Monday, November 11, 2013

Leopold sidelined two months with hand injury, Cole to play

Veteran defenseman to have surgery on knuckle;
Morrow likely return Tuesday; Paajarvi getting closer

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- As they feared a couple days ago, Jordan Leopold's hand injury is significant, and the Blues will be without their veteran defenseman for a significant period of time.

Leopold will have surgery later this week after suffering a hand injury in a 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames Thursday.

Leopold has ligament damage in the knuckle on the first finger of his right hand and will be sidelined a minimum of two months. It is not known whether the injury was the result of a blocked shot or some sort of contact from a check in the defensive zone.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold (left) will be sidelined a minimum of two
months, will require surgery for ligament damage to his right hand.
"He's going to be operated on this week and we'll reevaluate him in two months and see how he goes," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after practice Monday. "In eight weeks we'll take a reevaluation of the hand and go from there.

"He has a ligament issue, need to get it solved right now so that he's back playing during the season. We'll get him looked at here and have that operation done as quickly as possible and then he'll get back playing in hopefully two months."

Leopold has two assists in 13 games this season. An 11-year veteran, the Blues acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline last season for a pair of draft picks.

Leopold has career totals of 65 goals and 206 points in 638 games for the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sabres and Blues.

In the meantime, the Blues will at some point recall a defenseman from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and use Ian Cole, the 18th pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, as their sixth defenseman.

"He's a good player," Hitchcock said of Cole. "He's really helped himself here by his attitude and everything. He's ready to go. I don't see us missing a beat.

"We'll look at what we're going to do for the seventh (defenseman). There's a couple guys in Chicago really starting to play well. We're going to look at that and go from there. This one will be up to (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) and the scouting staff and stuff like that."

Cole, 24, skated with Roman Polak Saturday and played 13:26 in a 2-1 victory against the Penguins Saturday. He's played in three games this season, with no points and is a plus-2. Cole has two goals and 11 points in 70 career games spanning four seasons.

"There has been, at times, such long periods between each game that I've played, that the mental side of it, as far as trying to keep up with the pace that it takes to play in the NHL is the hardest part," Cole said. "You’re still skating every day, you're still working out every day, you're in great shape … the legs feel fine. But as far as being able to make plays in situations that you don't get into in practice that are so foreign when you're not playing, that's kind of the hardest part. When you do play more, you get into those situations and you're much more able to adapt to those ever-changing situations."

So after not playing for a week and the events that unfolded with Leopold, Cole's assignment given to him Saturday: go help contain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"It is hard. I’m not going to say that it's the easiest thing to do because those are two of the – maybe them and (Pavel) Datsyuk and a couple of other guys are four or five best players in the world," Cole said. "It's definitely something that as a player, when you're out of the lineup, you're ready to go in whenever you're needed. That's when I was needed.

"I know a lot of the guys in here, including myself, especially in this situation have that competitive spirit and they want to get in against the best players in the world. I know for me one of the last times that I was playing regularly, and one of the highlights of my career, was getting to play against the Penguins in Pittsburgh, getting to play with (Alex Pietrangelo) 23 minutes that game, playing against Crosby all night and effectively shutting him down, keeping him off the scoreboard. That's something I can think back two years ago and still be proud of that game and I can look back on this game too, playing more against Malkin than Crosby, but being able to say we shut them down. We did a good job. That's a very solid game."

Cole played 13 minutes, 43 seconds in the win Saturday and was a plus-1.

"I thought it was good," Cole said of the game Saturday. "I thought it was very good. Hitch always talks quality over quantity. I didn't play a ton, especially toward the end of the game, but I thought what I did play, it was very solid, very strong.

"Playing with Romy definitely makes it a lot easier, being able to watch him and kind of model my game after him … just trying to shut their guys down, which I thought we did a pretty good job at. I was very happy with how it went."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Ian Cole will step into Jordan Leopold's

Also for the Blues, veteran left winger Brenden Morrow is nearing a return to the lineup after missing the last five games with an upper-body injury.

Morrow, 34, skated on the team's fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves and Morrow got through Monday without any discomfort, he could be inserted back into the lineup against the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday or against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday.

"Yeah, back in the routine and I would expect to be back in the lineup tomorrow," Morrow said after practice Monday. "I think the last two or three days, just tried to push it a little bit more each day and see if there's any setbacks. Nothing I've done has bothered me. I guess you can never tell what's going to happen until you're in a game. You do your best to mimic it in drills and test it, but you're never going to be able to react until you're in a game situation. That's the next step."

The Blues activated Morrow off injured reserve and assigned forward Chris Porter to the Chicago Wolves.

Apparently, Morrow felt well enough for the Blues to activate him hours after Monday's practice, and Hitchcock added the following prior to Morrow being activated: "Brenden feels good. If he continues to make progress through the day without having any discomfort, we're hopeful he's ready to go either Tuesday or Thursday. We'll see in a few hours.

"He took a regular shift as a regular practice player today. We'll see how he looks here in another three or four hours."

Porter played in two games after being recalled Oct. 31. He has four assists in seven games with the Wolves.

Left winger Magnus Paajarvi also seems to be back on track from his upper-body injury suffered Oct. 26 at Nashville.

Paajarvi was skating with extra forwards Adam Cracknell and Porter Monday. He's shooting the puck without any discomfort and skating freely but still has one more hurdle to overcome.

"I'm feeling better. Now it doesn't affect me off the ice. It's more on the ice with the battles," Paajarvi said. "I think that's what I have left. Everything else, I have pretty much. It's coming in and feeling that I can win a battle.

"I can shoot fine. Everything is fine like that. It's just the battles that I'm not comfortable with yet that I need to feel comfortable with in order to play. ... Timetable? Don't know. When I feel comfortable and the pain is not an issue, that's when I'll know I'm ready."

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