By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Looking to add depth to their blue line after the injury to Jordan Leopold, the Blues have turned to a familiar face.
The Blues announced they have signed Carlo Colaiacovo to a one-year contract pending a medical physical. Colaiacovo, who has been out of hockey since the Detroit Red Wings bought out the final year of his contract he signed in 2012.
Colaiacovo, 30, only played in six games with the Red Wings last season after signing $5 million contract.
Colaiacovo spent four seasons with the Blues from 2008-12. He played in 259 games during those four seasons after coming to St. Louis along with Alexander Steen from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade for Lee Stempniak.
Colaiacovo scored 18 goals and had 106 points in four seasons with the Blues.
In the meantime, Ian Cole steps into the role vacated by Leopold, who will be sidelined a minimum of two months. Leopold will have surgery this week to repair ligament damage in the right index finger, an injury sustained against the Calgary Flames Thursday.
"I think he's accepted the role that's necessary for him to start in the League," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Cole, the 18th pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. "I think he was typical of a lot of young players, that they'd like to start at the penthouse and not on the ground floor. I think from that standpoint, he was impatient and wanted to bring the game that he had in college to the American (Hockey) League and the NHL without taking the steps. He missed steps, and I think this last year, last 12 months, has allowed him to re-process the steps.
"Now he's got some foundation in his game. I think he's got a reality that being a member of the group is valuable rather than a certain identity and a certain role. I think that sense of 'This is what I should be rather than I just need to fit in' has really changed and I think it's made him a way better player because of it."
Colaiacovo's signing signifies the organization's level of confidence in bringing in someone from Chicago of the AHL to fill the void as the seventh defenseman.
The Blues (11-2-2) will also get Brenden Morrow back into the lineup Tuesday after the 34-year-old missed five games with an upper-body injury sustained against the Winnipeg Jets Oct. 29.
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There seems to be more on-ice chemistry from the line centered by Vladimir Sobotka, who is flanked by Derek Roy on the left and Chris Stewart on the right.
Hitchcock likes it, and it stems from moving Roy from center to left wing and Sobotka into the middle.
"I think quite frankly, they're really working at chemistry," Hitchcock said. "We challenged them a few games back to help us be better. They took that to heart. I think to be honest with you, they're checking the puck back and that's given them the odd-man rushes. I think they were waiting for the game to come to them when they first got into it as a line. They were kind of mirroring people rather than checking people. I think they're buying into the fact that the harder they check, the more scoring chances they get. They've got great skill, but they're competing at a high level and having success because of it.
"I like Sobe at center. We start with the puck, he's the best faceoff guy in the league. He's got the highest percentage, the only guy I've coached for a long time that can win it equally on the right side of draws, the left side. That's pretty significant. I like the fact that that line starts with the puck. I think it also allows Derek to get ahead of the play where he's dangerous on the rush rather than get stuck down low. Sobe's got great patience in his game. If I was a smart coach, I'd keep Derek on the left and keep Sobe in the middle, but I'm not that smart. We'll see in the next couple weeks."
Roy, who played left wing for Hitchcock at the World Championships, said the change is a work in progress but one he's adapting to.
"It's definitely a work in progress," said Roy, who has eight points in 15 games. "I just like playing. It doesn't matter where you're going to put me. Every day I try to get better at it.
"We're strong at center. We have a lot of guys that can play center. ... I'm just trying to do my part and work as best as I can on the left wing. Sobe's doing a good job helping me out. ... Last game I thought I had the puck a lot. It was one of those games where the puck was coming off your wall a lot and just wanting the puck trying to be as open as you can. It's a transition. It's not an easy transition playing center all your life. You've got to get back and being used to it and learn how to do those stops and starts and skate and check the defenseman."
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Hitchcock is also making wholesale changes to the Blues' power play groups. The team's power play is 1-for-13 the past four games and just 3-for-23 over the past six games.
"We've changed all three units," Hitchcock said. "We need to get Brenden back. Brenden's great in front of the net. He's got great ability to show his stick, release pressure, he hunts out the puck ... we've just got to get him out there.
"My feeling is we need more mobility in the middle of the ice on the power play. If we're going to play like a lot of the other power plays, we've got to have more mobility in the middle of the ice, better reads, less static, more movement. The way we've got it right now, it creates a little more movement. We're not really changing a lot of people, but by changing one person, it puts more mobility in the middle of the ice and allows us to go to different sets quicker rather than just be static. I thought for the last few games, we've looked stiff and static and very one-dimensional. This allows us to have a ton more dimensions on our power play. With the same structure, we've become way more unpredictable, which helps us a lot."
The top unit has Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Roy and Alex Pietrangelo playing on it, with Morrow playing with Sobotka, Stewart, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk. The third group likely will see Patrik Berglund, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko down low.
Look for Ian Cole to get into the mix eventually.
"We really like that, but it put us in a tough spot," Hitchcock said of splitting up Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. "To ask Ian to do what he does in the American (Hockey) League without spending some time with him, which is what we're doing with him now, is unrealistic. We're hoping in a couple weeks, Ian can play on the power play, but we've got to spend some time with him and get him working."
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The Coyotes, who come in 12-4-2, have the most victories (three) when trailing after two periods this season and are off to their best start since the 1998-99 season.
They will have two forwards (Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal) as game-time decisions. Defenseman Derek Morris (lower-body) is out.
"We're still hoping to have people available tonight, but we'll see how the day goes," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Morris won't play for sure. Everybody else is a possibility.
"Vrbata skated again this morning. We'll see. ... We'll call (Hanzal) maintenance. We'll see who shows up tonight."
The team recalled forward Chris Brown from the Portland Pirates of the AHL.
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Derek Roy-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Brenden Morrow-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak gets the start in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup.
Adam Cracknell is the healthy scratch. Jordan Leopold (hand) is out a minimum of two months, Magnus Paajarvi (upper-body) is also out with an injury.
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The Coyotes' projected lineup:
Rob Klinkhammer-Antoine Vermette-Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski-Martin Hanzal-Mikkel Boedker
Kyle Chipchura-Mike Ribeiro-David Moss
Paul Bissonnette-Jeff Halpern-Jordan Szwarz
Zbynek Michalek-Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Keith Yandle-Michael Stone
David Schlemko-Rostislav Klesla
Mike Smith will start in goal; Thomas Griess is the backup.
Former Blues farmhand David Rundblad is a healthy scratch, along with Chris Brown likely. Derek Morris (lower-body) and Radim Vrbata (lower-body) are out with injuries.