Friday, September 26, 2014


Lindbohm, Fabbri raising eyebrows; Steen OK; 
Gunnarsson has important week forthcoming; roster trimmed to 41

ST. LOUIS -- When he reported for the start of training camp, defenseman Petteri Lindbohm wasn't even supposed to be a blip on the radar.

But as the Blues (0-1-2) head into their fourth preseason contest with a "home" game at Sprint Center in Kansas City today at 7 p.m., Lindbohm will get a third game, playing alongside Ian Cole.

The 21-year-old from Helsinki, Finland was just supposed to use this training camp as a learning curve to take back to Europe and the Jokerit hockey club with him, but the Blues' sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft is doing his best to make a tough defensive situation even tougher for coach Ken Hitchcock.

"He has the right attitude," Hitchcock said of Lindbohm, who has played in Dallas on Monday and at home Thursday against Columbus. "Every day is a different day and every day is a better day for him, and that's his attitude. He's right there now. When the dust settles, he's going to be in the mix looking for a spot on the team. That's a horse coming from a long way's back. That's what he's done. It's very impressive.

"For me, it's his sense ... his sense and his awareness. He's got some real hockey sense and he's a real competitive guy. You're talking about a guy coming from left field ... nobody knew anything about him. We saw him play in Traverse City (Mich.) and he looked really good and then he comes here and looks really good. He's certainly put himself in the mix here now, which is pretty impressive for a young guy. He's got great size, he's got a bomb for a shot, really competitive as heck."

Lindbohm, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, ascended up the ladder quickly last season, going from the Jokerit Juniors to the second-tier division in Finland with Kiekko-Vantaa before landing with the big club in Jokerit.

In all, Lindbohm had one goal and three points in 34 games, but the way he's asserted himself into playing with the big boys of the NHL has really caught the eyes of Blues coaches. He began to impress the Blues at the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City.

"People had told me about him, other people from other organizations that saw him play," Hitchcock said of Lindbohm. "They told me about him, but this is my first look at him, to be honest with you."

As Lindbohm sat at his locker stall following Friday's practice, his demeanor exhibited exactly how his mindset has been throughout his time in St. Louis: quiet, mild-mannered and just going about his business. He lets his actions speak loud and clear.

"I like to be here. I think I've played pretty good and I've had a lot of fun," Lindbohm said, speaking with a broken Finnish accent. "You learn every day something new. Coaches tell me every day things to do. Hockey's a little bit different here than it is in Europe. It's been a great experience for me."

The Blues have 10 NHL-experiened defensemen (Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Carl Gunnarsson, Barret Jackman, Jordan Leopold, Ian Cole, Chris Butler, Nate Prosser and Ryan Whitney) all in camp vying for jobs among the top seven. Combined, they all have played 4,181 regular season games more than Lindbohm, but that's not deterring the young Finn from making his case.

"I just live day by day," Lindbohm said. "We'll see where I play. That's my goal is to play someday in the NHL."

Added Hitchcock: "He moves the puck well, he passes hard, he's got good vision, he doesn't panic under pressure. It's going to get amped up. 

"(Tonight's) game's going to get amped up and then next week's going to be amped up, so we're going to get a better read by the end of next week. To do what he's done, there's a few guys that are impressive. Him, (Robby) Fabbri. We sent down (Yannick) Veilleux today, but Veilleux has had a helluva camp. He looks like a real good prospect for us. (Ivan) Barbashev was terrific. There's a lot of people that we didn't know much about that we know a lot about now."

* Fabbri making a strong case -- 2014 first round pick Robby Fabbri has seen other Blues prospects come and now go, as they've been returned to their junior teams for the start of their respective training camps.

But the 5-10, 170-pound Mississauga, Ontario native will also get another game tonight in Kansas City, playing alongside Paul Stastny and T.J. Oshie after skating Monday in Dallas.

Fabbri could very well get cut when the Blues pare down the roster to 30 after tonight's game, but here's another player Hitchcock won't soon forget.

"I talked to Scott Walker, his coach (with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League). I spoke for a symposium for Hockey Canada in early July, and he told me about him, and he said, 'He'll shock you how good he is and how competitive he is, how much he rises to the occasion,'" Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "Then I watch him in Traverse City and he gets better every day and then he comes here and he gets better every day. 

"We all think an 18-year-old or 19-year-old or even a 20-year-old can't play in our National Hockey League, but then all of the sudden, they just keep getting better. Usually young guys go backwards. They go down. They start out here and go down, but neither one of these players who are really young people, neither one of these guys have gone down. They haven't gone backwards. They're pushing for work. Every lineup's got 12-14 pros. Now you get to get a good read on younger players. You've got 8-9 pros playing every night, you don't get a good read. Now you're going to get a good read."

* Jaskin's experiment at center, Lapierre at wing -- The opportunities the Blues created for themselves when they signed Stastny and Jori Lehtera have become endless.

Now that Stastny and Lehtera have filled two crucial voids down the middle, it gives Hitchcock the choice to try out Dmitrij Jaskin (6-2, 196) down the middle after using him there for the first time in the NHL Monday in Dallas as well as give Lapierre, primarily used as a center with the Blues, a shot at wing.

"I really like him there," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "I just like him at center. He's obviously played a lot of right wing. His hockey sense is tremendous. I think he has the ability to not panic under pressure. I really like his sense.

