Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nilsson happy to join Blues

Goalie traded for as insurance until Elliott returns has no expectations

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Anders Nilsson's season with the Edmonton Oilers was pretty much going like the team's down the stretch.

The Oilers were out of the Stanley Cup playoff chase, Nilsson's name had come up in recent trade rumors of him possibly moving on.

And even though he was traded to the Blues early Saturday morning for minor league goalie Niklas Lundstrom and one of the Blues' two fifth-round picks in this summer's NHL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 229-pount Lulea, Sweden native goes from formally ending the season in April to joining the playof chase with the Blues.
(Edmonton Oilers photo)
Goalie Anders Nilsson was acquired on Saturday.

"It came as a little surprise," Nilsson said Sunday before the Blus defeated Carolina 5-2. "I was scheduled to play against Anaheim (Friday) and I was told not to play and then I kind of figured out that something was going on. I got the news after the game that I was traded here. I jumped on the plane and got to Carolina yesterday. I'm excited to be a part of the Blues. It's been a little bit of a whirlwind the past 24 hours here, but it's very fun to be here."

Nilsson, 25, has played in 26 games for the Edmonton Oilers this season; he was 10-12-2 with a 3.14 goals-against average and a .901 save-percentage. Nilsson was drafted by the New York Islanders in 2009 and has played in 49 career regular season games, going 19-21-4 with a 3.10 GAA and .900 save percentage.

"I got very excited because it's a very good organization, a very good team," Nilsson said of the Blues. "It's a team that's aiming to get better improve and be in a good place for the playoffs. I got excited to come here. Hopefully I can contribute. 

"It's probably one of the most fun hockey you can play. You want to be in the playoffs and play for a playoff team. I got very excited when I heard it was the Blues that traded for me. I'm excited to be here, excited to be a part of the team. Hopefully I can make a good run here going into the playoffs and keep it going."

Nilsson was picked up as insurance for Jake Allen and the lower-body injury to Brian Elliott, who was originally said to be reevaluated in four weeks. Nilsson went 0-5-1 his past eight appearances for the Oilers but had a stretch from Dec. 2-11 where he won five straight starts with a 2.53 GAA and .927 save percentage.

"I felt good the first half of the year," Nilsson said. "I had a little dip after Christmas. I definitely want to get back to my game and play the game I know I can play. Hopefully I'm going to be able to do that here with St. Louis and help them with a few wins."

General manager Doug Armstrong said if the Blues were to acquire goaltending help, it would have to be someone cost-effective and someone they could assign to the minors when/if Elliott returns.

Nilsson understands that.

"I'm just going to try and focus on my game," he said. "It's important because Elliott got injured and Allen just came back from an injury. It's not fun to see other guys go down. I'm going to try to focus on my game and I'll see what happens after that.

"I'm obviously a bigger guy. I'm going to try and take advantage of some of my size and play on my size and try and make myself as big as possible in the net. I think I do more like pretty much everyone does nowadays, the modern style of goaltending, butterfly style. That's about it. I try and bring in a lot of hard work every day to the rink and compete."

Fourth line provides spark for Blues in 5-2 win against 'Canes

Brodziak, Upshall, Rattie combine for five 
points; Pietrangelo returns with goal, assist

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Blues didn't have much time to rid themselves of the lousy game played Saturday in Nashville.

And it took an effort from the gritty guys to get the Blues out of a mini rut Sunday afternoon.

Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall each had their first multi-point games with the Blues and helped them defeat the Eric Staal-less Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 at PNC Arena.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall (left) and Kyle Brodziak celebrate Brodziak's
shorthanded goal Sunday at Carolina in the Blues' 5-2 victory.

The Blues (36-20-9), who snapped a season-long three-game regulation losing streak after a disheartening 5-0 loss to the Predators 24 hours earlier.

Fourth-line winger Ty Rattie got the ball rolling early in the first, linemate Brodziak had the Blues' second shorthanded goal this season and added an assist and Upshall had a pair of helpers; the line accounted for five points in the game.

David Backes' line with Dmitrij Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi accounted for a big goal early in the second, and the return of Alex Pietrangelo provided the Blues a jolt with a goal and assist. Robby Fabbri also had a goal and assist.

"Brodziak's line was fantastic and probably is the turning point for our squad tonight," Backes said. "Obviously the shorthanded goal, but the first one to lift our spirits after we'd been shut out in the game (Saturday) and kind of get the boys going. That's what they're there for, to give us energy. Two goals out of those guys is fantastic and the rest of us follow suit. We need efforts like that with some of the bodies we've got out. We got it tonight. It's a good feeling in here."

The Blues, who complete this portion of a four-game trip Tuesday at Ottawa before taking four days off, were down 2-1 in the second but turned the game around.

They fired 20 shots at Carolina goalie Cam Ward and played their best period since Alexander Steen went down to an injury five games ago. 

Backes from the slot popped home Paajarvi's wrap around initially stopped by Ward. Jaskin was battling in the corner for the puck, allowing Paajarvi to dig it out and use a backhand wrap around that Ward stopped by Backes in the slot unaccounted for tied it 20 seconds into the period.

"You're down 2-1 and you need to get back to our game," Backes said. "First shift, we won a draw and we get it deep. Magnus and 'Jask' go to work down low and they did a tremendous job all game. I'm the beneficiary in front after they take two or three guys below the goal line." 

The Blues were buzzing the entire period, and Brodziak gave them a 3-2 lead with the the first shorthanded goal since Steen scored against Arizona on Dec. 8.

"Definitely felt good," Brodziak said of his first goal since Nov. 21 (38 games). "'Uppy' made the whole play happen. Once they turned it over just outside our blue line, he read it, he jumped early, won the battle and I took off as soon as I seen it happen. He made a good play and luckily I finished it off."

After a tough cross-ice feed from Victor Rask that Noah Hanifin couldn't handle, Upshall used his speed to get inside position on Noah Hanifin, feed Brodziak who beat Ward from the slot with a wrister gloveside top shelf at 11:10.

"I think he thought I was going to come on the other side of him," Upshall said of Hanifin. "By the time we got to the puck, I had complete body position on him on the offensive side. It as just had to be a strong play on his stick, get body position. It was one of those just quick on the puck and force him to play under pressure and make a mistake."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called it the most important goal.

