Shattenkirk adjusts with multiple defensive partners; Hitchcock on
pulling Elliott; Heritage Night honors goalies; minor trade with Red Wings
ST. LOUIS -- The season started for Kevin Shattenkirk with one defensive partner. Then another, and another, and another.
Get the theme here?
After starting the season with rookie Joel Edmundson, Shattenkirk is now on his sixth partner: Alex Pietrangelo.
When the puck drops between the Blues (25-15-7) and Montreal Canadiens (23-18-3) at 6 p.m. today (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), the Blues' top two defensemen will be lined up together because of a litany of injuries, most notably at the present time with Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson out of the lineup.
Shattenkirk has played with the aforementioned foursome, along with rookie Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, doesn't seem to be allowing it to bother his offensive output.
He's tops among Blues defensemen with eight goals, 18 assists and 26 points in 37 games.
Shattenkirk appear to be having to make on-the-fly adjustments, but it's been a challenge.
"It's been tough," said Shattenkirk, who missed 10 games earlier in the season with a groin injury. "We didn't really know where things were going through training camp. I played a lot with Joel and I thought we played well and then went back with 'Gunny,' who I was obviously used to playing with last year. Then things kind of got hairy and went all over the place.
"I think for me, it's hard just because knowing how I play and how I like to play, it's tough when you have a guy back there you don't know too well, especially a young guy who may not have that experience. For me and for them, it's tough when you have to play with a guy like me, and I know that. It's hard to play with someone who's so reckless and worried about being back the whole time. When I've had 'Jax' (Barret Jackman) and 'Gunny,' they know working off me from time to time, but I don't like putting those guys in that position either."
Playing with Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk typically mans the left side, or his off side. Both being right-handed shots, it's been a smooth transition because neither minds moving from one side to the other.
"It's different playing the left side," Shattenkirk said. "We don't really get married to who plays on the left and who plays on the right, but we both understand each other. We know how we play. Even when we weren't playing together, we would go back to the bench and we'd talk through plays because we just think alike. That makes it a little easier. We know where we're going to be. We're starting to figure it out a little more each game."
Pietrangelo, the Blues' leader in time on ice (fourth in the NHL at 26:41), agreed.
"We never really started a game together," Pietrangelo said. "We usually play together at some points during the game. I think when you play with a guy for five years like him and I have, even though we don't play together, you get to know the tendencies. It's pretty easy to gel with him.
"We have no choice but to stick together as a team. We've all had to sacrifice something here the last little while."
Which is why coach Ken Hitchcock put his two best defensemen together, and doing it with the movable Shattenkirk was the logical choice.
"He's a guy that can play the left side as well as right," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "Some guys talk about playing the left side, but when you're playing, you play a lot with your back to the play, you've got to play the game sideways. You really take away the strong side of the ice as far as puck movement is concerned. You're just looking at the weak side all the time.
"I think for us, 'Shatty' is a guy that can find the weak side of the ice as much as possible. It's not as difficult defending playing the offside, but what is difficult is finding options if the first one gets closed down. I think you need to either have a quick stick or quick head to be able to play any position on the off side as a defenseman, and he's got a real quick stick and he's got a great mind for the game."
Making those adjustments is what's allowed Shattenkirk to be so mobile and a comfortable fit for whoever his partner is.
"First and foremost, I just try and make smart plays," Shattenkirk said. "I know when there's times to try and make plays and times when not to. In the past, I may have pushed that envelope a little more. I think now I'm a little more cautious about it. Now that I'm with 'Petro,' I think it's something I know I can do again and I know it's something that he likes to do. We can get back to our game a little more; it just feels more natural."
* Pulling Elliott -- Hitchcock said he can understand the frustrations of a goalie being pulled, like Brian Elliott -- tonight's starter -- was in a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
But it wasn't because of Elliott's play; it was more to save him for the next start after it was evident the Blues weren't going to win.
Hitchcock pulled Elliott 7 minutes, 13 seconds into the third when the Hurricanes made it 3-0. Elliott came off the ice and slammed his stick into the stick rack along side of the player's bench in frustration.
"What are you going to do, 3-0 at that time," Hitchcock said. "What are you going to do? It's one of those games that we kind of thought it was going to come. Maybe even sooner, but we battled through it. Just can't continue to play without all the bodies and expect not to have some of these. The focus right now is to get ready for Saturday. This day's done and we'll move forward and get ready quickly."
