Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Parayko next in line to get steady diet if big minutes; Stastny doubtful for 
Thursday, Pietrangelo ready; Berglund's two-way game rounding into form

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Alex Pietrangelo and his team-leading 25 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time per game along with 30.7 shifts per game were void of the lineup Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, somebody had to pick the slack up.

With Pietrangelo, who leads the team and is 10th in the NHL in ice time and leads the team and is eighth in shifts per game, out with flu-like symptoms, Colton Parayko filled the role well in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Stars.

Parayko didn't put himself on the scoresheet, but he logged a career-high 28:48 in the game playing a whopping 38 shifts alongside Jay Bouwmeester, who played 26:35 and 41 shifts.

Both were on the ice for the two goals the Blues scored in regulation and for one Stars goal late in the second but each finished at plus-1. 

And coming out of a game in which the Blues (18-11-5) played back-to-back games with travel and a night after Parayko played 22:09, it was the kind of performance not many teams can absorb losing one of their top defenseman. But Parayko was more than happy to pick the slack up.

"Yeah a little bit," he said. "He's obviously a player that eats up a lot of minutes. It's an opportunity for us to step up and kind of fill that role a little bit. 

"It was good. We had six 'D' that could all play and we all played well, I thought."

So combine the two together, that's nearly 51 minutes of ice time in a span of 24-plus hours for Parayko, who didn't miss a beat doing it.

"I think so. I would assume so," Parayko said when asked if it's the most minutes in a game for him. "I don't even know. It felt like I had a fair amount of ice time and it was good. I enjoy it. I like playing as much as possible. If they want to play me more, I'm OK with that. 

"... Especially if you get the opportunity of making a mistake, you don't have much time to think about it, so you just try and move forward and make sure the next shift is huge."

Which is why Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it will come under strong consideration for Parayko to increase his average of 21:24 per game.

"For me, we were watching the game with Nashville, (Ryan) Ellis and (Mattias) Ekholm played 30 minutes each and they talked about how well they played," Hitchcock said. "I think Parayko's a better player ... the more minutes you play him, the better he plays because he's just able to just go out and freely play. 

"I think you saw in the third period where he played every second shift and that allowed him to just get into the flow of the game. He skated really well, he moved the puck really well, he transported it out of our zone really well. I just think when you've got big horses like that ... I think one (shift) on the bench and then not get up and play again is probably that something we all should look at because it seems he got better and better and stronger and stronger as the game went on. I think that's something that we've got to talk about because it seems like the more we play him, the better he plays."

Why is that?

"Some players are processors," Hitchcock said. "They spend a lot of time processing things, and if you give that type of player that's a processor, sometimes they think about things a lot when there's time to do it, and I think Colton is one of those guys, the less time he gets to process things and just goes out and plays, the better he plays. He plays on instincts. Sometimes when you're a processing player, you analyze things and by the time you're finishing your analyzation, you're is up or you're ready to play the next shift. When we just play him and we play him all the time, he seems to just play on instinct and then that's when he shows his speed, his ability to transport the puck. He's just playing. He doesn't have a chance to think, he doesn't have a chance to process it because he knows he's going the next shift, and I think he's a perfect example of a guy that all he needs is a little rest and he's ready to go back out there and he's playing again."

Parayko, who still hasn't scored yet in 34 games but does have 15 assists and is plus-2 on the season, said the collective group made the transition work Tuesday.

"Factoring in that we're trying to line match, and we're always line-matching usually," he said. "Trying to get the proper line match is always key, but just working with different combinations all of the sudden in one day and without practicing, it can be tough. Sometimes we had a couple lefties out there together. Just the little things that you don't really recognize as a spectator sometime. It can be tough on the offside, especially if you're not used to it. I think we did a good job of weathering the storm and I think everyone did a good job."

* Player updates -- Blues center Paul Stastny is "doubtful" for the game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (16-14-3) but Pietrangelo will return, according to Hitchcock.

Hitchcock said Stastny took a hit early in the third period Tuesday. He played 2:15 in the third and remained on the bench, even joining in the celebration on David Perron's overtime goal but Hitchcock said Stastny, who had an assist, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

"He's rehabbing today and we'll see right now. He's doubtful for tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "... He took a hit in the beginning of the third period so he's day-to-day but with a game tomorrow, it's doubtful that he'll be able to play."

The thought could be to sit Stastny out and give him a full week before the next game and considering the Blues don't feel it's really serious.

Hitchcock wouldn't elaborate on any roster decision, whether Nail Yakupov or Ty Rattie, two of the four skaters on the ice Wednesday at Amalie Arena, would come in. Hitchcock suggested perhaps a call-up from the Chicago Wolves could be in the cards.