"Brodziak's goal was a big goal for us, huge goal for us," Hitchcock said. "Rattie gets us off. He gets us thinking differently and then the goal by Fabbri, young guys really came through for us today."

The Hurricanes (28-26-10) were already playing without Staal, who was traded before the game to the New York Rangers for a prospect and pair of second-round picks. They then lost forwards Kris Versteeg and Riley Nash presumably to injuries in the second period, so Carolina was down three forwards in the game. Former Blue Jay McClement, who was not supposed to play with an upper-body injury, dressed because Carolina scratched Staal but did not play a shift.

"We got into their defense a little bit (in the second period) and really got a lot of energy," Hitchcock said. "I thought it's one of the best periods we've played; we hemmed them in and didn't let them out. We had a lot of scoring chances and then I thought you saw the affect of back-to-back in the third a little bit. We were a little bit reaching and stuff like that, we didn't have any legs but overall second period and even a good part of the first was good for us, but second period was outstanding."

The Blues scored twice in 37 seconds to put the game away in the third.

Fabbri's breakaway goal was the rookie's 15th of the season and came off Pietrangelo throwing the puck off the glass and it taking a fortuitous bounce into Fabbri's path. Fabbri got an edge on Hanifin, pulled the puck to his backhand and tucked it past Ward at 6:02.

"It was sort of a funky play there with the puck off the glass," Fabbri said. "When I picked it up, I saw I had some space and just got good body position on, I think it was Hanifin. I just thought that was the play to fake the shot, use my body and go to my backhand.

"I see them going to that side, so I'm going over to support. I got a fortunate bounce off the glass there."

Pietrangelo, who played 23 minutes his first game back with five of the Blues' 21 blocked shots, scored off what looked like a delayed shot after getting Patrik Berglund's feed to the left circle.

"Shatty's yelling shot clock when I got back to the bench," Pietrangelo joked. "None of us really knew what was going on, but whether it was blocking shots or scoring goals, to be able to contribute was a good feeling."

Pietrangelo got the pass from Berglund, who could have took the shot uncontested himself in the slot, and saw nobody in goal and almost looked bewildered.

"You see him kick it to his stick and he kind of looked up and just saw nothing in then net and take a shot," Shattenkirk said. "Obviously he's got the wide open net, but it's definitely nice for him to come back and get a big goa like that. You could tell as the game went on, he started to ease into it and feel like himself again. 

"He looked good. He made a couple plays in the first that he looked like his old self. Then they kind of turned the game around on us; I think we were all kind of a little bit scrambly. I don't think he tried to over-extent himself too special early and then he was able to feel the game out and keep building on it."

Pietrangelo said it was his call not to play on back-to-back games.

"For me it was. It's not easy on a back-to-back when you have an like I did," Pietrangelo said. "A little bit easier on the second of a back-to-back than putting your body through two games in a row. Felt more comfortable coming into this game. Obviously watching last night, I wish I would have been in there, but you know what, at the same time, I came in and we got the result today.

"Any time you miss a little bit of time, 10, 40 games, whatever, it usually takes you a period to get back in the swing of things. As the game went on, I started feeling better."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Jaden Schwartz (17) moves the puck past a fallen Carolina
defenseman John-Michael Liles Sunday at PNC Arena.

Rattie gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 2:17 into the game with a rebound goal off Upshall's spin shot from the left circle, but Carolina got goals 1:24 apart in the first to go up 2-1 on goals by Jeff Skinner at 8:01 and Ron Hainsey at 9:25.

But Jake Allen, who was pulled Saturday at Nashville after giving up four goals on 23 shots, finished with 32 saves, including the last 27 he faced. Sixteen came in the third period.

It was Allen's first win in the past eight starts; he had been 0-5-1 since defeating Nashville on Dec. 29.

"That's his demeanor. He's a cool, collected guy," Backes said of Allen. "He tries his butt off every play. He's a realist and knows should have had that one or that's a heck of a play and he'll make the next save when it comes to him. That sort of calmness behind you is a great thing to have as players in front of him. He was outstanding again on a few timely saves when it could have gone either way when it's a one- or two-goal game."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shorthanded Blues overwhelmed 5-0 against Predators

Forsberg hat trick, Rinne 28-save shutout send 
St. Louis to season-high third straight loss in regulation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Blues have held out long enough this season overcoming injured players.

On Saturday afternoon in front of a large contingency of their fans filling Bridgestone Arena hoping for a clean sweep of the Nashville Predators this season, it wasn't even close to materializing.

Filip Forsberg has been hot against the league, and he continued his torrid goal-scoring pace against the Blues, scoring his second hat trick in three games -- all in the second period -- of Nashville's 5-0 win.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (left) protests a high stick after Nashville's Craig
Smith scored in the first period of the Predators' 5-0 victory. 

The Blues (35-20-9) limp into Carolina for another matinee game Sunday afternoon losing three in a row in regulation for the first time this season; they lost five in a row (0-2-3) but gained points in three of those games from Dec. 31-Jan. 8.

"We just didn't have it, but play again (Sunday), so move on," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "I don't think we've had too many all year. Anytime it happens, it stinks. But it happens to everybody. When you play 82 games, not all of them are going to be perfect."

The Blues have had a multitude of injuries throughout the season but played Saturday without Alexander Steen (upper body), Alex Pietrangelo (knee), Brian Elliott (lower body), Jori Lehtera (upper body) and Steve Ott (hamstring) has been out since Jan. 2.

The Blues are 0-3-0 since Steen went down and have been outscored 13-4; they've run into some good goaltending the past three games, including Pekka Rinne's 28-save shutout Saturday.

But good news came down Saturday night that Pietrangelo, who missed nine games, was activated off injured reserve and will play Sunday. He has been out since sustaining a right knee injury Feb. 6.

Forsberg, who has 12 goals in the past 11 games, put any notion out of reach in the second period when he scored three times on top of Craig Smith's first-period goal. Forsberg had four points in the game, Smith had a goal and two assists and linemate Mike Ribeiro had three assists. Nashville's first three goals, all scored by that line, came against Paul Stastny's line with Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer.

Top defensive pair Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk were each a minus-3.

