Stewart, Paajarvi avoid serious injuries;
Lapierre awaiting his turn; Cracknell to play Tuesday
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A difference of 48 hours proved to be beneficial for a pair of Blues players thought to have serious injuries.
Both wingers Chris Stewart and Magnus Paajarvi left Saturday's 6-1 win at Nashville with upper-body injuries and initially, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock thought both might have suffered "significant" injuries.
But Stewart, who was shoved into the offensive zone corner boards hard by the Predators' Patric Hornqvist halfway through the second period and missed the third, was on the ice Monday for practice at the Ice Zone and didn't skip a beat. He will play Tuesday when the Blues (6-1-2) host the Winnipeg Jets.
Paajarvi, on the other hand, will miss the game against the Jets and is day-to-day after being checked in the offensive zone by the Predators' Victor Bartley midway through the first period. He played a couple shifts after but missed the final two periods.
"Stewy feels fine, no issues, ready to go," Hitchcock said. "Magnus is going to be day-to-day. He won’t play on Tuesday and then we'll just evaluate him on the road trip and see how he feels.
"It's not long-term with Magnus, but he's certainly not going to be ready for Tuesday. So (Adam) Cracknell will come in and play on Tuesday."
Cracknell, who's played in one game -- at Winnipeg Oct. 18 -- without a point, is ready to step in.
"You always feel bad for a teammate that gets hurt," Cracknell said. "You never want to see a teammate get hurt and that's the reason why he's playing. That's why we have extra guys.
"My job is to step up and make sure that role's filled. Hopefully he's healthy and back at it soon, but I can take care of what I do, and that's playing well and help the team keep winning. My last game was against Winnipeg and my next one's against Winnipeg so I know what to expect. It's just being ready and making sure my minutes are good minutes."
Hitchcock liked Cracknell's game and feels he will fill in nicely. Cracknell centered the fourth line with Brenden Morrow and Ryan Reaves.
"I don't think you want to start absorbing a bunch of injuries just to test it out," Hitchcock said of the team's depth. "The thing for us is when you've got people that can play multiple positions … so a guy like Cracknell can come in, he can play anywhere in your lineup. He can play up or he can play down. It's a good thing for us. Adam is a really smart guy. He's a real pro and he can come in and fit in, and we know he's going to help us. The game he played in Winnipeg, he was one of our better players. So, I don't think it's going to change. He's a good player for us right now."
* Familiar faces -- With Paajarvi out and Cracknell in Tuesday, Hitchcock juggled the lines somewhat and went back with a familar trio.
After using Vladimir Sobotka between Paajarvi and Vlarimir Tarasenko Saturday night, Hitchcock went back with Patrik Berglund centering Jaden Schwartz and Tarasenko Monday at practice.
Stewart, who began the season with Derek Roy but played with Berglund and Schwartz Saturday, was back with Roy Monday with Sobotka on left wing.
"I think the one guy that's going to move here is Tarasenko," Hitchcock said. "I told Vlad today that depending on the opponent, depending on the matchup, he's probably the one guy that's going to move ... him and Stewy. So don't be too surprised if him and Stewy flip a little bit during the game or even from game to game. We'll see."
* Lappy patiently waits -- Center Maxim Lapierre, whose five-game suspension stemming from his check from behind on San Jose's Dan Boyle Oct. 15 ends following Tuesday's game, has been patiently waiting for his time to get back into the lineup.
But five games seems like five weeks with the lengthy layoff between games for the Blues, who after Monday will have played the fewest games in the NHL with nine.
"It is really long right now," Lapierre said after practice. "I can't wait to come back and be a part of the group. We're hoping that Dan's going to feel better soon and my part is just one game left and we'll see after.
"It's different practicing and playing, but I know 100 percent I did everything I needed to do off the ice through my suspension to be in great shape."
Lapierre, who is eligible to return to the lineup when the Blues play at Florida Friday, doesn't feel like his game will change much from the hard-checking, agitating role he plays but after seeing Boyle knocked out following the play, it makes players think twice about what they tend to do.
"Obviously I've got to come back and play the game I've played all my career," Lapierre said. "I'm not going to lie. A hit like that always makes you think a lot, (but) I'm not going to change my role. I might take a different approach from now on. I'm not saying I'm not going to be physical, but I'm definitely not going to finish a hit on a rim."
Hitchcock said he understands initially when a player comes off a suspension, he might play a little differently but doesn't expect anything different from Lapierre.
"Yeah, I think sometimes everybody gets wrapped up in the emotion of the game," Hitchcock said. "I have no doubt that he's going to come back and play well. He's not a player that's going to make his living playing careful. He plays a reckless style. We’re hoping that he keeps it up. It’s an unfortunate situation that happened, but in our view that was a hockey play that went bad. It’s move on and get ready. He’s an important forechecking player for us. He’s really good, he’s got a great stick on the forecheck, that’s the type of player we signed and that’s the guy we want on the ice.
"He’s just a good player. He’s a very effective player for us. He’s good on PK, he’s got great energy. We miss him. We miss his personality in the locker room. He’s got an enthusiasm to compete and play. I’m really looking forward to getting him back."
Lapierre took a fair amount of criticism, particularly from Sharks players and their fans. However, he doesn't consider himself to be one of the players termed "dirty."
"Honestly, like we said in the meeting with Brendan (Shanahan), I think I've been a player that's talked all my career and say things on the ice and be an agitator," Lapierre said. "I don't consider myself as a dirty player. If you look on average, I've been in the league maybe eight years, I've averaged 200 hits a year and two were bad. It's never fun to see an event like what happened with Dan Boyle, but if I look at the percentage, I don't think I'm a dirty player."
With the Blues avoiding serious injury to both Stewart and Paajarvi, Lapierre said when he gets back in and others will help the Blues to not skip a beat if injuries occur.
"We see it when guys like Cracks and Magnus come into the lineup, they're great players and I think we're lucky to have those players working hard every day, they're getting ready every day to help when it's time," Lapierre said.
* Tidbits -- Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal when the Blues host the Jets. Brian Elliott made his only start of the season when the teams last met, a 4-3 shootout win for the Jets in a game the Blues squandered a 3-1 lead with less than seven minutes to play. ... Defenseman Barret Jackman left practice early Monday but Hitchcock said he will be good to go Tuesday after blocking a shot Saturday at Nashville.
"He had kind of a scheduled short practice," Hitchcock said of Jackman. "He blocked a shot and we wanted to get him up and running for a little bit. He'll be good to go tomorrow."