Monday, December 7, 2015


Lindbohm to make season debut; Edmundson expected to return 
at some point; Ott will be missed; Opilka makes USA preliminary roster 

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was as if Petteri Lindbohm never vacated his locker stall.

The Blues' defenseman, a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, took his demotion out of training camp in stride.

Same smile, same laugh, same accent.

Lindbohm, who was recalled from the Chicago Wolves on Sunday after scoring two goals with five assists in 20 games, was at practice with the Blues, who assigned fellow defenseman Joel Edmundson, on Monday and will be in the lineup when the slumping Blues (15-8-4), 0-2-1 their past three games, host the struggling Arizona Coyotes (13-13-1), who have lost four in a row themselves on a five-game trip.

Lindbohm, who was expected to make it out of training camp and play regularly on the third defensive unit along with Robert Bortuzzo, was beaten out by Colton Parayko and Edmundson, who was assigned to the Wolves to make room for Lindbohm.

"I felt pretty good in the camp," Lindbohm said. "I think I played pretty well; I was OK. Obviously you can always go better.

"... They told me it was good to go down, get a lot of ice time, build up my offensive game, just to work hard and I would get my chance here."

The 6-foot-3 Lindbohm, who is at 212 pounds, up from the 206 pounds he played at last season, stepped into what coach Ken Hitchcock called a "high-tempo, high-spirited" practice and tried to make the adjustment accordingly.

"He was fine with the energy, but as he said after practice, it's a whole different level," Hitchcock said of Lindbohm, who played 23 NHL games last season. "Today was a high-tempo, high-spirited practice. He found it very very fast, which I think is good because this is going to get him ready to play in the game tomorrow.

"... He's played well all year. He played well in exhibition, he played well through training camp. He went down because of numbers, he didn't go down because of play. But it's another case. We can't expect a young guy to come in. He's just got to come in and survive. The other guy's got to play a little bit better ahead of him, the guy with the experience, and that's what we're hoping for is they carry him; he doesn't have to come in here and save anything here."

Lindbohm, who primarily played with Konrad Abeltshauser, Tommy Vannelli and Scooter Vaughan with the Wolves, was playing top minutes, including all cases of special teams.

"I was trying to make my offensive play better, get good shots," Lindbohm said. "Obviously I got just two goals. I hope I get more.

"I knew that 'Eddie' and Parayko and (Jordan Schmaltz), there's a lot of good young D's over here and we've got good competition going on. I just think that makes everybody work harder and try to get better and better. ... I'm still young. Every time I go on the ice, I try to make myself better, play better. It was great to be down. That's a good team, good coaches, good organization. But it's great to be back here, too."

As for Edmundson, the Blues felt it was best to send him to Chicago to play on a regular basis. He had been a healthy scratch in three of the past five games and was a minus-7 after in his past eight games after starting plus-5 the first 15 games he played.

"I just think it's a young guy and it's the National Hockey League," Hitchcock said. "This is one fast league getting faster by the day. Young defensemen go through ups and downs. Doug (Armstrong) has a philosophy, which I agree with, that if you're not going to play on a regular basis here, you might as well play on a regular basis and get 25 minutes a night playing in the American League. 

"One of the problems that happens is when younger players start to sit out, they come back in and they play cautious. You'd like them to play the other way, but it's not natural to do it that way and they play cautious. Eddie's not one of those guys that can afford to play cautious. We need them back playing reckless again. If he's got to go down and spend a little bit of time with Chicago with the Wolves and do that, that's OK, because that's the type of player that he is and that's where he's going to have his success. But when you're not able to play on a regular basis as a young player, you get questioning things, you get second-guessing yourself and that's what I thought he did. He got hesitant and he started second-guessing himself. So rather than having him fight through it for a month, lets get him playing again at a top level down there. He'll look like a very good player in Chicago."

* Ott's void -- The Blues were bummed about the news of veteran Steve Ott, who will be reevaluated in three months with injuries to both hamstrings which will require surgery. Ott sustained the injuries late in the first period of Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs trying to check Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who moments earlier had taken out Ott's teammate Jori Lehtera.

