Veteran winger latest in line of injuries Blues
must get past; suffered Sunday at Chicago
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Dealing with injuries has been old hat for the Blues.
This season, they've been able to absorb the many body blows suffered. Last season, not so much.
But when the Blues realized they'd be losing valuable veteran leader Jamie Langenbrunner for a minimum of four weeks after suffering a broken left foot during Sunday's loss at Chicago, this is a little more tricky spot to replace and have someone plug in simply because of the many role the 36-year-old has persevered in this season.
"He's got a foot injury, he's out a month. We'll have to make due," Blues coach ken Hitchcock said. "That'll probably elevate a guy like either Revo (Ryan Reaves) or (B.J.) Crombeen. Both guys have been playing great. They'll move up the ladder. We'll just see from there.
The Blues are going to be without veteran Jamie Langenbrunner after the
winger suffered a broken left foot during the third period of Sunday's 3-1
loss at Chicago.
"It's the nature of the beast with the season. When you're in this thing, it seems every team goes through stuff like this.We've got depth here, we've got depth in Peoria, we've used guys in Peoria. If we have to, we can get down into (Evgeny) Grachev there, who's more than a comparable player. We've got (Adam) Cracknell, who's played great for us up here. ... We've got some flexibility. It's not like it's career-ending or it's not like it's season-ending or anything. He's probably four weeks maximum. We'll evaluate him in a couple weeks and see how he's doing."
Langenbrunner, 36, in his first season with the Blues and 17th overall, has four goals and 17 assists in 57 games this season. He's been one of the more versatile players for a relatively younger team and that flexibility will be a sore spot until his return.
The Blues say Langenbrunner will be re-evaluated in four weeks' time and have recalled center T.J. Hensick from Peoria.
"He probably doesn't get all the accolades he deserves," veteran center Scott Nichol said of Langenbrunner. "He does all the little things that makes a team win and why he's been successful his whole career. It's a voice in the locker room and it's the way he carries himself professionally. We're really going to miss that."
One of those younger players is T.J. Oshie, who has really taken a liking to Langenbrunner. And why wouldn't he? After all, here's a guy who's won two Stanley Cups, been captain in the NHL, captain for Team USA at the Winter Olympics and has over 1,000 games played in the League.
"It makes you look forward to hopefully where we're going to be one day," Oshie said. "If that's where we want to get to, we've got to learn from this guy. We've got to watch him, we've got to see what he does when no one else is watching.
"He's always ready to go, he's always ready to play. Even on nights when he knows he's not going to have his best game, he's still out there and doing the little things right. That's one thing that can be hard for us ... for myself or me or Perry (David Perron), when things are not going the right way, I think we get down on ourselves and we try to do too much. He always just stays with his game, stays even-keeled and that's what we've got to learn."
Blues captain David Backes, Langenbrunner's teammate for Team USA in 2010, has grown as leader because of Langenbrunner.
"He's been instrumental in the success we've had here and my growth as a leader and as a captain," Backes said. "He's been great to have. He's not gone (for the season). A broken bone, I don't know whether it's four weeks or whatever, maybe they can get it back faster. He finished the game with it. He's a guy that we need in the lineup and he's been great to have around.
"His roles (and) intangibles are off the charts. His ability to come to the rink and sniff out the feelings and keep everyone level ... and his work ethic and ability to go on the ice and make different plays at certain times when they're critical is off the charts and out of this world. He's a guy that we need back and when he comes back hopefully his 36-37 year old body is a lot more rested for a long playoff run."
Langenbrunner, who just a couple seasons ago was playing on the New Jersey Devils' top line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, has accepted whatever role the Blues have used him in -- and has persevered.
"I have kind of bounced up and down before," Langenbrunner said before his injury Sunday. "I went through a stretch there in Jersey where I had a defined role. But before then when I was with Hitch (in Dallas), I bounced up and down lines. I think that's fine with me. I feel comfortable playing in many different situations. We've obviously had lots of injuries, and as guys come back, our roles are going to get a little more defined when we get a full lineup. I think it's good. It puts competition within the group. I think all of us are pushing each other to be better in a good way. I've been fortunate to play in a lot of those roles. I feel comfortable in it."
The Blues will miss the versatility of Jamie Langenbrunner (right) for the
next four weeks. Langenbrunner has been placed on injured reserve with a
broken left foot.
Now it's up to the Blues, who are currently playing without wingers Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini (concussions), to replace a leader both on and off the ice.
"Lags' play has meant everything. He's done a great job," Hitchcock said. "The power play was doing well sequence-wise because he was a guy that calmed it down back there, he's done a great job killing penalties all year, he's been good for whoever he plays with. If we need the line to either increase it's competitiveness or increase its composure, we put him there. So he's been a guy that's played up and down from the fourth all the way to the first, so we're going to miss that. But I think we've got other guys whose games have stepped up and we'll be alright.
"He's a solid guy. He's a pro. I don't think you can have enough of those guys this time of the year."
Oshie agreed: "The biggest part is the leadership. It's not only just his presence in the locker room but also the way he plays the game, the way he doesn't take shifts off, he doesn't complain about shifts, he doesn't get down on himself. When things go bad, he's always looking at the positive and looking forward to the next shift. I think with our young group, that's going to be the thing that's going to be the most missed. He's a tough guy. I'm sure he's not going to be out for too long."
* NOTES -- Hitchcock said that Brian Elliott will get the start in goal against the Boston Bruins at home Wednesday, and Jaroslav Halak, coming off the flu that forced him to sit out two games, would start Thursday's game in Nashville barring an Elliott shutout Wednesday. ... Former Blue Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Senior Vice President, Player Safety and Hockey Operations was in town Tuesday visiting the Blues at their practice facility at St. Louis Mills. Shanahan, who has endured much criticism from Blues fans and various people around the NHL for what they feel are inconsistencies in his disciplinary actions. Shanahan is visiting teams around the league hoping to re-enforce any questions anyone night have.
"It's one of those things where it's good to try and clarify any questions that guys have," Backes said. "Hopefully if there's any hesitancy, that that's erased. We know that down the stretch run and into the playoffs, we know what the rules are so that if we're overstepping our boundary, we can expect the consequences to come and know this is not acceptable, this is acceptable ... go out there and play hard."