Saturday, September 30, 2017

Upshall back in St. Louis

Veteran forward back on PTO, hasn't signed contract yet, hopes 
to soon; Blues, Capitals wrap up preseason with Sunday afternoon tilt

ST. LOUIS -- Scottie Upshall was back on the ice Saturday on familar ground.

Upshall, who played for the Blues the past two seasons, was back after passing a physical and signing a professional tryout (PTO).

Upshall, who will turn 34 on Oct. 7, was with the Vancouver Canucks on a PTO when he was abruptly scratched from a preseason game Thursday against the Calgary Flames.

With the Blues dealing with injuries to Robby Fabbri (out for the season after reinjuring his left knee), Alexander Steen (hand), Zach Sanford (out 5-6 months with a dislocated left shoulder) and Patrik Berglund (out until December with a dislocated left shoulder), the Blues are a little thinner on experienced forwards and turned back to a familiar face.

Upshall, who was wearing No. 9 (he's worn No. 10 the previous two seasons but it's occupied by Brayden Schenn), hasn't signed a contract yet but was hopeful of doing so soon.

"It's nice to be back in a nice, new dressing room," Upshall, who had 10 goals and eight assists in 73 regular-season games last season, said. "As far as I know, I was in the lineup (Thursday), I was preparing and just got a call from my agent saying that St. Louis had reached out and was interested in talking. That just kind of made things unfold. 'Army' (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) had me in today for a physical. I signed a PTO here this morning so I can practice and we hopefully work something out in the next day or two."

Upshall was skating on a line with Klim Kostin, Wade Megan and Chris Thorburn.

"Obviously we know 'Uppy' well," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "His teammates were excited to see him today, coaching staff, we were excited to see him today to have him out on the ice with us. We definitely know what 'Uppy' can bring to our group.

"It's not like we're dealing with a younger player or player coming from another organization that we don't have that familiarity with. He's a player that brought a lot to us as far as the role that he brings, his personality with the group, the way he fits with the culture around here. It's good to have him back."

Upshall was having a good camp with the Canucks and felt there could be something in the making as far as a contract there. But once the call came from the Blues, it was an easy decision.

"They were pretty optimistic," Upshall said of the Canucks. "They just at the time couldn't really guarantee me anything. It looked more positive on this end. Being familiar with this group of guys, the transition back would have been really easy. Vancouver was great, it was a great experience. Terrific organization giving me an opportunity to play, so I thank them for that. Great guys, but no, I'm excited for this opportunity that lies ahead and helping this group get to the next level."

Upshall's potential signing, expected to be a one-year contract, could indicate that the Blues aren't quite comfortable using some of their young draft picks just yet, feeling that Kostin and Tage Thompson aren't quite ready for the big show just yet.

"No, I wouldn't say that," Yeo said. "When we came into the season, obviously we talked about our depth and then part of that depth is out for the year or close to it. There's two guys (Fabbri and Sanford) that are gone now. I think that things change in there and you need that depth for situations like this, but it's going to get tested again later on during the season. It's a different role that 'Uppy' plays than what you would have a skilled player play. He's going to bring physicality, he's going to bring speed, and he's going to obviously bring penalty killing. If you believe that things are going to be called the way that they have been in preseason, special teams are going to be a very, very important part to the start of this season to being successful as a group."

But the thought of going into a season with multiple young players with little to no experience could have put the Blues in a tough spot.

"That's tough," Yeo said. "You're not going to see too many playoff teams with four or five guys who have never played in the league before. We haven't made any decisions here yet. All those guys are going to get into the game tomorrow. Another chance for them to show what they can do, but it's easy to look at some of the success they've had, we haven't publicized some of the things that haven't gone well. Fact of the matter is the league is going to get better. Things are going to pick up next week when we go into Pittsburgh. It's going to be a new level that most of these players haven't seen."

Upshall has been down this PTO road before; he was in on one with the Blues in 2015 when he earned a contract. 

"It's a grind, it's a mental grind for sure, but you know it's part of the game and part of you know what you sign up for when you lace them up," Upshall said. "I wish it would have ended up a lot smoother to end up in this dressing room again, but you know, I'm happy and I'm healthy to still can play. I felt great all summer. I felt like I was confident I could do in and make an NHL team. It was just a matter of how the cards fall."

