Saturday, September 24, 2016


Sobotka saga could come to a resolution Sunday; 
lineups vs. Columbus; Team USA disappointments; Blues open camp

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues hope -- hope being the prohibitive word -- that the saga known as Vladimir Sobotka has a resolution by Sunday.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who has maintained all along that Sobotka would return to the Blues this season, now isn't so sure.

When discussing Alexander Steen's four-year, $23 million extension on Friday, Armstrong was more hopeful that Sobotka, who has played the past two seasons in the KHL with Avangard Omsk, would return following the World Cup of Hockey.

"I met with he and his agent here," Armstrong said of Sobotka and agent Petr Svoboda. "It's complicated to say the least with the Russians. They're dealing on it again (Friday). Hopefully we're going to have this resolved one way or the other, certainly by Sunday."

The Blues opened training camp on Friday and want to know who they'll have, or won't have moving forward.

"He's got to make a decision," Armstrong said of Sobotka, who would play under a one-year, $2.725 million arbitration-awarded contract in the NHL. "He's either going to come to our camp and start playing or go back to the KHL and start playing."

The Blues have capable replacements should Sobotka, 29, not be able to get out of the final year of his contract with Omsk, but they will welcome him back with open arms.

"No, I haven't given him a deadline. We want him back," Armstrong said. "The conversation was he wants to come back, but as I said, it's more complicated than I was led to believe over the summer and that part's disappointing. But ultimately, they're working on trying to get something done and I'm hoping they can."

In the meantime, coach Ken Hitchcock is moving forward with whoever he has in camp.

"To me, it's like whoever's here, you're here," Hitchcock said. "We'll make adjustments one way or the other. 

"We're hoping like heck (Sobotka's) here, but if he's not, we'll make other adjustments and get moving forward here. That's why quite frankly we've put (Jaden) Schwartz in the middle. We want to see him and we'll get that looked at later on. We're really wanting to see 'Sobe' here, but if it doesn't work out, we'll put somebody else there."

* Team USA disappointment -- Nobody expected Team USA to go out as quietly as it did, going 0-3 in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. And it was most surprising to a pair of Blues that represented their country at the Sochi Olympics.

"I don't want to say sad, it's just shocking," center Paul Stastny said. "No one expected it. If they win that first game, everything's completely different. 

"Everyone knew Canada top to bottom is sick and they're missing three guys off their original team and the other three guys are just as good. We've always known they have the depth. ... Obviously they're the favorites, but I think underestimating Europe or looking ahead probably is the mistake teams will make."

Added defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: "It's unfortunate. I have a lot of buddies on that team. I feel for them. That's obviously not the result that they wanted. They were hoping to play a different style of game, but it didn't work out. I know if I were in that situation and in that locker room, it would be a pretty low feeling. It's a tough one to see, especially when you know some of the guys on that team."

Shattenkirk was asked about the tweet from fellow American and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel, who ruffled a few feathers with the following tweet after the Americans lost to Team Canada earlier in the week and were eliminated: 

Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it.

Shattenkirk understood it was no harm intended and that Kessel was joking but he wasn't tempted to make a similar gesture.

"No. That's out of my hands," Shattenkirk said. "I value my relationship with USA Hockey a little too much."

* Blues open 50th anniversary camp -- The opening of training camp on Friday signified the opening of the Blues' 50th season in the NHL, and Hitchcock got t he chance to see a plethora of draft picks and players that will likely be playing for the AHL's Chicago Wolves this season.

"The tempo. We had great tempo today," Hitchcock said after practice. "There seems to be a lot of quick players out there and I think it's a combination of who's in our lineup and practicing today and what Chicago looks like, too. It looks like there's a lot of quick players (with the Wolves). That was the thing that surprised me. The tempo and usually the second session drops off a little bit, but it did the other thing, it went the other way. It was even a higher tempo than the first sessions. That's a really good sign moving forward. We didn't over-extend the stay on the ice, but we got our theme done today and I thought we got a lot of tempo, which is what we wanted to do also."

The Blues had eight players participating in the World Cup of Hockey, and four of them were still in Toronto for the semifinals (Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Patrik Berglund). Four of them (Colton Parayko, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jori Lehtera and Sobotka) were finished and not expected to begin participating at camp until the early part of next week, according to Hitchcock, so it gives the guys on professional tryouts and young players the chance to impress.

