By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock still calls the left side of his defense "a work in progress."
So on any given night, aside from Barret Jackman, Hitchcock can use a rotation of Ian Cole, Kris Russell and Wade Redden for the remaining two slots.
But it seems Cole is being given a chance to run with a permanent slot.
Despite sitting out six games this season when Cole was part of the revolving door, Cole has dressed in eight straight games, is getting top-pair minutes with Alex Pietrangelo and still going through the learning process while doing so.
But Cole, the 18th overall pick in 2007, is relishing the chance ... and doing his best to run with it as fast as he can.
"It is kind of like the first time in my career where I've played for an extended period of time," Cole said. "I don't come to the rink (anymore) wondering if I'm going to be playing anymore. It is kind of nice to be able to, I don't want to say expect to be in the lineup, but there's a good chance you're going to play and there's a good chance you're going to play with such a great player like Petro is. Not only are you playing with a great player, but you're playing quality minutes against usually the other teams' top line."
Cole is averaging 18 minutes, 13 seconds of ice time in this stretch of eight games. He has only one assist on the season but he's a plus-2 on the ice and the Blues are finally getting an extended look at what they really have.
"It's definitely something I look at as they're giving me a lot of responsibility," Cole said. "With that responsibility, there does have to become a lot of discipline, a lot of faith in me as a player to really perform and play well.
"It is nice. It's definitely awesome. I love playing obviously. I hate sitting. It is great to play, especially against top lines."
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Although he's listed as day to day, Alex Steen (upper body) will not play tonight against the Blackhawks (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM)
Steen and Andy McDonald (knee) were injured almost simultaneously in a scoring drill Tuesday near the end of practice.
Steen did take part in Thursday's optional skate, going for roughly 10 minutes, before departing from the ice.
"He's feeling better and we'll just see how he feels tomorrow morning," Hitchcock said of Steen. "It's good that he's on the ice. It's good that he's skating. He doesn't feel like it's 100 percent, so I'm not going to take a chance right now. We've got so many games coming up, I'd like to make as close to 100 percent as we can and then let's just get playing from there."
McDonald is on injured reserve and is week to week.
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The Blues will honor defenseman Barret Jackman prior to tonight’s game with a ceremonial puck drop. Fans are asked to be in their seats early tonight as the puck drop will feature several special guests.
Jackman played in his 616th game on Saturday, becoming the Blues’ all-time leader in games played by a defenseman. Jackman ranks fifth overall for the Blues, trailing Bernie Federko (927), Brian Sutter (779), Brett Hull (744) and Garry Unger (662).
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The Blues will go with a worker bee lineup tonight, one that resembled a team that ran off a pretty good run last season en route to the second-best record in the Western Conference:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Matt D'Agostini
Chris Porter-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart
Andrew Murray-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak gets the nod in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Wade Redden and Adam Cracknell, recalled from Peoria Thursday, are the healthy scratches. McDonald, Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion/facial laceration) and Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) are out with injuries.
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The Blackhawks, who have gotten points in 19 straight games to begin the season (16-0-3), has the following probable lineup:
Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp-Marcus Kruger-Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Viktor Stalberg
Daniel Carcillo-Michael Frolik-Brandon Bollig
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival
Corey Crawford gets the start in goal; Ray Emery is the backup.
Healthy scratches include former Blue Jamal Mayers and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank. Center Dave Bolland (upper-body) and defenseman Steve Montador (concussion) remain sidelined with injuries.