Monday, December 5, 2016


Bortuzzo out week-to-week, Edmundson to return; Lehtera back 
in against Canadiens; Jaskin misses practice; Tarasenko honored

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The news on Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is more than just day-to-day.

Bortuzzo, who left Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets with a lower-body injury, will be sidelined what coach Ken Hitchcock said is "week-to-week."

It's unknown when Bortuzzo exactly was injured but he missed the later stages of the first period and played only one shift in the second before departing for good.

"Borts is week-to-week. He's got a lower-body injury on the other side of the lower body (that was previously injured) and he's week-to-week and we'll look at him in two weeks and see where he goes," Hitchcock said after Monday's practice at the Ice Zone. "We'll stay with the six guys right now for the game tomorrow and then decide what we're going to do taking it on the road. We've got obviously some guys on top of their games in Chicago right now with the Wolves, so Doug (Armstrong) and his staff have got to decide which guy is going to come up and when."

The good news is that Joel Edmundson, who missed the past 12 games with an upper-body injury, is set to return Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.

"It's been a long month, but at least I've been able to skate for about three and a half weeks," Edmundson said. "That's helped my mentality a lot. You want to be out there helping the team, but we've been winning, so it's been a lot easier.

"... If I feel good like this tomorrow, I think I'll be in the lineup. It's all I can ask for right now. I feel good. I definitely needed this amount of time. When I'm ready, I told them I'd be ready. This is the first day I've really felt I could play a game."

The injury comes at a tough time for Bortuzzo, who had been playing arguably his best hockey since returning from what is believed to be a knee injury.

"He was playing unreal," Bortuzzo's defensive partner Colton Parayko said. "He was one of our top 'D,' I think. He was making the right plays at the right time, jumping up at the right time. He was just doing it all. When you see a guy playing like that, it's tough to see him go (down), but he's going to get healed up and come back even better hopefully."

"He just came back from injury and he was playing excellent hockey," Edmundson said of Bortuzzo. "It's tough to see a guy like that go down. He brings a lot of energy to our team, but since he's out, I'll try to hop in and fill that role."

The fact the Blues have Edmundson returning softens the blow.

"'Eddy's back in and he's ready to go, so we're at our six again," Hitchcock said. "It's not a big adjustment for us right now.

"'Eddy' was really ready for about three or four days. We wanted to put him in every battle situation we could, so it worked, and he's worked really hard and making sure that he's pain-free there and ready to go."

* Jaskin misses practice -- Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin, who scored his first regular-season goal in the past 35 games Saturday against the Jets, was absent along with Bortuzzo for Monday's practice but is expected to be ready in time for tomorrow's game,

"He has a sickness situation that hopefully will be OK for tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "I think we will be, but he was sick today."

* Tarasenko honored -- Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday by the league.

Tarasenko shared the NHL lead with four goals in three games (four goals, one assist), including a pair of game-winning goals helping the Blues (14-7-4) earn five of a possible six points to maintain second place in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Tarasenko scored his sixth career overtime goal – and second of the season – in a 4-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 28.  He followed that performance with his third regular-season hat trick and matched a career high with four points in a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 1.

Tarasenko is third in the NHL with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 25 games.

Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason was the First Star and San Jose goalie Martin Jones was the Third Star.

* Lehtera to return to lineup -- Blues center Jori Lehtera, a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career on Saturday, will return to the lineup against the Canadiens on Tuesday.

Lehtera was skating on a line Monday with Patrik Berglund, Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie.

"I want him to play through the competition and not to the competition," Hitchcock said. "I want to see the forceful player we had last year, the player we had in the playoffs, I want to see that. I understand ... you're out for a little while, you come back from an injury, but we need a good player in that position right now. We need the player that we had last year and the player that we had through the playoffs. I think it's been 10 or 11 games he's been back, but we need to see a different player. We need to see a player that we saw before."

Lehtera, who has seven points (three goals, four assists) was taking shifts at left wing Monday and was asked if that's an option.

"Possibility," Hitchcock said. "We've really liked 'Bergy' there a lot because he really gets a beat in on the defenseman. He's got great speed, he's skating really well. We like him there quite a bit. I think we can be a little bit flexible. They can read off each other, but either guy can play over there pretty well. 'Lehts' has played a lot of left wing in international play, Olympics, World Cup, World Championships, so he's familiar with that, too."

* Allen's big test -- Jake Allen will return to play Tuesday and will have a big test facing Canadiens goalie Carey Price, if he plays, on Tuesday.

Allen has won his past seven starts and has won six in a row at home; he's 9-0-2 at Scottrade Center this season.

"He's the best in the world and he's the best in the league," Allen said of Price, who leads the NHL with 14 wins, is tied for third in goals-against average (1.82) and is second in save percentage (.942). "He's a huge part of their team. ... It is, especially against a team that we don't get to see much. They're fast, quick and very offensive. It'll be a good challenge. We've played a lot of divisional games lately, a lot of tight-checking games, teams that we know well. This is going to be a little bit of a different challenge for us. It's going to be interesting.

"I really hope one day that I can get to that level where he's at. I think it's a good challenge for me tomorrow."

Allen played his junior hockey in Montreal and knew right away Price would be where he's at today.

"I played junior in Montreal when he was starting (in the NHL)," Allen said. "You knew then. He was young, he was still one of the best and he came a long way. He's obviously proven over the last four years that he is the best. Goalies are very rare like that to find. They obviously have a good one and hopefully we can get the best of him tomorrow."

* Adjusting lines -- Hitchcock flipped Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri at practice on Monday, moving Schwartz to Alexander Steen's line with Tarasenko and Fabbri to Paul Stasty's line with David Perron.

"It's a combination of tomorrow, but it's also a combination for the road," Hitchcock said. "We're going to need two lines to play against top players on the road, so we might as well get it started now."

And getting started means going against the top team in the East in the Canadiens (17-6-2), who have 36 points.

Getting back on the saddle for the Blues means they'll have to do it against them, and when Hitchcock was asked if this is a good opponent to do it against, "Nope," he said. "We like to play the sisters of the poor to be honest with you, but we don't get that. 

"One thing Montreal does that they don't get enough credit for, they use their speed, but they use it to check, and that's why they're so hard to play against. They got speed, every team's got speed, they got quickness, every team's got quickness, but Montreal uses it to put pressure on you to force your mistakes, and that's the difference. That's why they have a winning record, they've got a great goalie, a lot of teams got great goalies, but they make you pay a price to move the puck and they put a lot of pressure on you and they use your speed as a checking mechanism and that's why they're always difficult and they always will be."

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