The sides talked during the summer about a potential contract then but nothing materialized, and Upshall was ready to move on.

"We had spoke over the summer early before the expansion draft," Upshall said. "It didn't seem like it was gonna work, so I was kind of prepared mentally to go somewhere else, but this is just a very unfortunate situation with our injuries that we've had here losing key players, key young players is tough. It's nice to be able to come in and provide some depth and experience in the lineup and help out. I feel like I haven't missed a step here as far as getting going with this group."

As far as perhaps getting his old No. 10 back ... "[Schenn] kind of mentioned it," Upshall said of his former Philadelphia Flyers teammate. "It's not really a huge, big deal. It was brought up, but it's more like a laughing thing right now. I like No. 9 (wore it in Philadelphia)."

- - -

The Blues (3-4-0) will wrap up their preseason schedule at Scottrade Center against the Washington Capitals on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Here is their game lineup:

Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Thorburn, Paul Stastny, Kyle Brodziak, Tage Thompson, Klim Kostin, Magnus Paajarvi, Wade Megan, Samuel Blais, Oskar Sundqvist, Vladimir Sobotka, Vladimir Tarasenko, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo, Nate Prosser, Robert Bortuzzo, Jake Walman, Colton Parayko, Jake Allen and Carter Hutton.

Allen is expected to start and play all 60 minutes. Upshall will not play. 

The Capitals' lineup includes:

Alex Ovechkin, Brett Connolly, Jakub Vrana, Anthony Peluso, Chandler Stephenson, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller, Devante Smith-Pelly, Alex Chiasson, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie, Nathan Walker, Jay Beagle, Tyler Graovac, Evgeny Kuznetzov, Taylor Chorney, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Brooks Orpik, Aaron Ness, John Carlson, Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Thomas signs entry-level contract; three assigned to 
AHL; Tarasenko to throw out first pitch at Cardinals game

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues signed 2017 first-round pick (No. 20 overall) Robert Thomas to a three-year entry-level contract. 

Thomas, 18, has played in four preseason games for the Blues this season, scoring two goals. One of the goals was a game-winner.

Thomas spent last season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 16 goals and 50 assists (66 points) in 66 games.

* Bennett, Lindbohm, Butler assigned to AHL -- Forward Beau Bennett and defensemen Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm, all placed on waivers Thursday, cleared and assigned to the American Hockey League.

Bennett and Lindbohm were each assigned to the Chicago Wolves, while Butler was assigned to the San Antonio Rampage. 

* Blues night at Busch Stadium --  Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers game on Friday at 7:15 p.m.

Friday’s game marks the third consecutive season the Cardinals will team up with the Blues to help kick off hockey season with 'St. Louis Blues Night' at Busch Stadium. Cardinals players will be wearing Blues-themed jerseys during batting practice and Blues players will be recognized on the field prior to the start of the game.

Former Blues Jeff Brown, Garry Unger and Cam Janssen will sign autographs for fans beginning at 5:45 p.m. in Riverview Corner on the fourth level of Busch Stadium. The first 300 fans in line will receive tickets to guarantee an autograph. Fans can also enjoy a pregame concert from the Charles Glenn Group in Riverview Corner from 5:45-6:45 p.m.

Other Blues players scheduled to attend Friday’s game include Barbashev, Jordan Binnington, Blais, Robert Bortuzzo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kyle Brodziak, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, Carter Hutton, Sanford, Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, and Alexander Steen.

30,000 ticketed fans, ages 16 and older, will take home an adult replica Blues batting practice jersey courtesy of FOX Sports Midwest.  Fans who purchase the special Blues Night Theme Ticket will also receive an exclusive Cardinals/Blues-themed stocking cap.

What do Blues do now that Fabbri done for season

Does St. Louis fill void from within or go 
outside organization through free agency, trade

ST. LOUIS -- OK, what now?

That's the looming question of the day for the Blues, who announced that forward Robby Fabbri reinjured that surgically-repaired left knee during training camp and will now miss the 2017-18 season with that torn ACL. 

