Players prepared without Petro; early camp
impressions; new leaders asked to step up
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues already face an obstacle, one they knew would be inevitable after news sprung that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo would not report to camp on time.
Pietrangelo, a restricted free agent, has not come to terms on a new deal with the Blues and will miss time due to the contract dispute.
In the meantime, the Blues reported for the start of training camp's on-ice workouts Thursday at Scottrade Center, and the players are fully prepared for what may or may not happen.
"That's the business side where those guys have got to figure that out," said captain David Backes, who's spoken to Pietrangelo throughout the summer. "The sooner they can figure that out and he's back in that room, I think it makes us a better team. That being said, that's a side I think no one likes to be in. That's a conversation that's not easy to have.
"We're good friends. We're going to talk. When he gets through that, we need to make sure he gets up to speed so that he can step right in and be effective."
Veteran defenseman and alternate captain Barret Jackman said the message to teammates was simple: deal with what the team has and let the chips fall where they may.
"That's the business part of the game right now that we can't focus on," Jackman said. "Obviously Petro's a huge part of our team. He's a great guy, a great character guy and obviously one of our best players, but right now you've got to focus on what's on the ice, things we can control. Obviously we've got to pick up the slack, but that's something that we're prepared to do and we have some depth where we're able to do that."
* Early observations -- After talking about what impact veteran Ryan Whitney can add to the Blues' defensive unit, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock switched gears to talk about an under-the-radar guy who is once again battling for a top-six role on the blue line.
"To me, the most impressive guy was Ian Cole today ... of all the defensemen," Hitchcock said. "Cole was the most impressive. He's got tempo to his game, he's got speed, he's got agility in his game."
Cole, the 18th pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, will play this season under one-way contract after agreeing to a two-year, $1.65-million extension over the summer. He's fighting for a role on the blue line for the third year in a row.
Also raising some eyebrows: the line of Magnus Paajarvi, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko. The trio orchestrated some impressive plays and shots during camp drills and look to be a unit that might stick moving forward.
"It's nice," Paajarvi said. "I played with Bergy in one (World Championships) and Tarasenko is a pretty good player. It's nice to play with them.
"You can't try to be someone else. You've got to be yourself. If the chemistry's there, it's there. I'm going to do what I'm good at and try to bring that to the table and hopefully them too, which I'm sure they are. Hopefully there is some chemistry there."
Hitchcock is giving some of the younger guys in camp a good look with veteran players. Ty Rattie skated with Backes and Alexander Steen, Dmitrij Jaskin skated with Derek Roy and Chris Stewart and both Joel Edmundson and Jani Hakanpaa skated with different veteran defensemen, including Roman Polak, Jay Bouwmeester and Jackman.
Jaden Schwartz centered a unit that featured T.J. Oshie and Vladimir Sobotka.
"I want to give Rattie, Jaskin, Edmundson, Hakanpaa ... I want to give these guys a real opportunity to play with good players so we get a good, hard look at them," Hitchcock said.
* Added leaders -- With the likes of Andy McDonald and Jamie Langenbrunner void from the Blues' locker room, there will be some new leaders asked to step into roles not known to them.
The core leaders of Backes, Jackman and Steen will stay in tact, but add in Kevin Shattenkirk, Oshie and now Berglund and Stewart, the Blues will infuse some new blood into the leader group.
"We've moved them to other people. We've asked two guys in particular, Berglund and Stewart, to jump on board here," Hitchcock said. "It's pre-defined for us where we're going. We've added people to the mix and we lost them. Obviously Stewart and Bergy are two significant guys that are into the picture now. I don't want to say we're going to demand more of those guys, but I think we're going to expect more from those guys, especially those guys have to come out and now be vocal now and back up what they say. For us to get to the next level, we need those guys to join what's already here.
"Shattenkirk was a part-time resident in that area last year and we'll use Berglund and Stewart in those areas also. They'll come in and help, but I think that whole group there, they're ready to take the ball. We've had them in meetings, we've talked to them, we expect to them to become vocal and even more accountable that they have been in the last few years."
Oshie, who had some tough moments and issues when he was in his earlier years with the team, has come a long way to get to the point of being trusted as a leader. He's ready to tackle whatever role given his way.
"I've been working to that point for the last couple years now after a couple hiccups," Oshie said. "I'll obviously be in any position they want to put me in, but I want to lead by example. I want to lead on and off the ice that I'm looked at to do."
* Different team, different attitude -- Paajarvi, 22, said after his first official skate Thursday that he could see a difference in the mindset playing for his new team.
Acquired for David Perron on July 10, Paajarvi is chomping at the bit to help push the Blues forward and earn a berth in the playoffs after sitting idle in Edmonton for three years.
Paajarvi said he notices the mood here to talk of winning a championship rather than just making the playoffs in Edmonton.
"It's a huge difference," Paajarvi said. "I could really tell here everybody talks about the Cup, everybody talks about being a contender. The playoffs is just another step. In Edmonton it was going to the playoffs and trying to make the playoffs. It's definitely a couple steps up."
* Injury update -- Three Blues are listed on the injury report and two of them did not skate.
Defenseman Cade Fairchild is nursing a knee injury, while the team assigned defenseman Nicholas Walters to the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League after the 19-year-old injured a knuckle at the prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich. Also, forward Cody Beach has a shoulder injury but took part in the second group's skate Thursday.