"Knowing who Steve is as a person, you always expect him to jump back and be back chirping the next day and getting ready to play, that's tough news; tough news for everybody," Hitchcock said. "None of us expected that. I know all of us were in shock when we got the news yesterday afternoon.

"You're not going to replace overnight what he brings, really from the day he arrives at the rink. We're going to have to find a way to do it, but he comes to the rink and he brings a certain tenacity towards the coaches, towards the opposition, he gives you a strut. We're going to have to find that somewhere else. I'm not sure we can identify that yet, but hopefully over time, we get to do that. He was playing very good hockey for us."

At practice Monday, Scottie Upshall was skating in Ott's spot on left wing with Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves. Upshall said losing Ott is more than just losing a player on the ice.

"What 'Otter' brings is something that's tough to duplicate," Upshall said. "He brings an edge to our team that's been needed and used for the past couple years. He's great in the room and he sticks up for teammates and is one helluva guy. It's tough to see a guy go down with an injury like that.

"He's been in battles before and he's a warrior. Unfortunately, injuries are part of our game. We're going to wish him the best and hope he comes back and is strong. We use our depth and all the guys that we've got and get through this, maybe have him for a good playoff push or in the playoffs."

Reaves said he had a hard time watching the injury unfold.

"It didn't look good. I was kind of cringing," Reaves said. "The injury he has is the one thing I didn't guess. I was guessing knee, ankle, groin. It's obviously not. It was really tough to watch, the replay especially in slow motion. When you see him do the splits, an old man like that shouldn't be in that kind of position.

"Obviously (going to miss) his presence. Everybody knows when he's on the ice, he plays physical, he brings energy. But in the dressing room, he's a veteran voice that when he talks, you shut up and listen. The whole team always does. Other guys are going to have to step up. Some other guys who haven't spoke up before might have to do, and some guys that don't bring as much energy as they used to might have to. ... After he got the news, obviously a little devastated he's not going to be with the boys for quite a bit of time after missing a little bit of time with the shoulder, too. It's one of those years you never want to have."

Ott's voice will be equally as tough to replace.

"I think he's one of those guys that keeps the coaching staff as honest as he does the players," Hitchcock said. "I think he's not afraid to say anything to anybody at any time for what's best for the team. He keeps everybody on notice and you like those guys. If you're not afraid of a little bit of chaos and conflict at times, you like those guys on your team. They're old-school guys."

* Line shuffling (again) -- In an effort to ignite some life into a team that has three goals the past three games (all losses, 0-2-1), the Blues moved some speed onto he top line with Magnus Paajarvi with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko. So that notion of using Lehtera on the wing with that aforementioned duo lasted less than two games.

Lehtera was back in the middle between Dmitrij Jaskin and Robby Fabbri, while David Backes centered Alexander Steen and Troy Brouwer.

"If I play with them, offense is expected," Paajarvi said of Stastny and Tarasenko. "And I want to do it, too, so absolutely, if I get the chance to do it, that would be great. ... It'll be new, but it'll be fun, if I do it.

"I'm not going to switch anything. I'm not going to try to do anything extraordinary or change my game. They put me there for a reason if I play there. They probably want me to do the same things I did to get there. Sure, it's a little more offensive-minded, but I'm not going to change that much. ... You've got a passer and a shooter. I'll be the skater."

Hitchcock said Paajarvi, who has a goal and an assist in 14 games this season, brings the speed element.

"He's got to look at this as a chance of a lifetime and hopefully he takes advantage of it," Hitchcock said.

Jake Allen, who was pulled briefly Saturday, will start in goal against the Coyotes.

* Prospects make USA roster -- USA Hockey announced Tuesday afternoon its preliminary roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship. 

Blues goalie prospect Luke Opilka, picked in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft, was among 29 players named to the team; it will be finalized down to 23 players. 

Opilka grew up in St. Louis but is a native of Effingham, Ill. He currently plays for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League and is 16-3-2 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Also, Ryan MacInnis and Matthew Tkachuk, sons of former Blues Al MacInnis and Keith Tkachuk, were also on USA's preliminary roster.

MacInnis is a teammate of Opilka at Kitchener and Tkachuk plays for the London Knights of the OHL.

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