't faring much better either. He's 2-2-1 with a 3.17 GAA and .877 save percentage.

Both backups are stealing the spotlight, with Elliott being 3-0-0 and a 2.06 GAA and .935 save percentage, which ranks 13th and ninth, respectively, among the league leaders. For the Canucks, Cory Schneider is 2-1-0 with a 1.97 GAA and .929 save percentage.

"I haven't paid much attention to what they're trying to do there," Payne said of the Canucks. "... It doesn't matter the position. You need to have guys that can step in and perform when needed or necessary or when called upon. That philosophy exists in every position on the ice."

Halak may have had one of the better days of practice Tuesday than he's had thus far this season. He looked focused and most importantly, confident.

"He's a good goaltender," Payne said. "Sometimes, things need to get focused in on or repetitions. These guys are workers and they understand that creating that is the first step. He's going to be fine."

The Blues skated the same forward lines and same defensive pairings that played over the weekend at practice Tuesday before departing for British Columbia. They likely won't change either, and Payne likes what he sees.

"I'd like to see a little bit more consistent play out of the (Patrik) Berglund group," Payne said of the line that includes Matt D'Agostini and T.J. Oshie. "I thought they were decent in Philly, but the game before that (against Carolina), there's some improvement there.

"I think that the (David) Backes group (with Chris Stewart and Vladimir Sobotka) getting a chance to play a little longer together, practice together should have some benefits to it. The more consistency we can establish, the better for our team."

* Defense rounding into form -- Since the return of Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion) to the lineup two games ago, the Blues' defensive pairings seem to be set up the way the team likes.

Colaiacovo was geared to play with friend and previous partner Alex Pietrangelo heading into the season, but when Colaiacovo went down in the season-opener, Kent Huskins has stepped up and filled in nicely.

"Even with my time with Petro, everyone knows there's that chemistry there between me and him, but Husky's stepped in and has done a tremendous job," Colaiacovo said. "At the end of the day, the confidence in all six guys, seven guys and eight guys now with (Taylor) Chorney has to be there for each other.

"The biggest thing to success is having that level of communication when you're out there and helping each other out and doing the right things that make you successful."

Meanwhile, Colaiacovo and Roman Polak have paired up very well in the last two games, and Colaiacovo arguably had his two best all-around games since putting on a Blues uniform.

"He's a fun guy to play with," Colaiacovo said of Polak. "Obviously he's got a real funny humor off the ice that everyone enjoys being around. To me, I really haven't gotten to play with Roman a whole lot since I've been here. We played all training camp together and I thought we complimented each other really well."

Added Payne, "With Carlo being out, Husky's stepped in and done a great job. I like that pair right now. ... It's been good. It's not a cause for concern. We like those pairs. We're eight games into it. We're trying to establish a body of work that we can really make a good assessment on."

* Important trip -- The Blues' recent jaunts into Western Canada have brought them more positive results than in years past.

In the last two seasons, trips into Alberta and British Columbia have seen the Blues go 7-4-1. They're 4-3-1 overall against the Canucks in the previous two seasons, 3-4-1 against Calgary and 6-1-1 against Edmonton.

They take a 4-4 overall record there this week.

"The last trip that finished poorly, we were able to come home and kind of reestablish some things," Payne said of a 1-3 journey against Pacific Division teams. "We took our game to Philly and knowing there were a lot of good things but yet there are some things we can clean up going forward.

"Starting in a tough building in Vancouver, you know you've got to be on your game. You've got to be playing the game intelligently both ways. It'll be a good challenge for us. We're not going to (look) past that one, we're just going to get on the road, get to Vancouver and start with that one."

The team game, however, is getting there.

"You can see it starting to come into form," Langenbrunner said. "This is going to be a big trip for us to see if we can keep that consistent effort. It won't always translate into W's, but the way we play is going to be the important thing. We've done a pretty good job of it the last two games. We're going to have to do that continuing on."

One area that continues to get plenty of work is the power play, which continues to be last in the league at 7.4 percent (2-for-27).

"It's unfortunate that we are where we are because of it," Colaiacovo said. "It's not because we're not working at it or giving up on it. Guys in here believe in the group that we have. Obviously we know our power play needs to be better. We're going to keep working at it.

"We're heading on the road for three games. We need to be better. We want to carry that good feeling and that good momentum going into these next three games and continue playing our style of hockey. It's very evident when we play the way we're capable of how good of a team we can be. It's just a matter of sticking with it. Obviously our power play needs to be better and we're working at that."