"There's young guys that you're hoping that can play, but we already know who can play of the young guys," Hitchcock said. "It's whether they can extend their responsibilities. That's the challenge through exhibition is at the end of the day, who's going to take on what responsibility moving forward. Who's going to be the guys playing at the end of games, who's going to play when the games are on the line. We pretty much know a lot of situations. For some of these younger guys, it's time. It's time they took on more minutes. They want it, they've feel they've earned the right to play those extra minutes and they want that responsibility."

The camp certainly has a different feel to it, especially with the free agewnt departures of David Backes, Brian Elliott, Steve Ott and Troy Brouwer, which is surprising. Or is it?

"Yeah and no," Stastny said. "I think you kind of knew things would happen. There's always turnover and I think that's just the nature of the business now. Whether it's young guys or older guys, whether you finish dead-last or win the Cup, there's akways going to be turnover. It's crazy to see how different it is year after year. 

"If you look back to rhe team five years ago and look now, there's very few guys and I was in the same boat when I was in Colorado for my first year. I was the youngest guy and then my fifth year, I was the only guy from that first-year team. It changes so fast. Unfortunately, you get used to it. It's always tough, and you wish the best for those guys who you became close with."

"It's definitely a different feel here in camp," Shattenkirk said. "Not seeing Dave is a big change. He's someone who is one of the first guys I saw coming into this locker room. Troy was someone who acclimated quickly last year, especially through training camp. Brian is another guy who (was) a staple here for a long time. You can't kind of put that part aside, but like I said, that's what happens every year. That's something that you have to deal with. The good part about it is some of the new guys we have in her, we've seen before. It's not a process for them where they feel uncomfortable in here. They know a few guys. They can feel comfortable in here and feel they can get out and be able to practice Hitch's style a little bit and get to work. I think that's been the fun part of that, and obviously the coaching staff is something we're all getting adjusted to. The new coaches are really just doing a good job of just putting themselves out there and chatting and getting good dialogue to make sure guys know what they're like and how they're going to handle things."

* Missing bodies -- Everyone that was supposed to report for camp were on the ice Friday except for defensemen Vince Dunn and Thomas Vannelli, left wing Filip Helt and goalie Luke Opilka.

Opilka is still rehabbing from a hip injury sustained with Kitchener last season and the other three all sustained injuries at te prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich.

"Dunn, Vannelli and Helt sustained injuries in Traverse City. They're actually all three day-to-day," Hitchcock said. "We'll see in the morning which guys can join us. Obviously by them all being here, they're expected at some period of time to be back on the ice, but right now, none of them can skate today and we'll just evaluate that day to day now."

* Preseason begins Sunday -- The Blues waste no time in opening up the preseason schedule on Sunday with a split squad game against the COlumbus Blue Jackets.

The teams will play at noon at Scottrade Center and at 6 p.m. in Columbus.

"The first three games are going to be completely different than what you saw, but the first two games, we're just looking at people to see what happens and giving people a chance to see if they can stay for the extra week and then we'll start putting things a little bit more together in the game that goes to Dallas (Monday)," Hitchcock said. "That'll be a little more of an NHL lineup. Our first series of cuts will be after the Dallas game."

Here are the lineups for Sunday's games:

At St. Louis -- 

Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-JadenSchwartz

Jordan Caron-Ivan Barbashev-David Perron

Scottie Upshall-Conner Bleackley-Ryan Reaves

Chris Porter-Kenny Agostino-Samuel Blais

Petteri Lindbohm-Kevin Shattenkirk

Kevin Tansey-Mike Weber

Dmitrii Sergeev-Brad Hunt

Jake Allen and Carter Hutton

At Columbus -- 

Magnus Paajarvi-Andrew Agozzino-Ty Rattie

Yan Stastny-Kyle Brodziak-T.J. Galiardi

Eric Nystrom-Landon Ferraro-Jordan Kyrou

Mackenzie MacEachern-Adam Musil-Jacob Doty

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

Joel Edmundson-Jordan Schmaltz

Chris Butler-Scooter Vaughn

Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington

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