Fabbri, 21, who has 29 goals and 37 assists in less than two NHL seasons, was injured on Feb. 4 last season, had surgery in Chicago performed by Dr. Richard Bach on Feb. 28, was cleared by Dr. Bach for hockey-related activities on July 31 and resumed skating, to which he participated in informal skates before being declared ready for training camp.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong (left) and forward Robby Fabbri
at the podium announcing Fabbri's season-ending knee injury Thursday.

But in a matter of one week, Fabbri's return to the lineup included one preseason game against Washington on Friday and that's it. 

The Blues initially shut Fabbri down the remainder of the preseason last Sunday and said he'd be re-evaluated in 10 days. But after an MRI, it was confirmed by Blues doctors that a tear had reoccurred and confirmed by Dr. Bach.

"These last couple days have been very difficult and pretty emotional for me and my family after finding out my season was over," Fabbri said in a prepared statement which he read at a press conference on Thursday. "I worked really hard with the training staff since the surgery to rehab my knee and be ready for camp. I really felt good and was excited to get out there on the ice with the guys again and feel part of the team. I knew my injury that there was a three percent chance of it happening again and unfortunately, I fell in that three percent. My teammates and coaches and management have been supportive during this tough time and I thank them for that. There's nothing I can do now but try and stay positive, be supportive for the guys for this season and get ready for next season. I won't be answering any questions until after surgery."

What the Blues, who open the season Oct. 4 in Pittsburgh, have to figure out is who replaces Fabbri and how they go about doing that?

Will it come from within? Will it come from outside the organization via trade or free agency signing?

The Blues will entertain all options, according to general manager Doug Armstrong. It's a decision that the team will have to make rather soon.

"We're exploring all options right now," Armstrong said before the Blues departed for Kansas City for a "home" preseason game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. "Really excited about our younger players and what they've accomplished now. But going over the players that we have here on our roster here today, we have [Samuel] Blais and Tage [Thompson] and [Klim] Kostin that have played zero NHL games and we have [Ivan] Barbashev and [Oskar] Sundqvist that have played limited NHL games up front and we have [Jake] Walman and [Vince] Dunn on the backend that have played zero NHL games. 

"We're five players out. Four experienced, one not as experienced in [Zach] Sanford. When I put my vision on July 1st, we've lost a third of our top nine and also a third of our top 12 with Sanford's injury. We've sustained some injuries, but we have to find a way to overcome it. That's sports and we have to find a way to overcome it. We're going to count on these young players. I don't want to say it's a concern, but it's the next injury that ... when they start to multiply, it's, 'Where is our next depth after that?' We're not going to make a bad trade, we're not going to overpay to do something, but we do have to explore different avenues."

Free agent right wing Jaromir Jagr has become an option for the Blues, who along with Fabbri are currently without injured forwards Alexander Steen (hand), Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and Sanford (shoulder). Berglund isn't expected back until December and Sanford, who had surgery on Tuesday on a dislocated left shoulder, is out 5-6 months. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) and Steen are expected to be out through the first week of the regular season.

Fabbri, who the Blues were hoping to get 4-5 preseason games out of, was initially supposed to play in the exhibition opener at Dallas on Sept. 19. But after taking part in the morning practice that day, Fabbri was held out of the game as a precaution. 

Coach Mike Yeo spoke the day after the Dallas game of some natural swelling and perhaps scar tissue discomfort. But Armstrong laid out the details of how things got to where they shut Fabbri down for the season.

"During practice on Monday (Sept. 18), they were doing a 2-on-2 drill, Robby felt a little discomfort," Armstrong said. "He reported that to the trainers, then we had a break in that session. Robby felt good, talked to the trainers, said he wanted to go back out. He went back out and finished that practice. There was a little bit of swelling that evening, so we took Robby out of that game, wanted to take a look and see what was going on there. The swelling decreased the next day, the range of motion came back to where it was at prior to that. So we progressed by allowing Robby to practice and play in that Washington game. After the Washington game, Robby felt fine again. You can't replicate a game situation in practice. Robby played 19 minutes and change that night and he felt good, had a little bit of swelling in the knee. As that night progressed, the swelling increased, which got our medical staff's attention. That gets us to Sunday morning. We did an MRI Sunday morning, I got the information about 11:30 a.m. that our doctors felt they saw the tear in the ACL. We then sent that MRI to Dr. Bach, put Robby on a plane on Monday, he went to see Dr. Bach in Chicago. Dr. Bach confirmed to our medical staff what our medical staff saw. That was Monday. Then we took Tuesday to get our arms around everything and Wednesday and we're here today."