* Practice pairings -- The Blues skated at St. Louis Mills on Tuesday before departing for Vancouver. These are the lines they used and what is a probable lineup for tonight against the Canucks:

Vladimir Sobotka-David Backes-Chris Stewart

Matt D'Agostini-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

Evgeny Grachev-Scott Nichol-Chris Porter

Kent Huskins-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak

Brian Elliott likely gets his third straight start in goal.

That means scratches will likely be Ryan Reaves, Nikita Nikitin and Taylor Chorney.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Elliott could get another start Wednesday; Payne puts to rest Oshie benching

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the Blues kept Brian Elliott over Ben Bishop for the backup job behind Jaroslav Halak, it wasn't with the intent of making Elliott the focal point of the team's successes in goal.

Elliott, 26, was just supposed to provide a backdrop, be a buffer back there and to spell Halak for a start here or there.

But just a little over two weeks into the season, it can be argued that Elliott is the team's go-to guy right now and Halak is the backup. The numbers don't lie.
(Getty Images)
Brian Elliott is 3-0 in three starts for the Blues this season.

Elliott is now 3-0-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .935 save percentage after back-to-back wins over Carolina (3-2 in overtime) and Philadelphia (4-2) on back-to-back nights. Halak, on the other hand, has struggled out of the gates with a 1-4-0 mark with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage.

Maybe Elliott is riding a hot wave right now, but as long as the streak continues, why not enjoy it?

"You come to work every day and not too much changes," said Elliott, who was 15-27-9 last season with Ottawa and Colorado. "You want to keep the same mindset.

"You don't really attribute anything more other than the hard work. Sometimes you're playing just as well and the bounces go the other way. You've just got to take the positives and not get too high, not get too low. Just keep playing."

Elliott doesn't know if he starts to open a three-game Western Canada trip Wednesday in Vancouver, but it is expected that he get the nod.

"We haven't announced it yet, but it was another good solid performance (in Philadelphia)," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Timely saves are something that saves your hockey team. The last couple of games, games have been tight or we've gotten out to a lead and we've had to face some pressure.

"In the third period, we knew we were going to face some pressure from Philly. We got ourselves a little backed off and a little deeper than we would like, but some of the interior plays that we allowed were about the only breakdowns we really don't like and he was huge on those. He made two big saves, especially the one on (Claude) Giroux right between the hash marks. I don't think we want to leave that guy in that spot without denying that pass too many times."

It's been a week since Halak played a game. He was pulled early in the third period of a 5-0 loss at Los Angeles last week and won't sit too long, but no matter what happens from here on out, Elliott is ready, winning and able.

"For a goaltender, it's just trying to be as solid as you can back there for the guys," Elliott said. "Let them do their thing and as long as you're stopping most of them, you're going to be alright."

* Injury update -- When it comes to Andy McDonald (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (fractured shoulder), there is no new news.

Both are on injured reserve and neither will go with the team to Canada.

McDonald suffered the fifth concussion of his career Oct. 13 in Dallas and has missed the last five games. Payne said there's nothing new to report and McDonald remains sidelined indefinitely.

As for Crombeen, who's been out since Oct. 1, he's also in limbo with that fracture in his left shoulder.

He was at St. Louis Mills Monday wearing a sling.

"It's kind of a slow point right now where you're just kind of waiting for the bone to heal," said Crombeen, who did not require surgery. "But the last little while, I've been able to get out and do some of the rehab and do some light activity. It's nice to not be sitting around as much. It's a boring part in the process right now.

"They said it was pretty positive with that (no surgery). The bone didn't shift. Barring another fall or something like that, it shouldn't be necessary, so that was good news and positive from that front."

There is still no timetable on Crombeen's return.

"I think it depends on how it heals," Crombeen said. "Once it heals, how it reacts to contact and obviously you're going to have to spend some time getting back in shape and conditioning and all that. They haven't really given me a set timeline. ... It's pretty vague right now. It's probably going to be pretty vague until I actually get back."

David Perron, who's on his way back from a long bout with a concussion, participated in a full practice Monday and will accompany the team on this upcoming road trip.

* Oshie benching -- A lot was made of T.J. Oshie's benching in the second period of Saturday's win in Philadelphia.

Seems Payne made an example of the Blues' winger for what he would consider a careless play near the end of the first period when Oshie failed to get a puck in deep but chose to be too individualistic. It could have cost the Blues a goal.

