Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Gomez signs; Berglund placed on long-term IR; 
Fabbri, Parayko to make NHL debuts; Elliott starts in goal

ST. LOUIS -- One veteran on a professional tryout earned a contract on Monday; a second one was signed on Wednesday.

After left wing Scottie Upshall signed a one-year, two-way contract on Wednesday, Scott Gomez agreed to a one-year, two-way contract that will pay the veteran center $575,000 at the NHL level, $200,000 at the AHL level.

Gomez, 35, can also make an additional $125,000 for games played in the regular season and $100,000 depending on the Blues' playoff success, according to general manager Doug Armstrong.

"You look at playing against them the last couple years, just the skill set," Gomez said of the Blues. "It's kind of weird to say now, but it's probably the most skilled team I've been on since the old Devil days. They've got everything. 

"The last couple years, I could have gone to a young team and probably played more, but you want to win. It's fun being in a winning atmosphere. This team's just got everything. They've got everything you could ask for."

Gomez scored seven goals and added 34 points in 58 games last season with the New Jersey Devils. He has 180 goals and 747 points in 1,045 games for the Devils, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers but for the first time in his career, needed to earn a job out of camp.

"Every year, you come (to training camp) and prove yourself," Gomez said. "It's kind of like that for older players now. I thought this would be the best fit. It's exciting."

In order to get cap relief to sign Gomez, the Blues placed Patrik Berglund ($3.7 million cap hit) on long-term injured-reserve. Berglund, who had shoulder surgery Aug. 25, is not expected to return to action until January, when the team said he would be re-evaluated in four months.

On Monday, the Blues signed Upshall to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000/NHL, $200,000/AHL.

* Elliott gets opening night start -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has maintained that both the Blues goalies (Brian Elliott and Jake Allen) would see plenty of action in the first month of the season and perhaps make a decision on one getting the bulk of the playing time moving forward.

Hitchcock said it will be the veteran Elliott getting the start in the season-opener against the Edmonton Oilers and that Allen will play Saturday in Minnesota against the Wild.

"They both had tremendous camps," Hitchcock said. "I've said this to you guys before, we're going to make our minds up based on performance by the end of October. That gives us a lot of games, a lot of quality opponents, and if somebody emerges from this by the end of October, we're going to jump on it and anoint that guy and he's going to get more starts. But if they continue to do what they're doing right now, there's nothing to choose between them. The next competition is obviously the regular season. That's got to take place now, but they both have played great towards the end here."

* Fabbri, Parayko to make NHL debuts; Edmundson questionable -- Hitchcock acknowledged that rookies Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko will be in the lineup against the Oilers.

Fabbri is expected to play on a line with Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz while Parayko's defensive partner on the third pairing is yet to be determined.

It'll come from a twosome that includes Robert Bortuzzo or fellow rookie Joel Edmundson.

"There's a chance we could play the two kids, yeah," Hitchcock said of Edmundson and Parayko. "There's a chance that's going to be there. Whatever happens here in the first four games, they're all going to play anyway.

"... I kind of would like to see what the opponent brings forward, but the three guys that are in line for there are Parayko, Edmundson and Bortuzzo. I want to see what Edmonton brings forward. The first two pairs are kind of cast right now."

Those pairs include Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester along with Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk.

* Reckless on display -- Now that the Blues are going back to yesteryear with their style of play of being fast and reckless, weeks of work will be put to the test against the Oilers, who will feature top overall pick of 2015, Connor McDavid.

"I think we're in the early stages of the learning curve," Hitchcock said. "You don't get excited about it if you get burned by some of the mistakes we made because it's exhibition, but we like where it goes, we like where it's going to end up. We realize there's a little bit of a learning curve and an adjustment, but the teams that played in the final played that way, especially Tampa. I think we're capable of it. 

"You hope you don't get burned if you make a mistake, but I think the guys have been great at wanting the feedback and the evaluation. With the way we're built and the way our defense is reconstructed here, we can play this way. We've got smart guys back there, we've got mobile guys back there, we've got guys that have got great hockey sense. I think we can really take advantage of theirs. I think that's the one thing through exhibition is the group of defensemen, whoever's played in that group of six has really added to the mix as far as offensive production. You look at guys like Parayko, he had a lot of points in the exhibition, Shattenkirk did, Petro did. We had a lot of input offensively from our defenseman. By including them more, by giving them opportunities to come up harder from the back end, it's going to make us better."

The players have experimented with the whole idea throughout training camp. Now they want to implement it against opponents that matter.

"More than anything, it was just a matter of keeping the offensive mindset the entire game," Shattenkirk said. "I think we have a tendency to play defensively, especially in Hitch's system. I think he likes to focus on defense first. He's just pushing us now to really get into that mindset of when we get that puck, let's go and let's go score a goal. Not worrying as much about possession as we are about getting pucks and creating good scoring chances. The onus is especially on the 'D' to jump in the rush every single chance when we get the puck and we're leaving our zone."

And now that the regular season is here, Hitchcock was asked if it has any meaning to him.

"You know what it means, we don't have to talk about last year," Hitchcock said. "We can finally move forward. We don't have to watch or listen to the predictions. We can actually play hockey, and after tonight, everybody's going to talk about the games that just got played and we're all going to be dug into their season and it's game on."

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