Saturday, September 19, 2015


Stastny returns, still awaiting birth of child; 3 on 3 getting 
long looks; injury updates on Allen, Reaves, Bortuzzo, Lehtera

ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny was back on the ice for the Blues Saturday morning for the second day of camp.

Life on the ice was back to normal. Life off the ice is still in a holding pattern.

As of early Saturday afternoon, Stastny's phone didn't ring; no text messages blowing up the screen. It's only a matter of time.

Stastny and wife Haley are awaiting for the birth of their daughter, which has had the families on hold now the past few days in anticipation of the couple's first child.

But the Blues' center, who missed Friday to be with his wife, was back at it Saturday waiting patiently for a phone call, or if time allowed, to get back to his wife after practice.

"No news yet," Stastny said. "So helpless ... you can't even help. I think in that position, everyone knows the mom takes all the pain. I think in the next, probably 36 hours, she'll definitely be here.

"We tried a process yesterday and (doctors) didn't want to force too much. Not too much was happening, so there was a better idea that most likely it won't be until tomorrow afternoon. But if anything, I think like anything, everyone knows if something does happen, it'll still take a couple hours after that. So between sessions, I'm checking my phone. No news, so I guess the one time, no news is good news."

* 3 on 3 getting plenty of work -- On the ice, Stastny wasted little time pairing with Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, and the trio would eventually play together in the 3 on 3 session and score the scrimmage-ending goal.

"It's fun," Stastny said. "We're confident out there because I'm comfortable playing the back end or Steener's comfortable playing the back end. If you do give up something, you give up a 3 on 2. If you have three one-way forwards, then I think it's tough to put three forwards out there. If you put a couple two-way forwards and one dynamic forward, I think you can take that chance. It's all trial and error for now, but I think I liked it."

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was one of the players on the ice going against the trio. He teamed up with Scott Gomez and Troy Brouwer.

"It's not easy. It's a challenge," Pietrangelo said with a wide grin. "I think you make sure you stay tight, don't give them too many opportunities, keep them to the outside, hope that they make a mistake ... I don't know."

Coach Ken Hitchcock calls the 3 on 3 a challenge for not only coaches but players, too.

"There's a lot of strategy. There's a lot of chemistry (and) continuity that needs to take place because there just seem to be so many scoring chances, so many errors, so many little mistakes that end up being odd-man rushes," Hitchcock said. "Lots of planning. You can see guys planning on the bench. You can see lines that are combinations that can be very dangerous. You're looking at little things like when to change, when to give it back to the goalie, all kinds of stuff. It's just amazing when you take one player off the ice. The difference in the 4 on 4 to 3 on 3 game is just amazing to me.

"... The eye-opener for me is that the scoring chances aren't there in the in-zone play; they're all on odd-man rushes. You're looking for teams that can capitalize and have great instincts to know when they catch people. It just seems when you make a little angling mistakes and the next thing you know, it's an odd-man rush and it's in your net. It's going to be fun for the fans because it's back and forth, up and down, no rest. You see this stuff and there might be one whistle in the five minutes and it's how do you get your players on and off the ice, how you control your changes because you're adding on long change here, too."

Make no bones about it, the players would rather see games end with competition between two teams on the ice; not a skills challenge.

"This is more exciting," Stastny said. "There's more offense and it shortens the game up. Sometimes a shootout's good, but then they do the dry scrape and it takes a little time before the shootout gets going. This is more hockey. It's constant action and constant entertainment.

"Some guys don't mind the shootout. You'd rather do a breakaway with someone on you with less thinking. Plus I think it's more reactionary compared to if you have a shootout. It's almost like golf; you're thinking too much a little bit. It's just you and no one else." 

"It's great for the game," Pietrangelo said. "Some guys are going to have five, six, seven more goals than they had last year. It's great for the game. It's fun to watch."

* Focused observer -- Hitchcock sat up above at Scottrade Center and was a non-participant on the ice, using Saturday more as an evaluation rather than hands-on strategy.

"I don't put a lot of stock in the scrimmages right now," he said. "I put a lot of stock in the stuff that's going on in the practices. I thought it was really good. Yesterday was a tempo day. A lot of the things that we did today, I use the term reckless play, but today was a big part of what we're going to do gap-wise defensively. This was a tough day if you were trying to carry a puck, because you had people in your face, there was no room on the ice during the practices. This is the type of stuff that we want guys to do and it's going to take some time to get used to playing this way. It's going to make us better as a team because it's going to make us include all five guys om the ice, it's going to create more turnovers for us, it's going to create a team that's much harder to play against. But we're going to have to do these type of practices at least four or five more times before we get used to playing at this type of level."

* Injury update -- Goalie Jake Allen left prior to scrimmaging in the second group of the day Saturday with what Hitchcock called back spasms. Right wing Ryan Reaves and Vannick Veilleux (lower-body injuries) were involved in an on-ice collision Friday and sat out Saturday's session. Both are day to day.

"He had back spasms and we opted to just pull him out for today rather than keep him in there," Hitchcock said of Allen. "His back was a little bit sore, so we pulled him out.

"(Reaves) and Veilleux got hurt on the same play. Both guys are day to day. We'll see tomorrow if they come back in or not, but they both got hurt on the same play."

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, a limited participant Friday, was on board full-bore on Saturday and took in double duty by practicing in both sessions.

"Bortuzzo joined both sessions today, so he's back in, not only practicing but scrimmaging," Hitchcock said.

It is presumed Bortuzzo is dealing with an upper-body injury; not the same as at the end of last season, and Hitchcock said, "This one's different. Similar but different. We've monitored it, and today was the first day he was a full participant. He was a partial participant before, but today was the first day he was a full participant, which is a good sign.

"All these guys are kind of just day to day. ... The only guy we don't have a time frame on is (Jori) Lehtera. This is the fourth day he skated very aggressively. Until he joins us, we won't know the exact time frame on him, but the other guys are just day today."

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