Oshie, who returned for the third period, hasn't commented on it and has seemed to move on. Payne wanted to put the issue to rest himself.

"Again, we're not going to air this thing outside of our room," Payne said. "I make decisions based on the way guys are playing and the way things are happening on the ice with everybody. Those are decisions that are made and the reasons why will stay inside.

"(It''s) the same thing we've talked about with Osh. He's a good player when he plays a solid two-way game. He's a great player when he does that."

* Team game improves -- When the Blues came off their 1-3 West Coast trip, much was said about the Blues' team game.

How quickly those things change after back-to-back wins.

It got going early in the second period of a 3-2 overtime win over Carolina and carried right into Philadelphia, where the Blues led 2-0 after one period.

"Better. Especially once we got into Philadelphia," Payne said. "I thought that first period we managed the game very well. We took what was given. We were able to gain some opportunity, some odd-man rush plays that we have the ability to create and finish off. I thought we did a real good job there. ... It's all about making your opponent go the whole distance. For the most part, we did that."

* Welcome back Colaiacovo -- Since returning from a concussion that forced him to miss five games, Carlo Colaiacovo has arguably been the Blues' steadiest defenseman in the victories Friday and Saturday.

Colaiacovo played 17 minutes 13 seconds against Carolina and although he didn't register a point, he played a steady game. On Saturday against the Flyers, Colaiacovo scored a goal and assisted on another.

"He's made some good plays in transition," Payne said of his left-handed defenseman. "One thing that I think he contributed, especially last game in Philly, I thought our (defensemen) did a heck of a job of accepting some of the contact they have on the forecheck. It got our forecheck started. (Colaiacovo's) a guy that sees those plays, makes those plays. That starting of your play going up ice is one of the things he's very good at."

Blues get good news regarding Backes

Forward back on ice Monday after suffering head injury in Philadelphia

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- This time, the Blues dodged a bullet.

When former Blue and 6-foot-6, 220-pound Chris Pronger delivered a crushing shoulder to shoulder hit that saw the 6-3, 225-pound Backes go crashing down, his head thrust hard off the ice, many around Blues Nation felt the worst. As if the 'C' word hadn't ravaged this lineup enough already.

And we're not talking about 'C' as in captain either.

But Backes, who felt better Sunday, was back on the ice Monday morning with his teammates at St. Louis Mills. He fully participated in practice and deemed himself ready to go when the Blues begin a Western Canada road swing that starts Wednesday night in Vancouver.
(Getty Images)
The Blues dodged a bullet with David Backes, who left midway through
Saturday's game in Philadelphia with a head injury. Backes was back on
the ice Monday and is deemed ready to play Wednesday in Vancouver.

"I don't really see him coming, I don't get to brace myself," Backes said of Pronger. "He hits me very clean, shoulder to shoulder. There's enough force in there where I'm not really braced for it, and I'm not feeling perfectly fine to go back in the game.

"We err on the side of caution and let everything rest up. I felt really good today and we're ready for the game against Vancouver."

The Blues have already lost Andy McDonald and Carlo Colaiacoovo -- who has since returned -- to concussions this season. B.J. Crombeen is still sidelined with a fractured left shoulder and David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) continues to recover but has been a regular participant at practice in the last week.

So the sight of Backes on the ice Monday was a sight that the Blues and their fans were hoping for.

"Not having a ton of history with it, I don't know when you're in the free and clear, if you ever are," said Backes, who indicated having two prior concussions before playing in the NHL. "Just the overall evolution of after the hit, there's some symptoms. They subside rather quickly after that. Things are trending in the right direction.

"(Pronger) plays hard. I knew he was on the ice. I didn't think he was going to be in that spot as quick as he was. All's well that ends well. We'll take the two points out of that game. If he gets a little satisfaction knocking me out of the game, then he can have that."

But when Backes lay motionless for a moment on the ice, he was eventually aided by head athletic trainer Ray Barile. Players didn't get a good vibe.

"Especially a guy like Backs," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "He doesn't lay on the ice very often.

"We knew it was serious. It was scary for sure when you see his head get hit and then he hits his head on the ice again. You always fear the worst. With what we've gone through professionally, it's disheartening. But he was out there today ... he looks good."

Said Blues coach Davis Payne, "Yeah, it was a big hit, a big collision, two big bodies, but definitely good to see him back out there this morning. It was two big guys going to a tough area. You don't necessarily see every defenseman in the world willing to take on that kind of guy coming to your net in that fashion. Two big bodies playing the game the right way."