"We'd like to see Lappy as a winger. We like the speed and we like the tenacity. I think Lappy's a better player when he's in on the forecheck. The way we play and the system we play, a center iceman doesn't get a lot of work on the forecheck. He's always the guy that's the safety net. That's why he's so good on PK, because he can buzz the tower. Now he gets to buzz the tower all the time and I think it's going to make him an effective player if we give him a chance to settle in for a few games."

Jaskin, who won 64 percent of his faceoffs against the Stars (9 of 14) Monday, doesn't mind the change of pace.

"I don't have a problem playing anywhere, left, right or center," said Jaskin, who dabbled a bit at center with the Chicago Wolves last season. "It's a little bit different. You have to watch the game more and figuring out where you have to go left or right. On the wing, it's just straight back and forth almost every time. That is probably the biggest difference. I like that. I like to see the puck more and have the puck more. I feel pretty good. I played two periods at center (Monday). I got a couple chances. It looks like I'm playing there again tomorrow. Just get ready for it and win a couple more faceoffs."

Lapierre, who will play on the right wing with Jaskin at center and Chris Porter on the left tonight, doesn't mind the change either.

"It doesn't matter to me. It's a different game though," said Lapierre, who skated on the wing in Vancouver and Montreal previously. "I can use my speed a little more on the wing, trying to be first on the forecheck a little more instead of leaving my zone last as a center. 

"We've got the type of team where everybody can play anywhere. Sometimes you need to play on the wing against a different team. Sometimes you need to be a center. ... The more players you have that can play both positions, the easier it is to do your lineup."

The Blues have touted themselves as deep team in the past, but being able to move people like this around without creating too much buzz speaks volumes.

"It means we're deeper. It's because of Stastny and Lehtera that allows us some options now," Hitchcock said. "Lehtera, he's just a good player. I don't care what team he's on. He's just a good player and obviously Stastny's a helluva player. But this has allowed us real flexibility we've never had before."

* Mueller keeps trying to prove his value -- Peter Mueller got his first point with the Blues Thursday, making a nifty little through-the-legs pass to the slot to Vladimir Tarasenko for a goal in the third period.

Mueller played better in the 5-4 loss to the Blue Jackets, getting another game and plenty of ice time with Tarasenko and Lehtera on a unit together.

"Once we got our feet moving and making a little bit of chemistry, it felt like we were making plays when it was coming out of nothing," Mueller said. "It's nice that we keep producing the way we are. It seems like we're making chemistry each and every day, which is nice.

"Obviously with these guys and the teammates out here, I've been working hard every day. I'm trying to make it hard, but most importantly, I just want to finish off today strong and look forward to tomorrow."

Mueller, who played in Switzerland last season, is still getting acclimated with the difference in ice zone. Playing a more north-south game is needed here as opposed to the customary east-west game overseas.

"Rink size is obviously the biggest thing and then getting used to the play for the first couple of practices, the first exhibition game, that was obviously an adjustment," Mueller said. "The last couple days, it seems everything's really been coming together for me. Some good chemistry's forming for our line, which is great and hopefully it keeps on building from there."

* Gunnarsson update -- Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson continues to ramp up his time on the ice and participation with the regular skaters while recovering from off-season hip surgery.

Gunnarsson, who has worn a red no-contact jersey for a fourth straight day, has what Hitchcock calls an important week coming up.

"This was the first time he was active in a lot of the stuff, but for me, until that sweater comes off, we're still weeks later after the sweater comes off," Hitchcock said, referring to Gunnarsson's game participation. "I think if you put the numbers together, next week's a big week for him to see where he's at."

* Steen OK -- Blues forward Alexander Steen, who sat out Thursday for precautionary reasons after Hitchcock said of was "banged up" during the team's scrimmage Wednesday.

Steen, who was supposed to play with Stastny and Joakim Lindstrom, was on the ice Friday and participated in a full practice session.

"He felt fine," Hitchcock said of Steen. "If it was a regular season game, we would have put him in."

* Roster trimmed down to 41 -- The Blues trimmed their roster down 12 players Friday after sending forwards Rob Bordson, Terry Broadhurst, Jacob Doty, Benn Ferriero, Zach Pochiro, Ryan Tesink and Veilleux, along with defensemen Mathieu Brodeur, Joel Edmundson and Jani Hakanpaa, and goaltender Niklas Lundstrom to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. They also loaned Barbashev, a 2014 second round pick, to his junior team, the Moncton Wildcats.

The Blues got a good look at all players except for Edmundson (back) and Hakanpaa (thumb). Edmundson never skated here and Hakanpaa only took part in conditioning drills.

"That part's really disappointing for us to not get any reads on them and get them on the ice to work with them," Hitchcock said of Edmundson and Hakanpaa. "That's really disappointing for us."

As for Barbashev, who played in his first preseason game with David Backes and T.J. Oshie, there was a lasting impression made. Even from Jaskin, his closest friend.

"I think it was a really good camp for him, a lot of experience," Jaskin said of Barbashev. "It's all new. 

"Next year when he comes here, he'll know what he can expect and what kind of stuff is going on here. I'm really excited about the season this year for him. He can move up with his points, he can make 100 points this year. We'll see how it goes for him."

Also, the team placed forwards Jeremy Welsh, Sebastian Wannstrom, Philip McRae, John McCarthy and Pat Cannone along with defensemen David Shields and Brett Regner on waivers for the purpose of sending those players to the Wolves.

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