* Trade alert -- The Blues made a trade Friday but not one that would catch the eye of the fans.
At least not yet.
The Blues acquired some depth for their minor league system by picking up defenseman Richard Nedomlel from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for future considerations.
Nedomlel, 22, appeared in two games for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and recorded a plus-1 rating and 20 penalty minutes; he will report to the Blues' AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound defenseman also skated in 10 games for the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League this year and tallied two assists and 14 penalty minutes.
Perhaps it sets up something for a future and a deal with more impact. The Blues have been linked with the Tampa Bay Lightning and a possible landing spot for the third overall pick of the 2013 NHL draft, 20-year-old Jonathan Drouin, who's requested a trade.
Nedomlel is a Prague, Czech Republic native and spent the majority of the last two seasons in Toledo and recorded 11 goals, 21 assists and 206 penalty minutes in 109 games with the Walleye.
Nedomlel was selected by the Red Wings in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.
* Honoring past, present goalies -- The Blues will host another in their series of Heritage Nights tonight when they celebrate some of the goalie greats in franchise history.
A pregame ceremony will honor some of the great goalies, including Mike Liut, Curtis Joseph, Grant Fuhr and Martin Brodeur as well as current goalies Jake Allen and Elliott.
They were honored at a dinner Friday at the Missouri Athletic Club and will include highlights pregame tonight of the franchise’s top two in all-time wins, Liut and Joseph; NHL Hall of Famer Fuhr; NHL all-time wins leader Brodeur as well as Allen and Elliott.
The first 15,000 fans in attendance will receive a special commemorative canvas featuring four past goaltending legends, including Glenn Hall, Liut, Fuhr and Joseph.
Goalies Night is the second of three Heritage Night celebrations scheduled during the 2015-16 regular season as the Blues prepare for their 50th Anniversary 2016-17 season. The team held Captains Night on Dec. 12 in the first Heritage Night while the series will culminate with Hull and Oates Night on Friday, April 1.
"As we look toward our 50th Anniversary season, we’re honored to celebrate the rich heritage of the St. Louis Blues along with our fans," Chris Zimmerman, president and CEO of business operations, said in a statement. "Goalies Night will give the Blues and our fans a chance to appreciate some of the most popular and impactful players in our organization’s history."
* Jay Mac returns -- Jay McClement, the Blues' second-round pick (57th overall) in the 2001 NHL Draft, returned to Scottrade Center again as a visiting player.
The 32-year-old McClement, who centered Carolina's fourth line, has seen his life change drastically since his days with the Blues, which began in 2005. He spent five-plus seasons in St. Louis before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2011.
"Obviously a few guys on the team, but not too many now," McClement said of the Blues' roster. "There's a few guys over there still, but it's nice to see the support staff still. Most of them have been here for longer than anybody so it's nice to see some of those guys, too.
"I look back and I feel fortunate that I've been able to be here for that long. As you get older, you see older guys bounce around a little more; I've been to three teams since. I always look back at my time here with lots of great memories. Nothing but good things to say about the city and the organization. I have some good friends from here still as well."
McClement has since gotten married and has two children and is enjoying life in Raleigh, N.C. after signing a contract extension last summer.
"I don't know what I did with my days when I was single, but I guess you get good at wasting time and now the days just disappear and you have fun with your kids in the afternoons," McClement said. "It's fun being at home. We have an easier travel schedule on the East and I'm sure the wives appreciate that as well."
* Farnham suspension -- New Jersey Devils forward Bobby Farnham was suspended Thursday for four games by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his late interference penalty on the Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin during the Blues' 5-2 victory on Tuesday.
Farnham received a five-minute major for interference after be was checked cleanly by Shattenkirk seconds earlier.
"Whatever it is, it is," Hitchcock said. "Those are the dangerous ones, the ones that are late and unsuspecting when the puck's not around.
"The puck was at the blue line; that's a long ways away. Those are the ones that scare you because your body's relaxed, you're not ready, you're not anticipating the hit. You can really get hurt there. I am just shocked that he got up and continued to play. That's the part that surprises me. Whatever the league decides to do, they did, but to see the player get hit like that, unsuspecting and then get back up and be able to play, pretty lucky."