Jake Allen made 19 saves on 23 shots but was pulled -- likely to get ready to play against the Hurricanes -- at 15 minutes, 34 seconds of the second period for Pheonix Copley's NHL debut.

The Blues earlier in the day acquired Edmonton backup goalie Anders Nilsson for goalie prospect Niklas Lundstrom and a 2016 fifth-round pick (the Blues had two picks, including one acquired from Columbus two seasons ago for defenseman Jordan Leopold).

Nilsson was recalled from Chicago, and the Blues assigned Copley and defenseman Jordan Schmaltz to the Wolves.

Smith scored 5:39 into the first when he slammed in Ribeiro's batted attempt of a puck that officials apparently ruled wasn't a high stick because it wasn't directed towards the net. It was the first goal the Blues allowed against the Predators here in 125:39; they shut out Nashville the previous two visits this season. 

"From a quick look, yeah (it looked like a high stick), but things happen fast," Bouwmeester said.

Forsberg's first came 54 seconds into the second when Petter Granberg's point shot caromed off Stastny's skate right to Forsberg, who had nothing but an empty net.

Forsberg struck again at 5:39 off a drop pass from Smith and using Shattenkirk as a screen to snap one through Allen.

And Forsberg capped off the hat trick on the power play after Ribeiro found him in the left circle for a one-timer high short side at 14:49. It's Forsberg's first four-point game of his NHL career.

Colin Wilson added a fifth goal at 4:37 of the third period against Copley.

"Puck management through the neutral zone really hurt us, lack of discipline on the penalties really hurt us ... those are the two commonalities," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We didn't do it against the Rangers, but we did it against San Jose and we did it again tonight, so it's something we have to address.

"Can't keep taking these penalties. We're killing our PK guys. They've got no energy to play on offense. We don't have the energy to play offensively in the (offensive) zone when we do it get it fresh five on five. We're dead from killing penalties."

One of those penalties came when David Backes got whistled for roughing against Ryan Ellis after Ellis' cross-check on Jaden Schwartz in the second period went unpunished.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (right) makes a save of a Magnus Paajarvi
redirection en route to a 28-save shutout in a 5-0 victory.

"I'll bite my tongue so I don't have financial repercussions," Backes said. "But that was a heck of shift for us, we were building momentum, and we go from a great offensive shift to now we're killing a penalty. I don't know if it was well-deserved.

"We need safety first out there, and we're going to stand up for each other. I felt there was a liberty taken there and at worst you think it's going to be evened up (penalty-wise), but again we're killing a penalty."

The Blues finished the game having to kill five penalties to Nashville's one.

(2-27-16) Blues-Predators Gameday Lineup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Hitchcock understands the trials and tribulations players face in the days before the NHL Trade Deadline.

So the veteran Blues coach had one simple message for players who might have a vested interest in the information being bandied around in the days and even weeks leading up to the Feb. 29 deadline, which is 2 p.m. (CT).

"Turn your phone off, don't buy a newspaper, don't watch television ... just play hockey," Hitchcock said. "I think you've got to realize when you're a good team, you're not looking to get rid of people. I think that's the reality. When you're a good team, you might look to help yourself, but it's a lot more precarious if you're a team that's a long ways out of it because you're worried about a lot of things. As a player, there's a lot of things that go through your head. When you're a good team, it's just play hockey. Management knows what they're doing. It's their time of year and the rest of us, we've got to focus on the games and get playing. I think it really changes for us where we're at injury-wise. 

"I think our focus is on playing right now because when you're counting numbers and you've got just enough to play, it puts your attention in a whole different area."

The Blues, who addressed their backup goalie situation late Friday night/early Saturday morning when they acquired Edmonton backup Anders Nilsson for goalie prospect Niklas Lundstrom and a 2016 fifth-round pick, could be in play for a number of scoring wingers that are on the market.

Nut one thing's for sure: captain David Backes, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will play out the season here and not have a contract extension in place.

But Armstrong made it clear that he won't be traded.

"We love it here and we feel we've got a great team and a great chance to win," Backes said. "We're excited to see what we do in these last 20 games or so and then be hopefully healthy and energized for a long playoff run here. That's our focus and the business side of things, that's why I've got people I employ to take care of that. Him and Doug can take care of that on their spare time while hopefully we're winning a championship here.

"We were hoping to get something done before training camp even ended, but sometimes these things take a little more time. Noone's panicking. Everyone's comfortable in their situation. We'll see how it all pans out and keep moving forward. Our concentration is on the ice, putting a good product out there and making this team better each and every day."

Armstrong made it known that trading Backes for prospects and/or picks in hopes of getting something should be walk this summer is not what they're looking for and made it known that the Blues want to build something with Backes as a key piece.

"Those things aren't falling on deaf ears," Backes said. "I think we've been through a lot together as a general manager and captain of some thin times and now prosperous times. Now we need to make that next step together and that's playing deep into the playoffs. Hopefully we'll get some more healthy bodies in here and have full strength. Even when we don't, we need to come together, simplify and go out there and work our butts off to get two points."

There's 51 hours until the trade deadline comes and goes as of 11 a.m. today, and players in the Blues' locker room will do their best to try and stay focused on the ice, especially since the Blues play afternoon games today against Nashville (2 p.m.) and Sunday at Carolina (also 2 p.m.).

"It's always mental for everybody," center Paul Stastny said. "Whether you've never been there before, whether you have, it's always around and people always talk about it. I think no matter what, it's always in the back of minds, whether you're at the bottom and teams make a lot of changes or your team's at the top and they're just going to tweak a couple things. Once you know that day's over, then you know that's the final team you have going forward for the last stretch of the season.

"I think when you're on the ice, you don't think about it. That's the beauty of what you do for a living. When you're on the ice, that's when all the distractions go away. That's the way it's been for me, that's the way it's been for a lot of us."

Backes added: "Things happen at deadlines. Who knows what's going to happen here. That's for management and for coaching to figure out. We just need the 20 guys that are suiting up for the game to be on the same page buying into the program and going out there and executing and winning games.