Backes flew home with the team after the game in Philadelphia and felt "better" on Sunday, well enough that he was able to get back onto the ice as quickly as he did.

When McDonald suffered his concussion on Oct. 13 at Dallas, he returned to the game and played the third period. This time, the Blues felt it was best to play it safe and keep their captain out.

"With something that's with your head or with your neck or something that potentially could have lasting effects, spend that time to recover," Backes said. "Make sure you're evaluated properly, give yourself the rest of that game to heal. You can check it out the next day.

"I think that's imperative to not only safety -- you take that period and a half off -- the team takes care of the job and get the win in Philly. I don't have to risk further injury by going out there if it is something that is severe. Now I'm back in the lineup for the game against Vancouver. Things seem to be shaping up fine."


Friday, October 21, 2011

D'Agostini OT goal caps comeback win over Carolina

Blues trailed 2-0 in game, snap two-game
slide; Elliott, penalty kill fuel fire for game-winner

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were down two goals and staring a third straight defeat in the face. But a team in search of a desperate victory, oiled its gears and got the motor rolling in the right direction.

Matt D'Agostini's third goal of the season with 1 minute 2 seconds remaining in overtime enabled the Blues to overcome a two-goal deficit and rally past the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 Friday night before the 44th straight sellout at Scottrade Center.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Matt D'Agostini (left) and Carlo Colaiacovo celebrate
D'Agostini's goal in overtime that gave the Blues a 3-2 win over the
Carolina Hurricanes Friday night.

D'Agostini redirected in a perfectly slotted pass from Vladimir Sobotka and redirected it past Carolina's Cam Ward to cap a comeback in which the Blues (3-4-0) trailed 2-0 early in the second period.

"I just sat in front of the net, Petro made a good play at the blue line to keep it down low," D'Agostini said. "I think one of their forwards jumped on the play thinking they can get a rush.

"Sobe just made a great pass right on my stick and I just steered it in."

The Blues, who came into the game last in both penalty kill (they allowed seven goals on 22 chances) and on the power play (they were 1-for-24 on the season) and had a starting goaltender (Jaroslav Halak) that has lost his confidence and struggling himself (Halak is 1-4 with a 3.47 goals-against average with a league-worst .835 save percentage among starting goalies).

But the Blues got huge pick-me-ups from backup Brian Elliott (27 saves) and their penalty kill (2-for-2 in the game), which killed off a huge penalty in overtime that gave Carolina (3-2-2) a 4-on-3 advantage.

"(The penalty kill) hasn't been something that we've hung our hat on to this point this year," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Our guys are working, our guys are pushing, our guys are getting better and those three guys ... each unit and the goaltender got us a huge kill there. Huge for our team, huge for our chance to get that third goal."

Elliott, who is 2-0 on the season with a 2.08 GAA and .930 save percentage, had some help from the hockey gods when Eric Staal missed an easy slam dunk at the side of the net in the third period, but Elliott did come up with an incredible reflex stop after a puck caromed off the chest of teammate Alex Pietrangelo and nearly into the Blues' goal in the overtime.

"I don't know if it was going over the top of the net or what," Elliott said. "I just kind of reacted when I saw it go off Petro's chest there. Luckily it goes in the glove instead of in the net.

"There has to be (a sense of desperation) every night. That's how you become a winning team. Having that desperation and that will to do anything to win, that's how teams go deep."

The Blues fell behind 2-0 when Jay Harrison and Brandon Sutter scored goals for the Canes. Harrison's goal came in the first period on a screed shot from the right point and Sutter scored 1:33 into the second period on a breakaway.

But instead of wilting like they did in a distressing 5-0 loss at Los Angeles Tuesday, the Blues found their game and had arguably their best period of the season when they outshot Carolina 20-12.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Scott Nichol (left) tries to fend off Carolina's Tim Brent during
Friday's game at Scottrade Center.

"I don't know if we turned it around," said captain David Backes, whose goal with 3:51 left in the second period tied the game 2-2. "Rather than having that lapse that we've had in past games where the other team would get a push, that next line would push back and get the puck into their zone and make their defense go back for pucks, get right back on our game."

Jason Arnott got his third of the season and put the Blues on the board at 5:18 of the second period and snapped a goalless drought at 95:40. The goal got the Blues jumpstarted and sprung some life into a team that had a sense of desperation.

