Top-line center iceman injured Tuesday at Colorado, will miss at least a week;
Barbashev, Sanford, Paajarvi, others will be pressed into more prominent roles
ST. LOUIS -- During their hot stretch of wins of late, the Blues have relied plenty on a younger core of players, who have certainly made an impact in helping St. Louis win eight of the past nine.
Those younger kids will get even more so now after the team announced on Wednesday that top-line center Paul Stastny will miss at least a week, if not more, with a lower-body injury sustained in a 4-2 win at the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
Stastny, who has 18 goals and 22 assists on the season, was hit on the back/side of the right foot/ankle by a Vladimir Tarasenko wrist shot with roughly seven and a half minutes left in the first period; he left the game shortly thereafter.
Stastny has already missed four games this season with a lower-body injury sustained Feb. 2 at Toronto.
Coach Mike Yeo said after the game this latest injury was not related to being hit with the shot but rather a "tweak" of a previous injury unrelated to the shot and that he expected Stastny to be ready for Thursday's start to a three-game homestand against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Blues have only one healthy forward (Nail Yakupov), and the status of both Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) and Jori Lehtera (upper body) remain unknown.
Jaskin has been skating, but Lehtera did not accompny the team on its five-game trip.
But with Stastny out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, the likes of Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford and even a seasoned pro like Magnus Paajarvi, players who weren't even on the radar earlier in the season, will have to continue to play prominent roles, especially Barbashev down the middle.
"These guys are coming in and they're trying to make a difference," Yeo said. "They're not trying to play safe, they're not trying to just get through the game. They're coming in here with the purpose of showing that they belong in the NHL. Regardless of the opponent or where we're playing, they're impacting games and so that's a great culture thing that we have here where these young players can come in and really try to show what they have."
Paajarvi scored a goal to put the Blues ahead in the third on Tuesday, Sanford had a strong all-around game with two assists and Barbashev helped create the go-ahead goal that put the Blues up 2-1 in the third.
"They're getting an opportunity," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of the younger players. "Any time you give someone an opportunity, they're going to try and make an impact, and they know that right now. They're going to want to play as much ad they can, too, to stay in the lineup and a lot of times, that drives guys. We're going to need them moving forward because injuries happen and you need that depth. We're lucky to have guys like that because it brings a little extra energy. Anytime you see some of the young guys come in, it gives you a little extra boost and gets you excited."
Sanford played arguably his best game in a Blues uniform since being acquired on Feb. 27 from the Washington Capitals for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
"It's always good to be able to contribute a little bit," said Sanford, who has a goal and two assists in four games with the Blues. "It helps with the confidence. But more importantly, to get a win like this on the road to finish out the road trip, it's huge for us."
Yeo was so impressed with Sanford's game Tuesday, he had him on the ice in a late-game situation of a one-goal game and Colorado playing with a sixth attacker.
"He had a really strong game," Yeo said. "Not unlike all the young players and what they've been doing every game, he's gaining confidence from us as a coaching staff and you see him out there with the goalie pulled at the end of the game and he's showing that he's a responsible player, he's showing he's got some poise when the heat's on and obviously he's got good skill-set to go along with all those things."
And now with Stastny going to miss time, it's imperative that the young guns and recalls continue to fill voids.
"We're taking advantage of the situation and trying to help the team win," Paajarvi said. "Having depth on this team has bee a huge plus for us, and when we're able to contribute, it only helps raise the confidence level.
"I know I've been confident and comfortable with my game and we can all hope that we can continue to contribute to victories as move forward here."