"We skated together in the summer in Toronto," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "He trained with me. I'm not a doctor, so I'm not going to say what happened, but he just put in a lot of effort this summer; I saw it firsthand. It's tough to have that happen if you put in that much work.

"It's the next man up, but we lost a lot more guys than we were expecting at this time of the year. These young kids have impressed, up front and on the backend. This is the reason you have depth, this is the reason you draft well. We're going to expect a lot from these young guys, but even more from us veteran guys who are going to have to eat up a lot of more of those minutes."

"You never want to hear that news for anyone," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "People expected big things from him this year and obviously a top pick for the Blues. Obviously tough for the team losing a guy like that, but at the end of the day, it's an opportunity for other guys to step up and fill a big hole that he would have contributed (to)."

Now Yeo has to find, unless given other tools, someone within the team to hopefully fill the void.

"I had very high expectations for Robby coming into the season," Yeo said. "... Obviously his speed and his skill is obviously going to be missed but now we have to ... I kidded around with him, I guess he just doesn't want to play with me. He played one game last year and he doesn't want to play in any this year. We're going to have to find a way to get around this.  

"As a coach, you obviously turn towards your team and you think about that and what that means for our group, but for me right now, obviously I feel terrible for Robby. He's a great player and a he's a kid that brings a lot of life and energy to the rink every day and loves to play the game. To have that taken from him this year after going through what he did, that is disappointing. We'll do everything that we can from our staff's standpoint. As coaches, we'll try to keep him engaged and try to keep him involved. It won't necessarily an every day thing, but we'll try to keep his head in the game here.

"There's times where you feel a little something and then you get ressured that it's just scar tissue or it's just part of the process. It's disappointing to him and it's certainly shocking, but I feel very confident that everybody took the right steps here. Just a real unfortunate thing that happened."

Armstrong said the expectation is for Fabbri to have the surgery within the first two weeks of October and it will be performed by Dr. Bach again.

"Dr. Bach, who performed the original surgery, has seen Robby. He saw him last Monday. Robby's comfortable that Dr. Bach will perform the second surgery," Armstrong said. "The timeline for this now is to hopefully have it done within the first couple weeks of October. That's just preparing the knee for surgery. That's not a definite date, but we think we should have it done within the first two weeks of October. The timeline for recovery is ... we're hoping and believing he'll be ready for next training camp. We're not expecting him at all this year, regardless of how deep we go ... make the playoffs, first of all, you've got to do that, and regardless of how deep we go, Robby's season is complete.

"I think in a situation like this, everyone is looking for a villain. Everyone is looking for why it happened. Unfortunately, this is an ice hockey injury. Robby is in that uncomfortable three percent of players that have had a recurrence of this injury.

"I think as he was skating in competition, there was more wear and tear from the leisure skate by yourself to getting into summer hockey with the players to get into practice to get into games. There's obviously progression on that. ... I think there was no nerve endings basically on that area because it was obviously a harvested portion for his ACL. There would be no nerve endings where you could like feel anything like you could originally. I think there was one instant, I don't remember when it was, I'm thinking it might have been that Monday practice, but when the swelling went down, the range of motion came back and there was no pain, we felt it could have just been scar tissue."

It wasn't.

"What we have to do now is focus on the positive and that he is only 21 years old, the world-renowned doctor is going to perform the surgery," Armstrong said. "[Fabbri] understands the importance of rehab having now been through that part once and he's now going to have to go in and he's going to have laser focus on preparing for next season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Will 2014 sixth-round pick Samuel Blais (64) get a chance at cracking Blues
lineup in light of Fabbri injury? 

"My understanding is that he's going to get the patella tendon harvested from the good knee now to go into the surgery here on the injured knee. There's a hope of a full recovery, but the reality is the more surgeries you have, things can go wrong. Again, I'm no doctor but I've been told by our training staff and by our doctors that they expect a full recovery."

Meanwhile, can Armstrong find an 18-20 goal player so close to the season? Maybe, maybe not. Something will have to give between now and Oct. 4. 