"Even in the first, I thought we were good," said D'Agostini. "We were down 2-0, but at the same time, I thought we were in the game and taking it to them at times.

"We stayed positive and calm and stuck with our game and it paid off in the end."

Said Payne, "We didn't get the start, didn't get the lead until the very end. But we felt if we stuck to our game long enough, kept applying pressure to the blue paint, we'd get what we needed. Two-zip, we ended up putting 20 shots on the board (in the second period), come out of that period tied with a chance to go out and win a hockey game. Good job by our club."

Carolina was going for four in a row but succumbed to a team needing a win.

"It was pretty much like that all night," Canes center Jeff Skinner said. "It's tough. They played a good game.

"You want to stick with it. I thought we played a gritty game. We got away from it for their two goals. But the bottom line, I think we played a gritty game on the road."

* NOTES -- Brothers Chris Stewart (Blues) and Anthony Stewart (Hurricanes), facing each other for the first time, did not factor into the scoring. ... The Blues welcomed back defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who missed the previous five games with a concussion. ... Forward Andy McDonald (concussion) missed his fourth straight game. ... Blues scratches included defensemen Nikita Nikitin and Taylor Chorney along with forward Ryan Reaves.

(10-22-11) Hurricanes-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Struggling out of the gates is the last thing the Blues expected. In fact, there was so much hype coming out of camp that a 2-4-0 start was the furthest thing from their minds.

"We'd love to be 6-0 right now," veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner said, "but it's all part of the process and we'll continue to work through it."

The Blues, who entertain the Carolina Hurricanes (3-2-1) at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), have work to do in all areas of their game. Special teams is an obvious area, where the Blues are 30th in the league in both power play and penalty killing.

"I think we just need to simplify it," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Once we don't have the success we want initially, I think we kind of want to look for some alternate options rather than sticking with who we have and getting back to the basics.

"With what we had going last game in LA, we had some good scoring chances, some good opportunities. Right now, I think it's just a matter of coming out tonight and doing the same thing. When we get that one chance to score, we have to really bare down and put it in the back of the net."

Seems teams are relegating the Blues to the outside and not allowing any interior play, which was pretty evident in their recent road swing where the team went 0-for-16 with the man advantage.

"Penalty killing it seems like it's even better this year than it was last year," Shattenkirk said. "It comes as a result of us not being successful getting the puck in and setting up. When you're scrambling and looking for pucks, it's kind of easy for teams to set their pressure and not allow us to get that time and space to work."

Said Blues coach Davis Payne, "We're concerned about every aspect of our game. Our game isn't up to snuff. Goaltending's one of them, power play's one of them, penalty kill's one of them. ... There's a number of areas that's concerning. We've got to get them corrected."

- - -

Getting the ship righted in goal is an area that's a must for the Blues, and Brian Elliott will spell the struggling Jaroslav Halak against the Canes tonight.

Halak, who began last season with an 8-1-1 record, a 1.46 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, is only 1-4-0 with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage.

"You've got a proud athlete," Payne said of Halak. "He knows he's got to get better. He's accountable to it. He's not hiding from that fact. His assessment is no different from ours. We know where we are and we know where we've got to go. He's a good goaltender. He's going to put the work in and he's going to be a good goaltender."

Elliott is 1-0-0 with a 2.26 GAA and .929 save percentage in two games. In his only start against San Jose, Elliott stopped 34 shots, including a highlight-reel save on the Sharks' Dan Boyle in a 3-2 game late in the third period.

Payne said the decision to go with Elliott tonight is simple.

"The way he played in San Jose, the way he played in the third period against L.A. and Jaro's play," Payne said. "Quite simply put, (Elliott) has given us a chance. He needs to give us another."

- - -

The Blues, trying to improve on their 2.5 goals per game average, will change up their lines in an effort to do that, including moving fourth line players Vladimir Sobotka and Chris Porter up to top six roles -- at least for one game.

Sobotka will step up to play with David Backes and Chris Stewart on the top line, while Porter will move up with Patrik Berglund and former North Dakota teammate T.J. Oshie.

"I'm not going to change my game," Sobotka said. "I'm going to try and play the same hockey like I do on the fourth line. I'm going to battle for every puck. We're all going to battle and have the same work ethic. I don't think there is much difference between the first and fourth line.

"We're going to shoot more, put the puck in the blue paint and go for it. If we battle for every puck, we can score more goals."

Payne said Sobotka needs to continue to be who he is.

