Winger needs working visa in order to play;
Paajarvi to slip into lineup for opener if needed
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When Brenden Morrow signed with the Blues last week, he was looking forward to being one of the missing pieces for a team predicted to do plenty this season.
But on the eve before the Blues open the season at home against the Nashville Predators, there's an issue that looms over the 34-year-old that could prevent him from being in the opening night lineup.
Morrow, a Canadian from Carlyle, Saskatchewan, is currently listed on the Blues' non-roster but as an active player until he can get clearance on immigration issues and get a working visa in order.
Morrow, who is slated to play left wing on the Blues' second line with center Derek Roy and right wing Chris Stewart, said after practice that he began a process of filing for a green card through his wife in May, which is still ongoing. So until that situation is resolved, Morrow has to apply for a working visa each time he signs a new NHL contract, and the last time that had to happen was in 2007 when he signed a six-year deal with Dallas.
"I don't know if (the green card status) has anything to do with the process of this, but my wife is a citizen and I started to renew the green card application process through her," Morrow said after practice. "I started that at the end of May, early June so it's been almost three, fourth months. So I don't know if that's slowing or delaying things or what's going on with the government.
"It shouldn't be a real issue with that department, but just like you, I don't know. I have a lawyer working on it, and I think (the Blues), we've been in contact with (them) and we're just waiting to see. ... Obviously I'm worried. I'd be really disappointed if it doesn't get worked out. ... I'm still hopeful it can still get done, but I don't know."
In the meantime, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the team is treating it as an injury and a day to day status. If Morrow can't play against the Predators, Magnus Paajarvi will slide into the lineup and play on a fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves. That would push Vladimir Sobotka to the Roy-Stewart line.
"He's still up in the air, day to day, we'll figure it out tomorrow," Hitchcock said of Morrow. "If he can't go, then Magnus will go in and play.
"It's just part of the process. All it is is just a day to day injury-type thing, so it's not a big deal. If he's got to miss a game or two, he's got to miss a game or two. It's not the end of the world."
Morrow said that if he has to put off gaining a green card in order to get a working visa, he'll do that to speed up the process, if that's what's causing the delay. The recent shutdown of the U.S. Government could be an issue in the matter, although Morrow said what he's dealing with is likely not directly involved. But with a government shutdown, it's causing some to delays in visas, passports, etc.
"The people that we were dealing with said it would be a quicker process if I waited for (Morrow's wife) to become a citizen before I applied for my green card on my own," Morrow said. "So I had to wait for her to get her citizenship, which she got and I applied for my green card. ... It's been a long time.
"I've seen it where maybe guys get delayed at the border a day or two while they're working on it. I don't know if that situation I have with the green card is screwing things up. I'd rather just have that tossed out the window, get the visa and worry about that at another time."
Hitchcock said the recent play of Paajarvi, who the Blues acquired from Edmonton in July for David Perron, gives the Blues flexibility.
"Oh yeah, getting better and better every day," Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "He's starting to use his speed as a mechanism to get on top of people and create turnovers. He's starting to use his speed to attack the net, he's getting more and more comfortable with the way we play and like I've said, I've liked what I've seen the last week. He's really starting to engage in the way we need him to play.
"You just saw it in practice again today, he just drove the net like crazy today and put our defensemen in tough spots all practice."
Meanwhile, Morrow said he doesn't want to dwell on the fact he might have to miss.
"I'm really trying not to think about that," Morrow said. "When that situation comes, I'll think about it then. Now it's focusing and working and getting ready for that game tomorrow."