Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Berglund back with the Blues, to work in familiar 
position; Sobotka to remain in KHL; cuts trim Blues roster

ST. LOUIS -- Patrik Berglund stepped onto the Scottrade Center upbeat and with jump in his step.

Fresh off a stint of representing Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey, Berglund, who was in St. Louis working out and skating before getting a last-minute recall from Team Sweden, was ready to put two feet forward to help the Blues prepare for the season.

And what coach Ken Hitchcock saw at practice Wednesday was encouraging.

"'Bergy' looks fit, he looks energized, he looks really good right now," Hitchcock said. "He looked good skating with the guys before he went to the World Cup. He's come back energized from World Cup. He looks really good right now."

Berglund, who had 10 goals and five assists in 42 games past season after coming off of off-season shoulder surgery, said while the experience was good for him to go to Toronto, it was not the easiest either.

Being a late recall due to an injury to Rikard Rakell, Berglund had a lot of catching up to do.

"It's a fun experience, but it was also kind of a little bit of bad timing," Berglund said. "Only a couple days before the real tournament starts and I hadn't really done anything. ... It was just overall a really hard adjustment to fly there at that time.

"I understood the situation and tried to deal with it as good as I could, but it was hard to get there and try to perform when it was this early into the season. ... I did what I could. It was really a great team, great dudes, good players, a cool tournament. It's awesome that they have this now, but just for me, it's hard to get into it that quick."

Hitchcock understands the dilemma Berglund dealt with.

"It's like trying to catch a moving car," Hitchcock said. "I think it was hard for him. He played awfully well, but you don't know if you're feeling part of it. You go there to be a depth player, you're not playing and then all of the sudden, you're walking in and the game's going 100 miles an hour. I thought once he got in, he earned the right to stay in." 

With the news of Vladimir Sobotka staying with Avangard Omsk for the final season of his three-year contract, Berglund is bracing to get back to the position that he's played by trade to help alleviate the potential void.

"I've been playing center my whole life basically," Berglund said. "I'd like to be there. ... I feel like it's a better position for me because I can kind of move around and keep my speed and read the plays. I like to be on the dot, taking faceoffs and so on. ... I'm comfortable at that position."

Hitchcock said it'll be an open evaluation.

"I can tell you right now, both (Berglund) and (Dmitrij) Jaskin are going to play a ton," Hitchcock said. "They've got to get ready to play a lot of hockey here in the next little while. They're both going to play a ton. We want to see which guy looks better at center and which guy looks better on the wing, but we're going to play them both at center ice and see how they look."

* Sobotka to remain in KHL -- The long and arduous conclusion to the Vladimir Sobotka saga has come to an end, and after much speculation that Sobotka would return to the Blues after a two-year hiatus, he will remain in Omsk after all.

After posting video of him arriving at their facility and photos of Sobotka arriving at the airport and in his Russian gear, in the end, Sobotka was not able to get out of the final year of the three-year, $11-12 million contract he initially signed in 2014.

It's been reported that a clause in Sobotka's Russian contract said that he would have to pay 2/3 of the remaining salary (roughly $2.6-$2.7 million) of what is owed to him for the final year. So in essence, Sobotka would have played for the Blues for free this season (he has a one-year, salary-arbitration awarded $2.725 million). 

After making it known multiple times that Sobotka was expected to arrive in St. Louis and his desire was to return to the Blues through agent Petr Svoboda, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is now left with an extra $2.7 million the club had been saving for cap purposes in case the 29-year-old Sobotka arrived.

But the Blues were prepared for this scenario, according to Hitchcock.

"We knew going into camp that this was a possibility and ... I've learned over time to never coach hoping people come back; it's like an injured player," Hitchcock said. "So we moved on and we started preparing from the first day of training camp that he was not going to be here, so we had already moved on as a staff. We treated that if he ever did come here, it would be bonus only, but we've already moved on and looked at other scenarios that we were well aware of, and to the point where even the free agents that came in to camp were brought in for that specific reason. We wanted to be on the safe side of anticipation and that's exactly what turned out, so we were more than ready for it."

* Cuts trim roster by three -- The Blues trimmed their roster by three after sending forwards Filip Helt (Sarnia Sting), Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting) and Adam Musil (Red Deer Rebels) to their junior teams.

With the cuts, the Blues' roster is down to 53 players and more cuts were projected Wednesday night but were not announced and could come as early as Thursday morning.

Hitchcock said after practice that Thursday would mark the first full hockey practice when the coaches begin to assemble the team rather than simply making cuts.

"I'm looking forward to putting scrimmages together," Hitchcock said. "It'll be fun tomorrow. It'll be a lot of game-like situations and shift-like length, so it'll be good, a real good evaluation. ... We'll have 37, we'll take that through the weekend. Our next cutdown will be on Sunday."

Forwards David Perron and Robby Fabbri (upper-body injuries) were left out of practice Wednesday but the expectation was they would be available Thursday.

"The only two players that aren't participating right now are (Vince) Dunn and (Tommy) Vannelli," Hitchcock said.

One player making headway is forward Kenny Agostino, a Calgary Flames draft pick who the Blues signed to a one-year, two-way contract this past summer.

Agostino has played in two preseason games and has six points, including a five-point game (two goals, three assists) against Columbus on Sunday.

"We didn't know anything about Agostino," Hitchcock said. "He's had a big camp. Now the challenge is now the big boys are all here. Can he keep it up? But he's had a big camp. He's more than held his own."

Agostino, 24, had 23 goals and 34 assists in 65 games for the Flames' AHL affiliate in Stockton, Calif.

"They jump out at you," Hitchcock said of Agostino's numbers. "Does that transfer over into being a top-nine forward in the NHL? We'll see. There's a lot of guys that come out of the A are his age and are ready to play. He's made a good account, but now everybody's cutting down. Now you see numbers going down. When you get into the 30s, now we're going from making cuts to picking the team and we're now in picking the team mode. Now we're starting to look at how is this gonna move us into what type of lineup we're going to have? Starting tomorrow, that's what we do. The whole thing's changed from who do we release to now who do we keep?"

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