"I'm not sure because it's a center, it'll impact more than one line," Hitchcock said. "We're going to talk about that at 6 o'clock tonight. Obviously it's a top six center so if it looks like he's not able to play, we'll have to make an evaluation which way we want to go. We need to find somebody that plays center within our group that we can count on or bring somebody in, but I'm not sure yet what Doug (Armstrong) wants to do here."

Hitchcock said Pietrangelo felt better on Wednesday and will return, meaning someone will come out.

It won't he Brad Hunt, who Hitchcock said will stay in. The consensus is Carl Gunnarsson could be made a healthy scratch after playing only 12:33 Tuesday.

Left wing Robby Fabbri, who briefly left the third period but returned, is OK.

"He came out fine," Hitchcock said. "He's good to go. 

"The only guy that's doubtful right now is Stastny. It looks like everybody else, we're good to go. We're hopeful that Stastny's just day-to-day. We think it is. If he can't play tomorrow, and it doesn't look like he can, then he'll be ready right after the break."

Jake Allen, who made 36 saves in the win Tuesday, will start against the Lightning, a team the Blues beat 5-4 on Dec. 1 in St. Louis.

* Berglund's production completing well-rounded game -- Call it coincidence, call it a streaky player, call it playing with more experienced, consistent linemates, but getting offense from Patrik Berglund in recent games and continuing on a consistent basis can only bode well for the Blues.

After scoring the tying goal with 30.1 seconds left in the second Tuesday, it gave Berglund four goals in four games after just one in 30 to start the season.

Berglund has been playing with Perron and Alexander Steen, which doesn't hurt, and given the work rate that Perron and Steen have been at throughout the season, Berglund had no choice but to match it to make the trio more efficient.

"He’s just battling. He’s competing like hell," Hitchcock said. "This is the best he’s played all year, but he’s really got a bead on his game right now. He’s scoring on a regular basis and competing at a really, really high level."

Berglund, who has five goals and six assists in 34 games, won't admit to the newly formulated line as his only means of success. He feels the work ethic has been there; it's just pucks are finding their way through these days.

"I think I've been playing solid all year, but now the puck is starting to bounce in and I'm very thankful for that," Berglund said. "For me, it's nice to score, but it's so much more than I take pride in when I play, so it's just a little bonus."

There's pride in the fact that Berglund's line with Steen and Perron has been paired up against the opposition's top lines. So scoring and shutting down the opposition makes it a double-dose of execution.

"Absolutely. Whoever scores, it's always good that we get one or two on the board, or whatever the score is, but a bunch of people can contribute, and when you have a lot of guys that can contribute, that's usually when can come out with wins," Berglund said. "It was a long time there when I couldn't contribute that way and I was really disappointed, but that didn't stop me from working hard and you know at some point it was going to go in. I'm just happy that I can help out any way I can. It feels good."

And it's Berglund's work rate and competitiveness that enabled coaches to continue to put him in the lineup knowing at some point, the offense would come.

"I think sometimes it's numbers based," Hitchcock said. "I think we all understand that. 'Bergy' would be the first guy to tell you that he would've liked to have more goals and assists this year, but at the end of the day as a coach, the thing that you look at is hard to see on television or hard to see unless you're with the player everyday. It's more about the impact he has on the opposition. So if you're not able to contribute offensively, are you negating other people. And what 'Bergy' is doing now is he's negating other players on the opposite team and now he's starting to score. So we're getting a double whammy, which is good because he's scoring and he's also done a very good job of pushing other players out of their comfort zone. That's helped us in a lot of areas. But even when he wasn't scoring, he was competing at a high level, so the players that he was playing against weren't scoring. 

"You look at his numbers before he started on his hot streak, he didn't have a high minus, which shows you that even though he wasn't getting it done, nobody was getting it done against him. He wasn't getting scored on, he just wasn't finishing the chances that he was given the opportunity to get. He had a lot of odd-man rush opportunity, a lot this year, more than he's ever had, and he was getting discouraged because he wasn't finishing those. It seems like the empty-net goal has just eliminated some of the pressure that he put on himself to score and now he's just going out ... he's competing at the same level but he's got more confidence around the net area now.

"His confidence comes from his competitive level," Hitchcock continued. "He's amped up his competitive level, he's amped up his determination at the puck. He's got way more second and third effort at the puck and it's allowed him to have it more. And obviously the goals have come as a direct result of the amount of effort he's putting into it. He's not easily discouraged right now, he's been very resilient on the ice and it's allowed him to have a bigger impact in the game. His impact is when he leans on you and he stays leaning on you ... he can have a huge impact. That's exactly what's happening now. He's competing at a very high level and with his size and weight that he brings to the battle, he's started to have the puck a lot more."

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