Monday, November 9, 2015


Havlat to debut Tuesday; Fabbri pleased to stay; 
Shattenkirk settles in; Allen in goal; Ott out at least two games

ST. LOUIS -- Four days after signing a contract that made it official, Martin Havlat will make his Blues debut Tuesday against the team he last played for.

When the Blues (10-3-1) continue their four-game trip against the suddenly red-hot New Jersey Devils (8-5-1), who have won eight of 10 after an 0-3-1 start, Havlat will be in the lineup, coach Ken Hitchcock said after practice Monday at Scottrade Center.

"The plan is to play him tomorrow," Hitchcock said of Havlat. "... He's up to speed physically, mentally and now technically. 

"We spent the weekend with him going over the systems of play. (Assistant coach) Ray (Bennett) spent a lot of time with him going over our style and what was changed and different and then we put a lot of those aspects into the last two days of practice where some of the thinking became automatic. I thought he looked just like a normal hockey player today so that's why we're going to put him in."

Havlat had five goals and 14 points in 40 games last season with the Devils. He has 241 goals and 593 points in 788 games for the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and Devils.

Havla signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000 NHL, $200,000 AHL.

Havlat was skating Monday with David Backes as his center and rookie Robby Fabbri on his right wing but Hitchcock was uncertain if that's where he would play, although it is likely.

What Hitchcock is certain of is that eventually, Havlat will become an important piece of the special teams' units, particularly the power play.

"He's one of the best half-wall guys in the league, or he was for years," Hitchcock said of Havlat. "He played there a lot of last year, too, so between him and (Scott) Gomez, we can probably get a good 1-2 punch on the half-wall on the goal line. That'll really help us."

* Fabbri pleased to stay in NHL -- Fabbri was all smiles Monday at practice, and rightfully so.

The 19-year-old was told on the plane ride home after a 4-0 victory at Nashville on Saturday by general manager Doug Armstrong that he would remain in the NHL for the season, meaning his entry-level contract kicks in once he plays in his 10th game, which will be Thursday at the New York Rangers.

"I couldn't finish my food. I was so nervous," Fabbri said before getting the news. "Whatever the news was, I wasn't sure what it was going to be about. I finally got that out of the way; I was glad it as good news.

"I want to prove that they made the right decision. ... Obviously it was on my mind a little bit. It would be on any kid's mind going through this situation, but I felt the biggest part was control what I could control and that was to play hockey and let everything else fall into place. Stressful moments here and there, but with how good the guys are here, they helped me relax and I just go about my business."

The Blues have been beset with injuries, particularly to their forward group, and it's benefited Fabbri since he's gotten a boost of responsibilities, but make no mistake about it, the 2014 first-round pick has earned his way onto the team.

"To me, what he's really shown is what a pure scorer he is, and you really see that in practice," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "He does things at practice that in two years you're going to see that he's an elite scorer. That goal in Chicago, that's no accident. He knows where to shoot it. He seems to be able to get it around the goaltenders from distance. That thing was almost top of the circle and he snapped it. You see the same thing in practice; he's able to do some of those things."

Fabbri, who has two goals and an assist in eight games, will have times where he may get a game off or be pulled aside to help stabilize the process.

"I think the thing you have to be careful of is looking at what you need as opposed to what the player's reality is," Hitchcock said. "In other words, we can't just assume that he's going to be this energized 19-year-old and be able to fight against men and not lose energy. He's had a couple times where he's had energy drops and we found a way to rest him or we found a way to give him a break and then he's brought back good energy again. So for us, we made the decision that it's quality over quantity. To expect him to play every game is unrealistic, but he's going to play a majority of the games. And when his energy drops just because there's such a size and maturity differential, then we'll give him a break. He's earned the right to play based on his 'A' game. We want to keep as many 'A' games out there as we can because he does bring quite a bit to the table."

Fabbri can now simply play games. No more looking over his shoulder, no more wondering if he'll stay or go.

"I don't think there were too many tense moments," Fabbri said. "Just the feeling of always being on a tryout, that's sort of off my back now. Like everyone said, the real work starts now. It's a long season and I just want to keep getting better every day.

"I think I was playing fairly well. Each and every day, I came in wanting to do better and better, the next day and the next day and the next game, next shift. With whatever ice I got, I wanted to make the most of it. With that mentality, it helped me out."

* Shattenkirk settles in -- Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk made his return to the lineup and played 19 minutes against the Predators on Saturday.

Shattenkirk, who missed 10 games with a lower-body injury sustained Oct. 13 at Calgary, said it took a moment to work back into the game mentally. But once he did, it was smooth sailing from there.

"Mentally was probably my only restriction," Shattenkirk said. "That's on me, but I think I'll overcome that as I play more games here and get used to the flow. Physically I felt fine; I felt like I could skate again and skate confidently. Getting through that game, especially against Nashville, a big test, it was nice.

"It went away little by little. I'd say probably after the first period. You stop thinking about it. That's the nice part. I remember the first period feeling slow out there, just felt like I was watching the puck and the feet were planted. It's to be expected."

With Shattenkirk back Saturday, the Blues were 2-for-3 on the power play, and although Shattenkirk played no part in them, having him back helps get players back to their normal positions.

"Where he's good at is in movement," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "We were No. 1 in the league when he went down. It was a small sampling, but we were No. 1 in the league when he went down a year ago. We were one in the league and moved to like seventh last year. ... There's a certain key component there. He creates movement away from the puck that is hard to handle because he knows seams and he knows angles as good as anybody in the league, plus his shot is wicked-accurate. He gets it away all the time, he gets it on the net. I think it's taken the pressure off of other people, so they're not squeezing their sticks as hard. It's an element quite frankly that we're going to need as we wait for some of these guys to come back. If we're going to win road games, power play's going to have to come through for us like it did the last two games."

Hitchcock feels it'll take a few games before Shattenkirk gets back into the full swing of things and he'll be limited in certain areas. 

"This has been a rough go for him," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "You've seen an expended period of time where he hasn't played a lot of hockey. He needs to put five or six games back together here where he feels good about himself. I thought as the game went on, especially in the third period, he really started to move his feet.

"We could use him killing penalties, but I think we're going to kind of keep a lid on that for a little while and see if we can use other people for the majority of time and not put him in that vain right now. Eventually, that's where he's going to have to go is playing in every aspect because we really need him killing penalties."

* Other notes -- Jake Allen, who made a career-high 45 saves in the victory at Nashville, will start in goal. Allen shut out the Devils at Prudential Center last season in a 1-0 win; he made 26 saves. 

Left wing Steve Ott, who sustained an upper-body in the win at Chicago last week, did not accompany the team on the trip to New Jersey and New York, where the Blues will play Thursday against the Rangers.

Ott is considered day-to-day.

"He's not going on the trip, so we'll see when he gets back," Hitchcock said. "He's for sure not playing in New York and New Jersey."

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