Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Intrasquad games to help determine cutting roster to 30; 
Stastny, others to debut Thursday; Gunnarrson progressing

ST. LOUIS -- With little time for intrasquad games and preseason games running the mill just three days into training camp, the Blues had a chance to battle in a game against each other Wednesday.

The Blue squad defeated the White squad 2-0 on goals by Alex Pietrangelo (assist to T.J. Oshie) and Jori Lehtera (Vladimir Tarasenko), as the two teams played two 25-minute periods of continuous running clock.

"The best two players were the goalies," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. (Brian) Elliott and (Jake) Allen were outstanding. 

"In general, it gave us some evaluation on our team play, where it's at, what we need to work on moving forward. I think it was really helpful there. ... The tempo was pretty high and it was short, so it wasn't a real hockey game. So the tempo stayed at a really high level. But I think it really gave us a great evaluation of what we need to work on for the next seven or eight days and things like that."

Specifically, Hitchcock said, "Our technical play is really pretty good. But it's the details of chemistry on the ice that need a lot of work. You can see that. We keep going over all the concepts of what we need to do offensively and defensively. Then you put it where it really gets up a level and guys have a lot of hesitation on little things that are going to make a big difference between getting more scoring opportunities and giving up less. 

"Rather than just scrimmaging and throwing the puck on the ice, we did a lot of tactics and then we put it into a later scrimmage. I think you saw some real good continuity team play-wise."

Hitchcock said the players who will not play Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets will participate in another scrimmage after the game-rostered group finishes its morning skate.

The Blues, who will have a loaded roster against the Blue Jackets, will then practice Friday and face the Dallas Stars Saturday in Kansas City. By Sunday, they will have trimmed their roster down to 30 players, so Thursday's scrimmage could be a final opportunity for some players to make their mark.

"We're trying to eliminate people right now, kind of pare it down," Hitchcock  said. "And then after (the fourth preseason game Saturday), we'll start narrowing in on what we want our team to look like. But right now, we're trying to get to 30. 

"There's a real quagmire to get to 30 to be honest with you. There's a lot of guys that there's no real separation yet. Some guys have come up to create the separation and some guys have gone down to create the separation. But there's no separation, so we've got to put them into scrimmages like we did today, we've got another scrimmage tomorrow. That scrimmage tomorrow's a very important scrimmage because after the team that's playing has a pregame skate, it's a 30-man scrimmage and probably the people that are left there that do well in that scrimmage game tomorrow are going to continue to get a longer look here. That's a very important 45-minute scrimmage that's going to give us a great evaluation. It's all with an idea of Sunday morning being down to 30 so we can pick the hockey club."

* Stastny, others to debut Thursday -- Paul Stastny, the Blues' major acquisition this past summer after he signed a four-year, $28 million contract, will make his preseason debut when the Blues host the Blue Jackets (7 p.m. on KMOX 1120-AM).

Also making their preseason debuts include David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and 2014 second-round pick Ivan Barbashev.

For Stastny, it's the first chance to implement the chemistry developed in camp with Steen on the ice for the first time.

"It's been good. It's a little early. We haven't really scrimmaged," Stastny said. "You do stuff 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or like short stuff. You don't really get into it. When you start doing scrimmages or game-like stuff, then you really get a feel for it. ... Once tomorrow hits ... you have a little feel for him now but after that first game tomorrow, you'll get a better understanding of how that chemistry's going.

"Systems are systems. There's only so much you can do out here. Once you get into games, you react with better hockey IQ. Nobody's going 110 miles per hour. This is fun, but we've done enough of this for the summer. Now I think we're ready for the games to start."

Steen said Stastny is, "Just smart, little details, picking sticks and creating room. He's a very smart player.

"I think we're looking forward to just playing in general. A lot of practices and a lot of weight room and bikes and all that. It'll be nice to see it out for a game."

Hitchcock got a chance to sit and watch the two play, along with Joakim Lindstrom, in the scrimmage Wednesday and came away with these thoughts:

"I thought they had really good chemistry until it came down to finishing and I thought they were guilty of making one extra play," Hitchcock said. "Once they got into the scoring areas, I think they passed off of situations that if there was a hockey game being played tomorrow, they would not pass off on those. I thought they were guilty of making one extra play when they had the opposition dead to right.

"They're going to be a very dangerous line off the rush if they can make space for themselves. A lot of this is going to fall on Alex, because Alex is going to have to be the gritty worker down there. The success of that line is (going to come from) are they going to go into the hard areas to score and are they going to be really determined in those areas. We're going to find out starting tomorrow."

Lindstrom will get the first crack at playing on the right wing with Stastny and Steen. It's also Lindstrom's first chance to play with Steen, one of his closest friends, since the two played for Sweden in the World Junior Championships in 2003.

"We haven't played a game together in a long time," Lindstrom said of Steen. "His overall game, defensive game, his shooting game, the way he battles, he's improved a lot. It's right up there with the best of them.

"He's one of the top players in the league. Any time you get a chance to play with a player like that, it's very exciting. ... Both of them are extremely good players and top players on the team. It's very exciting to get an opportunity."

Stastny, who grew up in St. Louis while his father Peter finished his career in St. Louis from 1993-95, is looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd.

"It'll be fun," Stastny said. "Once I get every game under my belt, I'll just get more and more comfortable. That first game is, I don't want to say nerve-wracking, but it's always exciting, especially for the long summer of not playing games. You just want to get back in the routine of things."

* Gunnarsson improving -- For the second straight day, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (hip) skated in drills with a red no-contact jersey after initially beginning camp doing endurance skating and limited team drills.

There's no time set for when Gunnarsson, acquired at the NHL Draft for Roman Polak, will play in a game, but Hitchcock said he's progressing nicely.

"He's moved up another level here," Hitchcock said. "He partook in the last two practices wearing a red no-contact shirt. He did well. Nobody's touching him or anything like that, but boy he can really pass the puck and he can head-man the puck. He has a great ability to get us out of trouble. Even the little bit that we've seen him, his skating the mobility and smarts, he's done well, he's done really well. I think all of us are excited to see the day he gets the green light and can participate because boy, his passing is really at the top of the class."

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