Blues react to Cole suspension; Oshie, Polak
good to play Tuesday; Steen doubtful
good to play Tuesday; Steen doubtful
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ian Cole and the Blues may not like the ruling, but they have no choice but to live with it.
The NHL suspended Cole Sunday night three games for what discipline czar Brendan Shanahan deemed an illegal hit to the head of Detroit's Justin Abdelkader during the first period of Saturday night's 3-0 Blues loss at Detroit.
Cole, who will miss home games Tuesday against Phoenix, Thursday against Edmonton and Saturday against Colorado, is eligible to return January 10 at Montreal. He will forfeit $21,081.09 and it will be given to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
"You know they're trying to take head hits out of the game," Cole said of the NHL Monday after practice at St. Louis Mills. "You expect every situation like that to get reviewed. ... Obviously getting knocked out not being able to play for three games, it sucks. I'm back to not playing, whether you're scratched or suspended, it sucks equally.
"(Shanahan's) got a job to do. I understand that. He's trying to take head hits out of the game. Obviously it was in his words, reckless by me."
Cole is the second player suspended this season under the new rules of cracking down on hits to the head, which has led to a plethora of concussions. Chris Stewart was suspended in November three games for shoving Detroit's Niklas Kronwall into the side boards.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was accepting of Stewart's suspension. He defended his young defenseman.
"I don't think it was a reckless play," Armstrong said. "I think it was a hockey play that was legal 12 months ago that's not legal today. I understand the sensitivity on hits to the head and we respect that, but I support Ian in the sense that it was a play that (Abdelkader) coming across the middle has to be aware, and unfortunately he wasn't.
"We accept the decision because we understand the importance of player safety. I respect the league because I sit in on those meetings and we do say that we want to (eliminate these types of hits), so you have to live with the ramifications. But I don't think it was an intentful play, or a reckless play. I just think it was a hockey play that went awry. I understand the league's position, but I also understand Ian's position."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was not as understanding Monday.
"I have -- on purpose -- by design not watched the Shanny video," Hitchcock said. "I'm not watching any of it. For me, the call was made and that's their call. We're moving on, but I am not watching any more of those videos. That's it. Done. I'm tired of it. ... It is what it is. We've got to deal with it and go from there."
Hitchcock did not name any specific situations, but he doesn't understand how similar incidents are penalized and others aren't.
"I'm still confused, so let's just leave it at that," Hitchcock said. "There's hits to the head and then there's other hits to the head. Some get called, some don't. So I'm confused.
"At some period of time, I'll call up our videos and probably over the summer -- just for my own well being ... I get too revved up, I'd like some explanations."
Stewart knows more than anyone what Cole is going to go through in the next week.
"I don't think he's going to take as big a hit in the paycheck as I did," Stewart joked. "But it's a learning experience. We all know he's not a dirty player. He's an honest guy, and that's just the luck of the draw. The evidence is there in the camera, you put it behind you, come out after three games and build on it and get ready to go when he gets back in."
* Blues recall defenseman -- With Cole suspended, Kris Russell (groin strain) and Kent Huskins (fractured ankle) both on injured reserve, the Blues are short on left-handed defensemen.
The team recalled Cade Fairchild on Monday evening and he will play in Tuesday's game against the Coyotes. Fairchild will remain with the Blues through Saturday's game.
"That will be up to the general manager," Hitchcock said earlier in the day when asked who gets the call-up. "(Peoria) just finished three in three nights, so I think he wants to talk to the coaching staff there. ... They know who we want, but that's there call."
Did Hitchcock have a preference?
"Not really because I don't really know those guys," he said. "I'm relying on the information coming from this coaching staff. They want to talk it over to see who's playing really well there and make it a reward thing."
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Fairchild, 22, made his NHL debut with the Blues Nov. 29 in Washington. In 31 games with the Rivermen, Fairchild has 17 points and he leads the American Hockey League with a plus-21.
* Steen status quo -- Winger Alex Steen, who's missed the last two games with what the team is calling concussion-like symptoms, was not on the ice Monday at practice and is doubtful for Tuesday's game.
"He is progressing along," Hitchcock said of Steen. "... Not sure yet. He's not ready to play obviously for today. But we'll see where he is in the next 48 hours."
* Oshie, Polak updates -- Both winger T.J. Oshie (wrist) and defenseman Roman Polak (unknown) were held out of Monday's practice with various ailments.
Hitchcock called it a maintenance day for both and that they each participated in cardio workouts -- Oshie on-ice before practice and Polak on a bike. Both will be available for Tuesday's game.
"We decided with the time that (Oshie's) missing, we wanted to do a hard cardio skate with him, so we took him on the ice and did 30 minutes of hard cardio," Hitchcock said. "Saving his hands. Any chance we get to save the hands, we're doing that. We hard-cardioed him today so he's ready for tomorrow. He'll play tomorrow for sure.
"Both guys are really maintenance days. Rather than both guys riding the bike, we opted with Osh because his legs are everything ... his legs and tenacity are everything. We just decided talking with him that Roman can take cardio on the bike and (Oshie's) better taking the cardio on the ice."