"That's why he's there," Payne said. "I'm not asking him to do any more or any less. He's a competitive guy. He plays hard in the battle, he plays hard every game. That's why he's there. I'm not saying Sobi, you're out there to score goals, you're there to compete, plain and simple."

Porter will try and get his former college teammate going and look to lift the line in general.

"I've been working hard in the games I've been playing in," said Porter. "When they tap you on the shoulder, it's obviously a good opportunity to show what you can do. Obviously Bergy and Osh are two good players.

"I'll do my best to play my game and hopefully get them on the board."

With Andy McDonald (concussion) out of the lineup, the Blues have been scrambling for the right combinations.

"Well, we've been kind of switching things since Andy's been out," Payne said. "Now in the groups we have, there's workers with guys who need to play better. That is part of the message there. How long that stays will depend on how the game goes."

- - -

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion) has been taken off of injured reserve and will be back in the lineup tonight.

Colaiacovo missed the previous five games after being injured in the season-opener Oct. 8.

"Three good practices under his belt, but a solid practice yesterday, handled the pace and the competitive aspect of it," Payne said of Colaiacovo. "He should be ready to go, give us a boost."

That means Nikita Nikitin will sit out for the first time after playing six games. Nikitin has struggled to begin the season and is a minus-4 thus far despite averaging 20:30 per game, which was second behind only Alex Pietrangelo's team-leading 24:18.

"Struggling, I don't know is the right word," Payne said. "We've asked Niki to play a lot of important minutes in important roles against very good hockey players. You take that trip through the West Coast and you're talking about, starting in Anaheim and what the matchup there was, he's played some good hockey. But he's also got to make sure that he continues to learn and learn from what works and what doesn't and against who."

- - -

Forward David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) once again skated with the team this morning but unlike Thursday's 15-20 minutes of ice time, he participated in the full pre-game skate as he continues to make progression from a 10-month long injury.

Perron didn't look out of place and was all smiles after practice, with no indications of any symptoms that might come from exerting energy.

- - -

The Blues' lineup against Carolina tonight:

Vladimir Sobotka-David Backes-Chris Stewart

Chris Porter-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie

Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner

Evgeny Grachev-Scott Nichol-Matt D'Agostini

Kent Huskins-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak

Brian Elliott gets the start in goal; Jaroslav Halak will be the backup. No decision has been made yet who starts Saturday night in Philadelphia.

- - -

The Hurricanes, after starting the season 0-2-1, have reeled off three straight wins and are going for four in a row tonight.

Captain Eric Staal said it was just a matter of sticking with the game plan despite the winless start.

"We've come with energy and aggressiveness every game," said Staal, who has three goals and an assist in six games. "I think we're pretty comfortable with the way we need to play to win. We were doing that for parts of games the first couple of the year but weren't getting results. We didn't alleviate from that and stayed with it and have gotten the results the last three. We want to keep it going."

The Hurricanes, who won 2-1 in the only matchup between the teams a season ago here, realize there is a desperate team they will face here tonight.

"For us, it's we want to make sure we're matching or bettering that aggressiveness and intensity every single game," Staal said. "It's a good test for us. It's a team we don't see a lot, but it's a team that plays hard every time we've been in this building. It's been a close game and we need to expect that and look forward to bringing our work ethic and worrying about our game."

Carolina coach Paul Maurice expects the Blues to be flying.

"It's a similar situation to Boston," Maurice said regarding the win over the Bruins Tuesday. "... Desperation does kick in very early for teams. We all know what that means. It's difficult to have a rough start and then you're fighting for it the rest of the year. Confidence is very important to develop and we expect them to come hard, chip a lot of pucks, try to get their forecheck established early."

- - -

The Hurricanes' lineup against the Blues:

Alexei Ponikarovsky-Eric Staal-Tuomo Ruutu

Jiri Tlusty-Brandon Sutter-Patrick Dwyer

Jussi Jokinen-Jeff Skinner-Chad LaRose

Brett Sutter-Tim Brent-Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason-Bryan Allen

Joni Pitkanen-Jamie McBain

Jay Harrison-Tomas Kaberle

Cam Ward gets the start in goal; Brian Boucher is the backup.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perron skates with team for first time

Colaiacovo also on ice, geared to play tonight against Carolina

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When he stepped onto the ice today with his teammates for the first time in 10 months, it may not have seemed like much to some, but for the Blues' David Perron, it was a huge moment.