"I think during the day, you're hearing deals go down and things like that but once you're at the rink and you're putting the gear on, it's focus on having the group of guys that's in the locker room getting a task done. We've done a good job of concentrating and blocking out distractions throughout the year. Now we have to do it even more than ever. With injuries and with trade deadline and whatever's going on, we need to focus and have great performances and worry about the two points that's in front of us and not anything that's in the past or in the future. We've got to be ready for the present."

But if the Blues don't do anything, Stastny said there's belief in the room as is.

"Absolutely," he said. "I think we know what we have. We have 13, 14 forwards that can play, eight nine 'D.' It's all about finding that chemistry and being hot at the right time. We know what things have worked and things that haven't."

- - -

The Blues will know soon if defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (knee) will mark his return after missing the past eight games.

Also, center Jori Lehtera, who was hit in the face with an inadvertent puck against the New York Rangers on Thursday, is a game-time decision.

With afternoon games today and Sunday, lineups and line combinations won't be known until pregame warmups.

But one thing's for certain, Jake Allen will start in goal today against the Predators. He made a career-high 45 saves in a 4-0 shutout victory the last time he played here Nov. 7.

- - -

The Blues have won all four meetings with the Predators -- 5-0-3 the past eight games -- this season, outscoring Nashville 11-4. They have two shutout wins at Bridgestone Arena, including 1-0 on a late Troy Brouwer goal here 25 days ago.

Blues acquire backup goalie Nilsson

Prospect Niklas Lundstrom, 2016 fifth round pick going to Edmonton

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the long-term injury to goalie Brian Elliott, general manager Doug Armstrong said Thursday that the Blues would search for a backup goalie for starter Jake Allen but only if the situation was right.

They apparently have found one, a goalie that they could afford to bring on despite being close to the salary cap ceiling and one they could send to the American Hockey League if/when Elliott returns.

The Blues made official Saturday morning they acquired goalie Anders Nilsson from the Edmonton Oilers for goalie prospect Niklas Lundstrom and a 2016 fifth-round pick. 
Anders Nilsson

TSN's Bob McKenzie and Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman first reported the trade late Friday night/early Saturday morning.

Nilsson was expected to be the starter for the Oilers Friday night at Anaheim but was pulled, presumably as talks got close to a deal, which the teams haven't announced as of early Saturday morning.

With Elliott down for a minimum of four weeks after sustaining a lower-body injury last Monday in a loss to San Jose, it shifted Armstrong's gears enough that he would need to at least gauge the market for a backup.

"Well, yes, I think we're obviously going to explore it, but again, I don't want to get into technical parts and bore you, but it has to be a player that can go to the minors when (Elliott) gets back or else we're over the cap," Armstrong said Thursday before the Blues hosted the New York Rangers. "Everything just comes back to having a finite amount of money. When we're healthy and not everybody is on LTI (long-term injury), everybody's salaries have to fit into the cap. Guys have to go to the minors when we get healthy, that's just the way it is. I'm actually looking at it as a positive thing. I'd love to have to make a hard decision on sending guys down because we have too many healthy bodies."

Nilsson, who is 10-12-2 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .901 save percentage with the Oilers this season, has a 19-21-4 career record with a 3.10 GAA and .900 save percentage with the Oilers and New York Islanders.

Nilsson, 25, was drafted in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Islanders. He has a cap hit of $1 million this season, but after the Blues are likely to assign Pheonix Copley to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, they'll be on the hook for somewhere between $200,000-$300,000 of Nilsson's remaining cap assuming no salary was kept on the part of the Oilers, which in this case would be unlikely.

Lundstrom, 23, was selected by the Blues in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft; he spent this season with the Elmira Jackals of the East Coast Hockey League and played four games with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Lehtera status uncertain

Center hit in the face with inadvertent puck Thursday, did 
not skate Friday; Pietrangelo could return as early as Saturday

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues will know more Saturday morning who they'll have at their disposal when they begin a three-game trip starting with the Nashville Predators.

Center Jori Lehtera, who became the third player in as many games to leave because of injury in the first period, did not practice Friday after being hit with an inadvertent puck to the face in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Center Jori Lehtera is questionable for Saturday at Nashville.

"Didn't practice today; we'll see tomorrow," said coach Ken Hitchcock, who called Lehtera "sore.

"He's upper-body and we'll get a better evaluation in the morning," Hitchcock added. "Same with (Jaden) Schwartz. Schwartz was maintenance day today. Hopefully, both guys are ready to go. We'll see in the morning."

Schwartz and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo were both given maintenance days.

As for defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, he skated for a third straight day and could return to the lineup at any time now.

Pietrangelo, who sustained a right knee injury when he was hit by Minnesota's Charlie Coyle on Feb. 6, will have the call on when he comes back. He's missed eight games and three weeks, which was the original timeline for when he was to be reevaluated.

"He looks fine," Hitchcock said of Pietrangelo. "Its now kind of the player's call when he thinks he's ready. We'll communicate with him on the flight and see when, if he thinks he's ready for one of the games this weekend or both or whatever. We'll know that first thing in the morning for sure, but I think we'll get a better indication by tonight."

With the Blues (35-19-9) playing Saturday afternoon at Nashville and Sunday afternoon at Carolina, there's no second-guessing whether Pietrangelo can play both games, one or none. 

"Can't think like that. You go in, you've got to go in and stay," Hitchcock said. "This isn't the time of year to be guiding guys through it. If you're in and you declare yourself fit, then you're ready to go and if you're not, you're not. You've got to wait. I don't like to pop guys in and out, back and forth. Especially with a younger player like him, if he says he fit, he's fit; he's ready to go, he gets to play. We want to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. If he's not, then we'll wait until he's good. But once he goes in, he's going to stay in every game."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo could return to 
the lineup as early as Saturday.

Regardless of when Pietrangelo returns, he Blues will get their top minutes man back on the blue line.

"When you get a guy like that back, it makes things easier for all the other defensemen as well," center Paul Stastny said. "Whether he comes back, I'm sure he'll be back one of these next three games. For him, he's such a good skater and you want him to be feeling comfortable and not second-guessing. When he's comfortable and he's not thinking out there, he's at his best. I think he knows that, he's smart about it. I think he'll make the right decision when he's ready." 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Armstrong believes in current roster

Blues GM addressed media with NHL Trade Deadline set for 
Monday, reaffirms willingness to keep pending UFA Backes in fold

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is like his 29 counterparts in the League leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, which will come to an end Monday at 2 p.m. (CT).