"It's going to be have to be from a trade to get that, but I think we're going to have to score by committee," Armstrong said. "We're going to have to look at if Blais makes the team, if Thompson makes the team, Barbashev makes the team, if Sundqvist makes the team, some of these guys are going to have to produce offense. We're going to need offense throughout that lineup. Losing Robby's offense, losing Berglund's offense for the first part of the year, it's something that we're going to have to deal with and overcome. ... We have to overcome this."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blues trim roster by 11

Camp roster down to 32 players including six injured; Blais, Dunn, 
Walman, Thompson, Kostin among remaining prospects; Bennett waived

ST. LOUIS -- Each of Samuel Blais, Jake Walman, Vince Dunn, Tage Thompson and Klim Kostin has smiles inside the Blues locker room but they were guarded ones.

All five were on the ice Wednesday when the Blues were down to one practice group after making 11 cuts to get the roster down to 32 camp players (26 minus six injured players).
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Vince Dunn (29) survived the group of cuts the Blues made on
Wednesday, reducing the camp roster down to 32.

Among the cuts, forwards Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia) and Robert Thomas (London) were sent to their respective junior clubs, forwards Conner Bleackley and Mackenzie MacEachern were sent to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, forward Adam Musil, defensemen Jordan Schmaltz and Thomas Vannelli and goalie Ville Husso went to San Antonio of the AHL and forward Beau Bennett and defensemen Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm were placed on waivers.

That left -- for the time being -- the young fivesome on the main camp roster, and although there will be three more cuts to be made (two once the Blues know where to place goalie Jordan Binnington), and depending on what the status will be for injured Alexander Steen (hand), Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) and Robby Fabbri (knee), one or more could be on the opening night roster Oct. 4 in Pittsburgh.

"The chance to still be here has to be earned and I would say that the guys that have done that," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "That's not to take anything way from the guys that still aren't here. Some of those guys, the meetings and how we let them know were still very, very positive. We're very pleased with some of the things that we've seen from some of our young players, some of the progress that we've seen. We feel that they're not ready yet but we feel that they're very much on the right track and this was a good step for them.

"For the guys that are still here, obviously not all of them will be a couple days from now, we'll see how the game goes tomorrow. We've got a handful of them in the game tomorrow and we'll be ready to make some more decisions after that."

The Blues have two more preseason games remaining, and if they lump guys like Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev and Wade Megan into the mix, it's a chance to get a look at them as teams play more of their regular rosters. This is what the Blues will do on Thursday in Kansas City when they play the Minnesota Wild.

"These last two games, I'm kind of excited to that we're getting closer to our group," Yeo said. "The Pittsburgh game was closer to our group and you know the season's right around the corner, the players feel that, too. I feel we had a really good practice today and it's fun knowing that we're getting closer here."

Here were the lines the Blues ran Wednesday in practice:

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka-Brayden Schenn-Samuel Blais

Klim Kostin-Ivan Barbashev-Dmitrij Jaskin

Wade Megan-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn

Magnus Paajarvi-Oskar Sundqvist-Tage Thompson

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Vince Dunn-Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Walman-Nate Prosser

For Blais, it's a continuation and reward for how well the 2014 sixth-round pick has performed; he has three goals and one assist in four games.

"It's a good feeling for sure, but I think the work is not done," Blais said. "I still have got to prove that I can play here. I think that's what I'm going to try to do the next few days. 

"They told me I've done a pretty good job, but I have to keep improving on those little details in the defensive zone and I think if I do that, I think I'll get my chance."

Dunn, a second-round pick in 2015 who has improved as camp has progressed and played a team-high five games along with Blais, has played with Parayko in two preseason games.

"It's cut-throat time," Dunn said. "I've just got to make sure I'm dialed in at all times. ... I've got the same attitude as when I came in here. I'm not trying to put any more pressure on myself, especially now that it's go out and play my best hockey. Try not to do too much and be as reliable as I can while I'm on the ice."

Thompson, a 2016 first-round pick, scored his first goal of the preseason Tuesday and well-deserved considering his hard work throughout camp in four games.

"Obviously there's nothing really that I can control with their decisions," Thompson said. "My focus is to just play hard and come to the rink every day with the same attitude. Not too much worry last night. Whatever they have planned for me is obviously in my best interests. I'm just trying to come each day and trying to earn a spot.