Perron, who suffered a concussion Nov. 4 against San Jose and Joe Thornton, received clearance to resume working out but on Thursday, it was the first time the 23-year-old from Sherbrooke, Quebec participated in any organized workout with his teammates.

(Getty Images)
Blues forward David Perron (57) in a preseason game against Chicago
last season. Perron skated with the team for the first time since suffering
a concussion in November.

"It's definitely something that was good to follow the guys on the ice and not have to stay in the gym while they're practicing," Perron said at St. Louis Mills. "It's just one step. There's many more to go, but it felt good."

Perron, who's been on the injured reserve with post-concussion syndrome, has found life tough to get back onto the ice. Persistent post-concussion syndrome has kept the 23-year-old off the ice for the majority of the last 10 months.

Thornton was suspended two games as a result but Perron missed the final 72 games last season and the first six this year.

But Perron was able to get good news recently from a concussion specialist in Boston and has begun the slow process of getting back onto the ice.

"I skated this morning on my own again. It felt good," said Perron, who had five goals and two assists in 10 games last season. "I wanted to try it out with guys moving around me. It was good. It was just one drill. I had the chance to score a goal."

Perron was on the ice for roughly 15-20 minutes and will monitor his situation along with the Blues' medical training staff.

"I may go back at it before tomorrow's morning skate," Perron said, referring to Friday's pregame skate before the Blues face the Carolina Hurricanes. "We'll see. I'll talk with (head athletic trainer) Ray (Barile) in there and we'll see what we want to do, but that's the plan right now."

Blues coach Davis Payne said, "
Yeah, again, there's a lot of conditioning, a lot of timing that has to go on. Get him out there in one drill just to have that early feel ... he's been doing a lot of stuff on his own. Again, certain things we want to expose the guy to as he continues to get better."

Perron was given the green light and has been doing some light skating and light workouts that have been slowly ramped up as time progresses. The concussion symptoms have slowly subsided to almost where they do not exist anymore.

"I feel good with that part. There's still a little bit of stuff," Perron said. "The good part is if I keep increasing, it means that I felt good enough to do that and that's basically the positive you have to take out of that."

With the Blues off to a rough start at 2-4, Perron's presense put a good mood in the locker room.

"It's great to see him out there," teammate T.J. Oshie said. "It's a tough time for the team right now after our road trip, but it put a little smile on our face seeing him out there with the boys."

There is still no timetable for Perron's return. He has been monitoring the progress of the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, who is also sidelined with a concussion but has been skating regularly with his teammates.

"You look at the Crosby situation, he's been practicing for a month and half now with the team and still isn't playing," Perron said. "Who knows how long it's going to take. If it's the same situation, we'll take it day by day. It was good to be on the ice with the guys today and I think they were happy for me too as well."

Also back on the ice with the Blues Thursday was defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who missed the last five games after suffering a concussion in the season-opener on Oct. 8 against Nashville.

Colaiacovo has a history with concussions, including one last season that sidelined the defenseman for seven games.
(Getty Images)
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (28) has missed five games after suffering
a concussion in the season opener.

The Blues host Carolina Friday and Colaiacovo deems himself fit and ready to go.

"I've been working real hard for the last week," Colaiacovo said. "I've been skating every day since Monday and I had a real good skate today. I felt great out there. I'm just hoping to be OK and good enough for tomorrow."

No decision has been made yet but all indications lean on Colaiacovo returning to the lineup.

"I think the positive is that I was able to be out there with the boys," Colaiacovo said. "I think when tomorrow comes, we'll make that decision."

Colaiacovo skated with the team in full contact drills Thursday without any repercussions.

"The biggest thing for me was just trying to get rid of my headaches," Colaiacovo said. "For the first five, six days, they were really intense. Once they start to settle down and go away, I was able to pick up my normal routine and get back into the gym. I haven't had any setbacks, so it's been good. I've been getting the proper rest, the proper nutrition and making sure that when I'm ready to get back out there, it'll be the right time. As you can see, I've got a big smile on my face going today. I'm happy to be around the boys and excited to get back out there."

Stewart brothers to finally unite on ice

Blues' Chris and Carolina's Anthony to square off in NHL game for first time

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Chirping was in order for Anthony and Chris Stewart on Thursday.

When asked what will happen if one sees the other with the puck skating through the neutral zone and they are lined up, both replied with some nice brotherly love.

"I'll take his head off," Chris said jokingly, which prompted older brother Anthony to fire back, "(I'll knock) him on his ass. Quote unquote."