Armstrong is listening and he's talking. But as it stands, it will be hard-pressed for the Blues to make any major transactions to their roster without moving key pieces off of it because the Blues are pressed up against the salary cap.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong

And Armstrong, who addressed the media on Thursday prior to the Blues hosting the New York Rangers, made it clear that trading pending unrestricted free agent David Backes "for some form of a draft pick would be an injustice to the players in that room right now."

Armstrong has not ruled out perhaps trading for a backup goalie, which the injury-depleted Blues have been forced into with the recent lower-body injury to Brian Elliott. But unless money can be moved both ways in any potential trade or trades, Armstrong has maintained his stance of wanting to see what the Blues look like with a healthy roster.

Unfortunately, that won't happen before Monday.

"Not a good evaluation about our team getting healthy, but a really good evaluation about the character of our team and the ability to build a little scar tissue," Armstrong said. "I think this is the year we've taken the Cardinals (mantra) 'next man up.' We've lost goaltenders, we've lost defensemen, we've lost centermen, we've lost wingers. I've obviously been in the game a long time. I've been in organizations that have lost five or six guys at a time. What we've had this year is a steady drip of players out starting with (Patrik) Berglund and we've been in a long-term injury, which is a CBA term through the whole year. Every time we think we're going to come out and get a little space with the cap and try to build a little bit of war chest and someone else goes down. It's the level of players are going down that can't be replaced by one player. At different times of the year, you want to carry 21 players and create a little space and not have to carry that 22nd and 23rd player. When you lose a key player, it usually takes two players to replace them. ... It was difficult to gain any traction to gain (cap) space, so we find ourselves now at the trade deadline with long-term injury. It's not going to end until mid-March. That's just the facts and the way the season's gone for us."

As for Backes, the Blues approached him earlier in the season about a potential contract extension. Armstrong's conversations with agent Wade Arnott had merit, but both sides decided to play the season out.

"Right now, I've had a good chat with David and there is no ongoing dialogue," Armstrong said. "We had really good conversations over the summer and the feeling was lets let the year play itself out. He's going to be a big part of what we're doing over the next little while.

"When you go into the season in that format, you're hoping to have a good year and we have had a good year. We've positioned ourselves in a good spot. If we were in the 10th or 11th or 12th spot in the Western Conference, I'd probably be going to him right now and saying, 'Obviously you're an unrestricted free agent. Do you want to go to a contending team?' We are that contending team. We are a team that's in the top part of the NHL."

It appears that there's a belief system in place for the Blues and their management to go towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the roster they've assembled. Armstrong won't rule out adding help if it's economically possible. but with the being strapped because of the cap, it's becoming clear that it may be impossible.

So it comes down to getting Elliott, Alexander Steen (upper-body injury), Alex Pietrangelo (knee) and Steve Ott (hamstring), who Armstrong said he wants to sit down and speak with about if or when he can return, back into the lineup.

"They've shown to the world and to the hockey community at least ... you're in fourth place right now with all these injuries," Armstrong said of the Blues. "The reality is you get to the playoffs and you need health and then you need your good players to play well. But you have to go through 'Murderer's Row' here in the Central (Division). That's just the reality of it. If the playoffs started, really any time in the last month, two, three and four in the NHL are all in the Central Division. One of the top four teams, I don't know who it's going to be, is going to be out in the First Round at a minimum. If we get first, Chicago's got to play Dallas. And if one of those two teams gets first, then we've got to play them. Our goal is to stay in that rarefied era of first, second or third and ultimately even with these injuries, our goal is to push for No. 1 and avoid Dallas and Chicago if possible in the first round. But if they're there and we make it, you play the games for a reason too."

Armstrong said that if the Blues are to acquire a backup goalie, it would have to go along the lines of the rest of whatever else they could do: fit it under the cap.

"Well, yes, I think we're obviously going to explore it, but again, I don't want to get into technical parts and bore you, but it has to be a player that can go to the minors when (Elliott) gets back or else we're over the cap," Armstrong said. "Everything just comes back to having a finite amount of money. When we're healthy and not everybody is on LTI, everybody's salaries have to fit into the cap. Guys have to go to the minors when we get healthy, that's just the way it is. I'm actually looking at it as a positive thing. I'd love to have to make a hard decision on sending guys down because we have too many healthy bodies."

And looking into the future when Jori Lehtera's contract raises his cap hit to $4.7 million, pending restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz gets a raise from the $2.35 million cap hit he's at, RFA's Joel Edmundson and Ty Rattie up for raises, Backes brought back, the Blues have a trickle-down effect that plays into this equation.

"Yeah, it is a trickle-down effect. The salary cap next year, I have some indications what we think it's going to be," Armstrong said. "I'm not at liberty to say what it is, but we're going to have to try to slice that pie up as evenly as possible with keeping as many people as happy as possible. But the reality is, we saw this year that the cap didn't increase to the level ... this is the first year that there's really been a salary cap in the NHL, meaning every year we thought there was going to be something that was increased revenue that jumped it up $7, 8, 6 million ... now we're just finding it's taking the 5 percent kicker that the players enforce. When that's all that's going in, or if the revenues aren't what they were, that just spruces it up 2 or 3 percent, the pie is only so big. We've made a long-term investment in Alex (Pietrangelo), we've made a long-term investment in (Vladimir) Tarasenko, Schwartz is a player that we have high hopes to stay here for a long time. Yeah, there is a trickle down effect. It could be turning into a league of halves and halve-nots, but that's the system."

Lundqvist difference in Rangers' 2-1 win against Blues

Despite 36 shots, St. Louis cannot "outwork 
the goalie" coach says; lose Lehtera to injury

ST. LOUIS -- Another game, another goalie got the best of the Blues.

And this time, it had coach Ken Hitchcock on the verge of animation when describing the Blues' scoring opportunities in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday at Scottrade Center.

