Enforcer came into his own as regular in lineup;
opportunity for Paajarvi, Cracknell to fill void
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- For the first time in four seasons, Ryan Reaves has been establishing himself as one of 20 players in the Blues' lineup on a regular basis.
Reaves has been more known as the energy guy who energizes the home crowd with bone-crunching hits and dropping the gloves but has since added an offensive flare to his arsenal with two goals and two assists in 22 games but a number of scoring chances.
So when the news came down Saturday night that Reaves suffered a broken right hand in the first period as a result of a fight where he pummeled Dallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon that will shut down the Blues' enforcer for four weeks, it puts a chink in the Blues' armor and Reaves' spirits a bit.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves (75) suffered a broken right hand as a result
of this fight with Dallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon Saturday night.
"It sucks. He’s a great guy," Blues right winger Chris Stewart said of Reaves, a close friend. "He's probably one of my best friends on the team, too. So not having him around on the road trips, it's going to be tough for me personally. Like I said, it is bad timing, but if it is going to happen, I'd rather it happen earlier in the year than late down the stretch. There's still ton of hockey to play and come March and April, this will be a distant memory."
The whole fight began initially when Reaves laid a hard, legal check on winger Valeri Nichushkin that send the Stars' rookie into the Blues bench. Dillon was one that stepped to the forefront and stick up for a teammate even though Reaves was not sure if a fight was what he was looking for.
"It was a pretty big one," Reaves said of the hit on Nichushkin. "The guy's in our box. Any time you see that, you usually stir something up.
"I wasn't surprised. (Dillon) looked at me but didn't really drop his gloves too quick. I didn't know if he was asking or not. I expected that kind of response."
And the response from Reaves came in the form of continuous blow after blow after blow. He had initially got cut from Nichushkin's skate that required stitches but then it was disclosed after x-rays were taken that a broken hand came as a result of the fight.
"I didn't feel anything until I was getting stitched up," Reaves said. "(Assistant trainer Chris Palmer) came to put ice on my hand and I just kind of winced a little bit so they said let's take a quick x-ray, said it was broken. I didn't feel it when I was fighting or any particular punch. I don't know when it really happened.
"I got cut when I hit Nichushkin. I don't know what cut me or what happened, but I was leaking pretty hard before the fight. ... I was just coming off to get zipped. I wasn't even thinking about this until they put the ice on there. I caught (Dillon) in the back of the head a few times. I honestly couldn't tell you which one it was."
Reaves was so oblivious to his hand being broken, he had planned on going back into the game.
"At first, I just told them to tape it up and they said OK," Reaves said. "Right before they did that, they said you can't because if I get hit again, it might need surgery for sure or it might be a little worse. They ended up shutting me down.
"I thought I was going back out. I asked them if they could just tape it and they said OK, sure. Another doctor said no, it's probably not smart."
With Reaves out, it gives Magnus Paajarvi or Adam Cracknell the chance to step into the lineup on a regular basis.
Paajarvi is likely to get the bulk of the playing time in Reaves' absence and on the right wing, beginning with a home game Monday against the Minnesota Wild.
"It's very sad to see what happened to Revo," Paajarvi said. "... I've felt good out there. I've felt better and better once I've got in. I mean it's a tough lineup, probably the best team in the league right now. It's exciting to be here and obviously I want to be in the lineup. I don't want to be (on the) outside. When I get the chance, I'm going to do what I can and whatever I need to.
"It doesn't matter for me, none whatsoever. Left or right, if I end up on either side, it doesn't really matter for me."
The Blues will miss Reaves' toughness in the lineup, and he formed quite the chemistry playing with center Maxim Lapierre, but Blues coach Ken Hitchcock feels there's enough toughness on the roster to fill the gap left by Reaves' absence.
"I don't think it's going to be difficult at all," Hitchcock said. "We've got guys like Stewart and (David) Backes and Lappy that do more than take care of themselves. I don't think this is going to be something we can't overcome. We're going to miss (Reaves') presence, especially in the locker room and his physical nature, but every team goes through this stuff. We'll find a way to move on."
"Yeah, we've got guys that are willing to do what it takes, whether it's defend your teammates or for me, it's more between the whistles and playing hard and making sure the other team doesn't have any easy ice. If it comes to dropping the gloves, we've got plenty of willing combatants."
Roman Polak and Vladimir Sobotka can also be thrown into this group.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Sobotka (right) dropped the gloves with Dallas' Rich Peverley in
what turned out to be the opening act of fights between the teams Saturday.
"Yeah, obviously you don't want to be fighting too many heavyweights or anything like that, but we're a team that prides ourselves on team toughness," Stewart said. "I've said it before, but you go through our lineup and we've got five or six guys who are willing to stand up for their teammates on the drop of a dime. It's going to suck to be without Revo for the next month, but we've got some guys that can step up."
Reaves will be looked at by team doctors Monday and a decision on surgery will be made then with general manager Doug Armstrong.
"I've got to talk to the doctors tomorrow to see what's going on," Reaves said. "I think even with surgery, I think it's almost the same rehab time. I think it just depends on how it heals.
"We're going to weigh all the options and talk tomorrow, talk to Army and see what he thinks and go over it with all the specialists, all the brains of the doctor's office."