Game on, right boys?
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Chris Stewart (left) is all set to face his brother Anthony for the
first time Friday night.

"There's not going to be any lost feelings," Chris said. "It doesn't matter when it comes to gamedays. We've just got to play."

Anthony agreed.

"You're not going to try and hurt him or anything like that, but you've got a job to do and you finish your check," he said. "Me being the big brother, I've sort of got to tease him a bit, get him going, get under his skin a bit."

The Stewart brothers will square off for the first time in an NHL game today when the Chris's Blues (2-4) play host to Anthony's Carolina Hurricanes (3-2-2) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

There were two previous opportunities when Anthony, 26, and Chris, 23, had the chance to square off, but on the first occasion, Anthony was a healthy scratch while a member of the Florida Panthers and Chris was with the Colorado Avalanche. Last season, Chris broke his hand in a fight with the Avs playing against Minnesota. The Avs played Anthony's Atlanta Thrashers the following game.

"The hockey gods didn't want us playing against each other," Anthony said. "... It's exciting to go out there and see some of the good things he's doing firsthand. The main thing is getting two points, but it's exciting nonetheless."

Chris Stewart has had the better success numbers-wise in his four seasons in the league with 69 career goals and 138 points in 198 games. Anthony has 20 goals and 53 points in 191 career games in his six seasons.

However, Chris will not shy away from talking about the biggest reason he is where he is today: his big brother.

It was Anthony Stewart, the oldest of Norman and Susan Stewart's seven children, that felt like he needed to push younger brother Chris to the ice and away from the gridiron, even though Chris excelled in football. It was Chris Stewart, who was a multi-talented athlete growing up that made a choice of walking away from the ice when he was 14 because of the hardships of his parents. Anthony guided his little brothers towards what turned out to be a career choice when Chris was just 16.
(Getty Images)
Carolina's Anthony Stewart, Chris Stewart's older brother,
will face his younger brother Chris and the Blues tonight. 

Anthony came home one day while playing for his Ontario Hockey League team, the Kingston Frontenacs, and gave his dad Norman a ride to go watch Chris in a pick-up game. When Anthony saw his 6-foot-2, 260-pound brother doing things that no ordinary players can do, it was time to take an initiative.

"He was a natural athlete," Anthony said of Chris. "He was just a little heavy and was playing football. He had a couple offers for collegiate football. But I watched a pickup game of his and he had really good hands and he was actually really fast.

"I just mentioned to him that if he got in shape, lose 20-30 pounds, he could get a tryout with Kingston. He actually did that, stayed true to his word and we got him a tryout and the rest is history."

It would have been difficult to predict that one Stewart brother, let alone two, would make it to the NHL. Their parents had a lot to do with it, considering Norman Stewart migrated from his native Jamaica in 1974 to Montreal in search of a better life.

Living in Scarborough, Ontario, in a particularly tough neighborhood, Norman Stewart introduced his sons to hockey. He didn't want his sons going down the wrong road.

Norman Stewart did find a better life, one that included a love for hockey.

"It's a big day for our family. They're going to be watching," Anthony said. "They're not going to make it in, but they're definitely excited and the buddies back home are texting us asking if we're going to fight. We'll be fighting on the scoresheet. That's probably about it."

The Stewart brothers are working on getting a visa for their father to get him into the United States, but for now, a couch and television set will have to do.

"If you know my dad, he's comfortable at home in front of a TV," Chris said. "It's going to feel good either way, but I'm sure he'd want to be here in person. We've got a rematch in Carolina later on in the year. Maybe he'll make it to that one.

"He loves the game. He watches every game. I'm sure he'll feel like a kid on Christmas watching tomorrow."

They've played together and faced each other in the minor leagues before, but when they step onto the Scottrade Center ice tonight, both can reflect back on where they came from and how they got to where they are.

It's not such a rarity for brothers to be playing in the NHL at the same time, but for the Stewart brothers, who are both first round picks (Anthony in 2003 and Chris in 2006), they'll cherish the moment when they finally step onto the big stage together for the first time.

"Being first rounders going in the draft and having that big day, it's definitely an accomplishment and we're definitely proud," Anthony said. "We're not taking it for granted."

Said Chris, "I'm excited. ... I felt like it's been a long time and a long time overdue. We went for dinner (Wednesday) night, and I'm sure we'll go for dinner again tonight. I look forward to tomorrow."