And what makes it even more frustrating for the Blues (35-19-9), who have dropped two straight and now embark on a stretch of nine of 11 games on the road, is both the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars both lost, meaning the Blues blew another chance to pull even with the second-place Blackhawks, who lost 3-1 at home to the suddenly surging -- and the Blues' next opponent -- Nashville Predators and one point behind first-place Stars, who were doubled up at home by the last-place Winnipeg Jets 6-3; the Jets, meanwhile, traded captain Andrew Ladd to the Blackhawks on Thursday night, fortifying Chicago's lineup.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Troy Brouwer (top, right) falls to the ice as he scores the Blues' lone goal
in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Henrik Lundqvist was the Blues' nemesis this time. He became the Rangers' all-time saves leader and first goalie in NHL history to record 30 wins in 10 of his first 11 seasons, and Chris Kreider scored the tie-breaking goal in the third period.

Lundqvist made 35 saves to give him 17,404 saves, surpassing Mike Richter (17,379). Lundqvist also moved into third place in NHL history for seasons with 30 or more wins with his 10th after defeating the Blues. Lundqvist also tied Tom Barrasso for 16th place with his 369th victory.

"You know the names I'm up there with and obviously it's a huge honor," Lundqvist said. "Growing up, those guys were guys I was watching and now I'm up there with wins. To me, it's just a sign of I've been given a chance for a lot of years. This organization, when I came, I've been lucky to play with a lot of good players and been able to have a competitive team every year. I'm really happy about that."

Kreider scored his 12th of the season from the slot at 4:18 of the third period off a backhand pass from Oscar Lindberg. 

"It was a hard work, it was an effort play," Kreider said. "(Lindberg) had a guy on his back basically the entire way up the ice. He got dragged down and is still able to make the play."

The goal came after Lundqvist stopped Scottie Upshall's breakaway attempt and moments after Dmitrij Jaskin had a chance to give the Blues a lead. Lundqvist extended his right leg to make that save.

"I thought he was going to go butterfly on me and I tried to get it up above his pad on the glove side," Upshall said of Lundqvist. "I knew (Ryan) McDonagh was coming down on me. He's a big goalie. He's big in his net, he makes key saves at key times and he made some good stops down the stretch.

"Those are plays in the game that are momentum-changers. For us, I think we carried most of the momentum in the second and in the third. That play ends up being the play of the game. Unfortunately, we're on the other side of that. It [stinks]; it's tough."

The Blues, who out-Corsied the Rangers 67-39, funneled puck after puck towards the Rangers' goalie. Second and third pucks were there to be had, but like many of the Blues' losses this season where they don't give up much but find a way to fritter away two points, getting into those scoring areas in tight, also known as the dirty, greasy areas, was foreign territory.

And the frustration boiled over for Hitchcock, who lamented an ongoing problem for the Blues of not getting enough generated in the dirty areas.

"Their goalie outworked us," Hitchcock said. "Their goalie was more determined than we were. We didn't bear down around the net. We had opportunities around the net and their goalie outworked us.

"... We've got to see a change here. Living on playing well and working hard, we've got to see another gear, a little determination and hunger around the net if we expect to score goals. You're not going to get soft goaltending like we got in a couple games where we scored goals. This is focused teams right now with focused goaltending. We're going to have to be a lot more aggressive."

When asked about it happening often, Hitchcock said, "It's too many times. Too many times ... get opportunities like this, you need people to bear down and be more determined than the guy in the four-by-six."

And when the Blues had multiple scoring opportunities, including a wide open net by Kyle Brodziak on a shorthanded attempt, they couldn't convert. They created many of them and often.

"It doesn't matter, that's bearing down," Hitchcock said. "We didn't bear down. We had an empty net three times in the second period and didn't bear down. You only get so many cracks at it. We had so many cracks after two periods. You've got to ... even with a minute left we had three cracks at it." 

Tanner Glass scored for the Rangers (35-20-6), who have won four of five on the road and conclude a three-game trip Saturday at the Dallas Stars.

"This is a tough building," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "That’s a real strong team there. We got timely saves and we were able to get a couple of goals."

The Blues got a power play goal from Troy Brouwer, and Jake Allen made 21 saves in his first start since Jan. 8.

"We had a lot of chances, popping out rebounds, we just couldn't finish," Allen said. "He's one of the best. I thought we actually played a pretty good game tonight. We just couldn't put it in the net."

"I thought we played a good game to be honest. Some spurts where they hemmed us in our zone, but other than that, I thought we played pretty well. We moved the puck well. Just again, we couldn't finished. We're going to play a lot more great goalies the rest of the year, so we're going to have to bear down."

Glass gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with 6:46 remaining in the first period when he tipped Dan Girardi's right point shot past Allen.

The Blues tied it on a power play when Brouwer was able to deflect in Paul Stastny's shot from the right point with 5:37 remaining in the second period.

The Blues continued to push, but Lundqvist was dialed in.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Rangers forward Chris Kreider (20) leaps against the glass after 
with scoring with the Blues' Kyle Brodziak and Robert Bortuzzo
looking on. 

"He played well," Upshall said of Lundqvist. "He made saves in key parts of the game. He played big in his net. There were rebounds there, but I think collectively, we didn't get to those hard areas enough. There were chances there, but we couldn't put those second ones in."

The Blues lost another key player to injury when center Jori Lehtera was hit in the face with an inadvertent puck and did not return.

It marks the third straight game the Blues have lost a player to injury. Alexander Steen (upper body) departed in the first of Saturday's game at Arizona, and goalie Brian Elliott (lower body) departed also in the first period of Monday's game against San Jose. They join Alex Pietrangelo (knee) and Steve Ott (hamstring) on injured reserve.

(2-25-16) Rangers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It's never a anything a player wants to go through, but sometimes, a kick in the pants in the form of being assigned to the minors can be a good thing in the grand scheme of things.

Such is the case for Dmitrij Jaskin, who will return to the lineup for the Blues (35-18-9) against the New York Rangers (34-20-6) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Jaskin, who was recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League on Sunday, will step into the lineup in the absence of Ryan Reaves, who will begin serving the first of a three-game suspension tonight stemming from a boarding major against San Jose's Matt Tennyson on Monday. 

Jaskin had been a healthy scratch in five straight games prior to being assigned to the Wolves and wasn't surprised.