"I was getting more confident in each game."

Walman, a 2014 third-round pick, has played a team-high 22:58 per game in four games. The Blues have used him extensively, and although there have been ups and downs, he's still around for the final go-round.

"It's good to be here," Walman said. "It's where I want to be obviously, but with that being said, there's still work to do. I'm here because I'm here to get looked at, I want them to notice me. Anything I can really do to help the team going forward is hat I plan to do. I had a good talk with coach today. He was just telling me about the little things and stuff in the defensive zone is the stuff that's going to help me out. That's what I'm going to work on."

Walman said the amount of minutes has had its benefits and challenging times.

"It's a bit of both," he said. "It's obviously taxing to play that much, but if you're getting put out there for key situations, that's how you get your minutes. I'm happy about it. It's a good way to show my stuff, but I hope the coaches have trust in me to put me out there for that long. It's fun, I love to to play the game as much as I can get out there and make a difference, which is what I'm trying to do."

Kostin, the 31st pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, has two goals in four games and shows the penchant for the goal and can sprinkle in the physicality.

"I would say that he’s shown growth and he’s had moments," Yeo said of the 6-foot-3, 196-pound winger. "He’s had some really great moments. You look at the goals that he’s scored. Physically, I don’t think any of us were expecting us to have the hit that he had and then drop the gloves the way that he did the other night. And he’s also showing us that there’s more growth that needs to take place here. Not unlike all of them, we’re just kind of monitoring his progress and we’ll see where it goes."

Asked if he's grasped the North American game yet, Yeo said, "Not yet, but that’s a pretty hard thing to ask a player to do in a week."

Just because these kids have stuck around, it doesn't mean the Blues will coddle them. But it's a chance to try to break through the door at the finish line.

"I try to be very open with them," Yeo said. "I'm not babying them, that's for sure. I think it's important that I'm challenging them and talk to them about the areas that could prevent them from being on our team. I'd like to think that I've done that with these kids. I think it's very important that you point out the good things that they've done and have them understand why they're still here, but there are some areas that we need to see some growth and in some cases, we've seen it. In some cases, we haven't seen it quick enough. I think that every player that we would consider that is still trying out for for a spot, has a good sense of what they need to do whether they're in the game or not.

"Obviously we've got a couple of injuries and that's sort of changed the dynamic of how we're approaching things. Originally, I had figured that our last two games, we would be down to sort of our final group. I would say that we've got at least four or five decision-related people in the lineup tomorrow. Obviously Sunday, that will be very close, to if not, our lineup that we'll go to Pittsburgh with. This is the process and I'm happy with how it's gone. I'm happy with the competition that we've had. This has been a big storyline obviously for our training camp, even heading into training camp. I think that we're happy where we're at."

Bennett, 25, was signed as a free agent on July 1, a one-year, one-way contract for $650,000. The Blues haven't given up on the injury-prone winger but in three preseason games, Bennett didn't show enough to last through the first big cut day.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues' 2017 first-round pick Robert Thomas (left) was among the 11 players
the team cut on Wednesday. Thomas was returned to London of the OHL.

"I can’t give you the answer for that, but I would agree with that assessment," Yeo said of Bennett. "I think that the opportunity was there, the games where there. For whatever reason, I don’t think that he did enough to separate himself. Now he’s on waivers, we’ll see how that goes, and if he clears waivers, things always reset and you need to call up players. The message is pretty simple: if you do get picked up, congratulations, and if you don’t, make sure you’re the best player when the time comes."

The last few roster decisions will obviously come down to who can A) continue to thrive when the temperature rises, and B) the status of injured players becomes more clear. Whatever looms, the regular season starts in one week.

"For me, it's exciting and that's what you want, I think that's what your players need," Yeo said. "I think that's good for your culture when you get what you deserve as opposed to having a sense of entitlement. I haven't felt that from our veteran players. I don't think that anybody's come in here just with the idea that their spot is there and they don't have to put the work in. I think that our leaders have set a good example. I think that there were some guys that knew there was competition and stepped up their game, and some of these young kids have done a nice job of pushing and separating themselves from obviously the group that's not here. It's been a good camp and I like that mentality. I think that it should be a situation where you get what you deserve."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Young Blues falter in final audition with 5-2 loss to Blue Jackets

Blais, Thompson score, Allen faces 40 shots in defeat; fringe 
players don't make case as cuts expected Tuesday morning 

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final audition for the baby Blues was Tuesday night in Columbus, with players getting one final crack at leaving a lasting impression to show what they've got in hopes of being on the opening-night 23-man roster.

