Havlat waived for purpose of terminating contract; 10 days
after epic comeback in Chicago, Blues get rematch with Blackhawks
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues and Martin Havlat parted ways Friday; the left wing was placed on unconditional waivers for mutually agreed termination of his contract. Havlat is seeking his unconditional release because of personal reasons.
Havlat, who signed a one-year, two-way contract Nov. 6 after a 10-day professional tryout, had one goal in two games.
The Blues released a statement saying that Havlat "has asked for privacy at this time and neither he or the Blues will have any further comment on the matter."
Havlat, 34, was originally brought in on a professional tryout and signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000 NHL/$200,000 AHL.
He spoke of originally being grateful of having another chance to compete for a Stanley Cup and that he still had the hunger and desire to compete at the highleft level.
And after scoring in his debut against New Jersey on Tuesday, Havlat seemed to be clicking right off the bat with his new teammates. But he only played 7 minutes, 33 seconds Thursday in a 6-3 loss at the New York Rangers before making the decision Friday that perhaps the game has passed Havlat by and he couldn't handle the grind anymore.
Nonetheless, it seems the organization was caught off-guard.
"I think it's more a physical sort of thing," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said of Havlat. "His body's having a hard time with it or whatever. It's too bad."
Said left wing Alexander Steen: "Yeah, it's a bit of a shock. In the end it's his call. We loved having him in the group. He fit in great right away, an easy guy. He just slid in and felt like he had been here for much longer than what he was. We're sad to see him go. He's a great room guy, great guy. We were on the road with him for the most part. Had a good chance to get to know him. He'll be missed by the group."
If Havlat played his last NHL game Thursday, he'll finish with 790 regular season games, 242 goals and 352 assists, good for 594 points.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn't comment on the situation, only saying after an optional skate Friday that, "This gives Ryan (Reaves) a chance to get back in the lineup (Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks), but it thins us out. We don't really have a time frame on Ott or Stastny right now so I can't give you anything defined on that. We've got our 12 forwards and we'll run with that."
Reaves had been a healthy scratch the past two games.
* Rematch with Blackhawks -- When the Blues won 6-5 in overtime against the Blackhawks 10 days ago at United Center, it will be one of those games looked back on as one of the character-building victories of the season.
The Blues (11-4-1), who host the Blackhawks (8-7-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), trailed 5-2 after one period before rallying for four unanswered goals, including Vladimir Tarasenko's overtime winner.
It spurred the recent #RoarBacon phenomenon and has provided the team with the type of confidence-boosting game in which it can draw on.
"The games really don't change against them," Steen said of the Blackhawks, who will get defensemen Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival back from injury. "It's the same stuff. I think last game was probably a little more high-scoring than they usually are. It'll obviously be a good atmosphere in our barn and be a fun game.
"... I think the last few years we've had that vibe. ... I guess a little more maybe now, yeah. Everybody's a little bit older, more experienced, we've gone through some stuff in the playoffs. In regular season, there's so much things that happen that you play together as a group this long, you grow together through those times and learn from what's gone wrong in the past. For right now, I think the best part of our game is how we as players in the room right after periods are over dissect or analyze what we can do better and discuss it as a group and then make little adjustments. As players we're making adjustments, talking things over. Forwards to 'D,' 'D' with our goalies and forwards amongst each other what will get us in open spaces and hopefully create scoring chances or if it's the other way, we've had a slow start or something, it's been more what are we doing wrong defensively; are the forwards not helping out right? We have a healthy discussion as players. We try and stay positive all the time, which is huge. The Chicago game is pure positive. We talked about getting one and see where it goes, change this, change this to this, made some neutral zone adjustments in that game and I thought we played good."
The Blues, even after their loss at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, looked back on that defeat against the Rangers as a game in which they felt they could win, even after falling behind 3-0 in the first period.
"No, when it was 4-3, especially with as well as we had played in the first two periods, I thought we were going to come back and we've done it three or four times already this year," Hitchcock said. "I thought, 'Man, we're playing that well.' I think we lost a little bit of energy when they scored their fifth goal. We leveled off for about 10 minutes in the third period before we began to push back again, but I thought after the second period, it was really surprising that we were down that many goals. We did make big errors though. We made errors that we're not used to making and that hurt us a little bit. They took advantage of it.
"I think we're in every game. That's a good sign, but the alarm bell for us as coaches is the start, because that's something you pride in as a player and as a coach, that you want to get off to good starts. We haven't had the greatest starts here lately and that's something that we addressed today. We want to have a better start. We don't want to swing for the fences at the start. That's the thing we're trying to avoid is swinging for the fences, and that seems to be what happens. It's either at one zone or the other zone. It's either an odd-man rush in one zone or the other zone. That's what we want to try avoid if we can."
But there are times when the Blues, who have allowed 17 first-period goals and have been outscored 17-10, have to draw on games in which they can come back from. The game in Chicago was proof-positive.
"I think at the time it was good just because we came out so bad and then were able to just turn it around," Bouwmeester said. "Sometimes, games like that where you get down real big early, you start looking for little things and you just want to get back to playing good. When you're able to come back and win that game, it's a big boost for everybody. To do it in Chicago against them, a team that we always have good games with and they are who they are, they won last year so they're still on top. You're always going to want to beat them. We have the rivalry where they want to beat us, too.
"You just realize that a game like that in Chicago gives you confidence and that you're never really out of a game. I think we know we have the capability, even with the guys who are hurt being out, we've still been able to score goals and get timely goals to come back in the games. That grows confidence in everybody. Never-say-die or whatever. It's an attitude. It's realistic that you can always come back. ... I don't remember exactly how the game was going, but I think they scored, what, five in the first period. It was 5-2 or something after the first period. But it is what it is. I think your mindset is if you don't give them anything else, then you've got a chance. That was the way that game went. You wouldn't want to give them five in the first period (again). The way we were able to come back, that's something you build on."
* Allen back in goal -- Jake Allen, who was pulled after giving up three goals on five shots in the first period Thursday, gets the starting nod from Hitchcock.
Allen, who came on in relief of Brian Elliott to stop 27 of 28 shots and get the victory in Chicago, is 7-3-0 with a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage on the season.
"He's played awfully well," Hitchcock said of Allen. "We're pretty confident that that's a one-off (Thursday) and just go from there."
* Injury updates -- Count Steve Ott (upper body) out for Saturday after the veteran did not take part in the optional skate with the team, although Ott, who appeared to injure a shoulder in Chicago, skated before the team with Patrik Berglund (shoulder).
Also, Paul Stastny, who's missed 11 games with a broken right foot, was at the practice facility at the Ice Zone without a walking boot and walking around without any restrictions.
"They've all been skating (but) not Paul," Hitchcock said. "Bergy and Ott skated together earlier in the day."
* Blais signs -- The Blues announced the club has agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract with forward Samuel Blais.
Blais was originally drafted by the Blues in the sixth round (176th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Blais, 19, is currently in his third year with the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. This season, the 6-foot-1, 181-pound forward leads the club with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 18 appearances. Overall, the Montmagny, Quebec, native has dressed in 104 career QMJHL regular season games and has 122 points (47 goals, 75 assists).
Blais also has six points (two goals, four assists) in eight postseason games.