"I wasn't," Jaskin said. "When you don't play five games, you start thinking about what is going on, what is going to happen. I kind of expected it. I just took it as an opportunity to get better and get my confidence back. That's the attitude I went there with. I think it worked. I think I played some good minutes down there and I enjoyed it. Hopefully I'm going to take it and put it in tonight."

Jaskin went down and played three games with the Wolves and had a goal an an assist.

"He played awfully well down there," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's in a position where he's bigger than a lot of the guys down there, bigger than a lot of the defensemen down there. I think he was able to control the play. 

"I think when you go down there and you don't have to think and you don't have to worry when you're on the fourth line or sometimes on the third line and you're a young player, you're worried about making mistakes or what does the coach think of you and constant evaluation, when you go down there and you're playing 18-20 minutes, you just play and that's what he did, just played and played very well obviously. He got better and better as it went on. We could use him. He's a big, strong guy that's got dynamic skills 1-on-1 down low and we're going to be able to need that here in the next little while."

Jaskin will play with Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall.

"Just play my game and try my best," Jaskin said. "That's all I can do."

- - -

The Blues will turn back to goalie Jake Allen, who will get his first start since injuring his left knee Jan. 8 at the Anaheim Ducks.

Allen has been thrust back into the starter's role after missing six weeks in light of the lower-body injury to Brian Elliott, who is expected to miss at least four weeks.

"I feel good in there. It's been a long six weeks," Allen said. "Some weird stretches of no practices, All-Star break, but over the last couple weeks, I've been working hard to get my game back just to feel comfortable in the net again. I feel like I'm seeing the puck well again. I'm looking forward to tonight."

Hitchcock said as long as Allen is healthy, the net is his.

"The challenge for us is to keep a goalie healthy right now," Hitchcock said. "When you lose players that have had knee injuries, you're just hoping that they're ... we waited as long as we could on Jake, even extended the time so he was 100 percent, but you never know. You never know in this business. 

"We're so grateful we've got two good goalies, but it's one of those things you never know right now. Both guys have really stepped up and been kind of the story of our team that's held this thing together when we've had these injuries. ... There's no silver lining to Elliott going down; there's none."

Asked if he's comfortable playing Allen in all games despite missing six weeks, Hitchcock said, "Yes. Yeah, I'm comfortable doing that, as long as he stays upright. I'm comfortable doing it, yeah."

Allen made a relief appearance for Elliott Monday and allowed two goals on 17 shots.

"It was alright," Allen said. "It's not the ideal way to go in, but you're in the lineup and whenever you're needed to be in, go in. I felt comfortable in there. It was nice to see some big bodies, some game presence."

Getting over the mental hurdle was one of the things Allen, who is 18-11-3 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, had to overcome and he feels like he's been able to do that.

"That was part of the process," Allen said. "I think you have to understand what the whole process is in the big picture, where you want to be and where you started from. I think I knew that would come over time.  That was probably half way through that where you trust yourself and not worry about your body and just get back to yourself. I'm at that point now."

Allen's only other start against the Rangers was earlier this season at Madison Square Garden, and it wasn't a memorable one; he allowed three goals on five shots before being pulled with 5 minutes 22 seconds remaining in the first period.

"It doesn't really matter to me," Allen said when asked about gaining redemption. "Whoever we're playing, my objective is to stop the puck. It's a hockey game and just going out there to do my best tonight."

- - -

With five days remaining until Monday's 2 p.m. (CT) trade deadline, Hitchcock said this is the most trying time for coaches and players.

Coaches are trying to keep players' focus in check with what can be a trying time as players are wondering if they are staying or moving to another team.

The Blues have 20 games remaining.

"I've got to tell you, until trade deadline's over, this is a time where you really have to work your players to keep them focused because there's a lot of things, a lot of debris out there and keeping your team singular focused until next Monday is a real challenge," Hitchcock said. "It's up in their face every day and you've got to really work with your leaders to make sure you're focused on competition and not worried about what's happening either in the rumor mill or in the newspapers or whatever; you've got to really do your job because it's a distracting time for the players and you still need these points. You need to keep playing well. We've got three games left before we're even into that mode. We've got three significant opponents; we've got to keep our focus right now."

With the social media world everyone lives in now, rumors spread faster than a wildfire, and players see all of them through Twitter or any other social media means.

"We had to buy newspapers (in the past)," Hitchcock joked. "That was expensive, especially buying New York papers living in Philadelphia, that's very expensive."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer

Magnus Paajarvi-David Backes-Patrik Berglund

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin

Jay Bouwmeester-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal. Pheonix Copley will be the backup.

Heathy scratches include Ryan Reaves, Ty Rattie and Jordan Schmaltz. Alexander Steen (upper body), Alex Pietrangelo (knee), Brian Elliott (lower body) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured reserve.

- - -

The Rangers' projected lineup:

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello  

J.T. Miller-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast   

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg   

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Marek Hrivik

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi  

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal. Antti Raanta will be the backup.

Dylan McIlrath is expected to be a healthy scratch, although he will play if Hrivik is sick. Rick Nash (bone bruise) is on injured reserve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Allen ready for workload

Blues goalie ready to step back into spot he lost after injury; 
Pietrangelo could play Saturday; Reaves suspended three games

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's never "good" timing when a player goes down to injury.

But for the Blues, who are used to carrying a 1A- and 1B-type goalies on their team for the past five seasons, the luxury of having two guys that can seamlessly step in at a moment's notice is something few, if any, teams can claim.

For the Blues, it's happened twice with their goalies, and for a team to recover from one goalie injury is asking a lot. The Blues are being asked to do it twice, and they feel like they can achieve it.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Jake Allen (right) returned Monday after missing six weeks with a
knee injury. He assumes the role of No. 1 in light of Brian Elliott's injury. 

Brian Elliott's lower-body injury will sideline him for four weeks or more, but when a team has Jake Allen, who was sidelined himself with a left knee injury that gave Elliott a chance to shine in the first place, steps into the spotlight again just in the nick of time.

Allen missed 17 games when he was injured at Anaheim on Jan. 8, and Elliott came in and started 18 straight games and played near-flawless netminding. It kept the Blues (35-18-9) afloat in the standings, and actually thrust them higher in the standings while Allen was sidelined.

"It makes somewhat of a seamless transition," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We're all feeling for Brian; it's a tough break for him, but for the one time, it's fortunate timing with injuries where we get Jake back at the perfect time for him to come in and step in for Brian. He's going to jump into a pretty hard part of the season right now and it might take a couple games for him to get adjusted, but a lot of that falls on our shoulders to play a pretty strong game in front of him and make sure that he gets some comfortable games in and start to build that confidence back up.

"It goes a long way to have two good goalies, not only for one guy to come in a few games into the season and steal some wins for you, but in crucial times like this, you start to realize now with how fast and hard the game is, not many guys make it through the season unscathed. With Brian going down, we're fortunate that we've got Jake back and vice versa when it happened to Jake. We're in a good position and the best part is we know what we get out of both goalies every time. We've seen it for years."

Having two strong goalies is a must today. Look at the Montreal Canadiens; they're a perfect example of a team that's suffered greatly without the injured Carey Price.

"I think that's just the new day and age in the NHL," Allen said. "I think you need two goalies. It doesn't matter who they are, just two goalies that can play and give teams chances to win games. I think that's the biggest thing in the NHL right now. I think you've seen that with the majority of teams. There might be the odd team with one guy that's playing, like a (Henrik) Lundquist or a Price, that's playing 75 games but it's very rare. We're very fortunate to have two guys that can play.

"I think the positioning, the style, the evolution of goaltending. It takes a lot bigger toll on your body than it used to. We're always in weird positions on the post, it's not easy on your body, it takes a toll, and you definitely need that rest. The travel, and the pace of the game, a lot more of a battle out there than people think. Playing in front of guys, 240 pounds in front of the net, 6foot 6, it's not easy to fight and keep your ice. It's definitely taxing on the body. You need two goalies in this league."

It's not often one team can place both of their goalies among the league leaders in statistical categories.

But both Elliott and Allen are right there with the best. 

Elliott is fifth in goals-against average at 2.14; Allen is eighth at 2.18. Elliott is second in save percentage at .929; Allen is tied for ninth at .923.

But coach Ken Hitchcock has been fortunate to not second-guess who goes in when one of either Allen or Elliott have gone down.

"It's where we're at. Another guy up, another guy's turn," Hitchcock said. "It's given is quality time with guys like (Pheonix) Copley and (Jordan) Binnington to get them ready, but at the end of the day, it's 'Ells' and Jake and you'd like the security that one guy's in and one guy's playing and the other guy's getting ready to play. It hasn't been that way so for us, we could have caught a worse break on timing. We're lucky on the timing because this was really six full weeks on Jake. We waited til the last possible meeting to get him ready."

Allen, who is 18-11-3 on the season, will get the bulk of the games down the stretch.

"We don't have a choice right now. He's our guy," Hitchcock said of Allen. "I think the one good thing is that Copley's been up with us before. He's back up with us again. The newness is out. Guys love his competitive level. He's a real trier and I think everybody likes that. He's a guy if he has to play, there's a lot of American (Hockey) League goalies that are in the NHL playing right now that were in the American League either last year or even at the start of this year. If something happens and 'Cop's got to go in, he'll play well."

Allen said he's ready, when with back-to-back games this weekend.

"We've got 20 games left, a chance for me to get back on my feet, get comfortable again, give the guys a chance in the final push," Allen said. "We've set ourselves up great. We've got 20 games to decide our own fate in the division. Even though that's not really the end of the world as long as we get in the playoffs, 20 games to finish on the right note, and that gives us all a chance, including myself, to get back into tiptop shape for the playoffs.

"I felt good (Monday in relief of Elliott). It was just nice to get some game action, some big bodies, meaningful play. In practice it's great, but still not really the same as a game. It was just nice to get my feet wet and tomorrow will be another chance for me to get back out there and feel comfortable again. It will take a few games. ... I played the majority of the games all year until I got hurt. I'm ready to go. It's not like this is the start of the season and I haven't played a game all year. It might take me a game or so to get back into it, but no excuses for me. I'm 30-odd games into the season, third NHL season, I'm ready to go and face the challenge and these guys will help me out."

* NOTES -- Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was a participant in practice on Wednesday and took part in all drills without restriction.

Pietrangelo, who's missed seven games with a right knee injury, could play as early as Saturday at Nashville; he will not play Thursday when the Blues host the New York Rangers.

"He just looks normal. He looks normal," Hitchcock said of Pietrangelo. "This is really the first full practice for him, so he's going to get another good one tomorrow, he's going to get another good one on Friday and we'll make an evaluation for Saturday afternoon.

"He's a full go at practice today. We won't play him tomorrow and we'll see for the weekend here."

* Right wing Ryan Reaves was suspended by the Department of Player Safety for three games Wednesday in the wake of a major boarding penalty on San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Tennyson on Monday.

Reaves was given a five-minute boarding penalty and game-misconduct in the first period. He will miss Thursday's game and games Saturday at Nashville and Sunday at Carolina. Reaves, who will forfeit $18,145.17, and the money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund, is eligible to return Tuesday at Ottawa.

In the meantime, it appears that Dmitrij Jaskin will play on the fourth line in Reaves' spot Thursday.

"It's a concern because it's a concern for him financially, because it's a big hit, it's a concern because he's a big part of our team, so yeah, there's lots of concern," Hitchcock said before the verdict was handed down. "I think one thing that really worked in our favor, Jaskin went down, played three games, played huge minutes down there and he's absolutely flying right now looking for a chance and (Ty) Rattie's the same way. There's two guys really chomping at the bit. They want in. Watching 'Jask' at practice today, he was excited to get a chance to play. Hopefully Ryan doesn't get dinged up too much here and we're able to get him back in right away."

* Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, recalled from Chicago of the AHL on Sunday, may not make his NHL debut in his first recall from the minors, but the Blues noticed enough of his play to get him to St. Louis and observe how far he's come.

"He's a real skater," Hitchcock said of Schmaltz. "His mobility's ... oof. He gets up the ice. We only get training camp with him, but jeez, when you see his mobility here at practice, he can really skate. The one drill there, he had to put the brakes on because he was by every forward on that 2-on-1 drill; he was by everybody. I think when you get a look at him during a hockey practice where it's just the NHL players, you find out how mobile he is. I couldn't believe how fast he was."