A first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets left little to be desired, but the Blues got better as the game moved along before falling 5-2 at Nationwide Arena.

Once again, Samuel Blais put his best foot forward to be among those that make the team; he scored, as did Tage Thompson. Wade Megan had another solid game and was another who has given coaches something to think about, which leaves coach Mike Yeo something to think about before cuts are made Tuesday and the Blues (3-3-0 in the preseason) get down to one practice group from here on out.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen faced 40 shots, stopping 35 of them, in a 5-2 loss
Tuesday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets in preseason action.

"There were some good moments," Yeo said. "Those three showed some of those moments tonight. I think they probably factored into the offensive chances that we had even with some of our older players. That's a good sign there."

But the bottom line, the Blues were not sharp. Whether it was nerves or not, it was telling to coaches wanting to get a last look at some guys and maybe got their answers.

"It looked like maybe there were some nerves," Yeo said. "We looked very hesitant, on our heels. I thought second period started to get going a little bit, but a lot of what I would consider young mistakes tonight, some decisions with the puck and some play without the puck that wasn't good enough for this level."

The first period was not one the Blues would call one of their best this preseason. They fell behind 3-0 and allowed 17 shots, did very little with the power play and left goalie Jake Allen, who faced 40 shots, hanging at times despite the Blues' goalie allowing a goal trying a clearing attempt that was intercepted by Markus Hannikainen for the second goal.

Allen got in another big workload, making 35 saves after stopping 34 of 38 in a loss to Dallas on Saturday.

"The last two games, been getting some shots," Allen said. "Scores are a little crazy right now, but besides thinking I'm Bobby Orr back there, I've honestly felt good.

"The next two games, we'll be more team-like. We'll be more of our full roster, more structurally knowing what's going on. Some of these guys are trying to make an impression, trying to make a stamp here. That's what their goal is to do. Next two games, I'm sure we'll play with our full lineup and get back into systems we're all used to, especially myself and get going again."

Yeo wasn't too thrilled to see Allen get such a workload.

"It was a poor game with and without the puck in a lot of areas," he said. "Obviously it's an inexperienced group that we have." 

Allen will be the opening night starter in Pittsburgh on Oct. 4, and while he was trying to help those trying to make the roster, there were different goals in mind.

"For me and for them, it's a little different scenario, you could say," Allen said. "I'm just trying to be sharp, get some action, get some work, almost get the conditioning. There's a lot of penalties in these exhibition games right now. At this rate, it's probably going to be like that in the regular season."

Blais, who scored a pretty backhand goal to put the Blues on the board in the second period, has three goals and one assist in five preseason games and seems to have planted himself into the conversation of making the squad.

"I tried my best and I think I gave it everything I have," Blais, a 2014 sixth-round pick, said. "If I stay, I just got to keep going like that and if not, I've just got to keep improving and show them that I can play in this league.

"Offensively, for sure, I think I produce and I was making things happen on the ice. Defensively, I was trying my best to improve and I think I did pretty well. Now I've just got to keep going. Tomorrow's another day and I've just got to keep playing the same way."

Thompson scored his first of the preseason in the second to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2 and it was a culmination of a good camp for Thompson, who earned his goal with his play.

"We just started to try to play as opposed to watching," Yeo said of the second period. "You can't be hesitant, you can't be reactive in this league. You've got to go out there and try to make stuff happen. It's one thing to try and not make mistakes, it's another thing to try and make a difference. It's a fine line and that's what you have to learn and that's what experience brings. When the door is open, you have to try an take advantage of that and make something happen. We've seen some guys do that. When it's not, you have to try and manage the puck the right way and put it in places where you can get it back. Those are learning moments."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) battles Blue Jackets center John Mitchell
for battle of the puck in preseason action Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.

Now comes the part where the Blues whittle their roster down to a reasonable number where they work as one group. Cuts will come either late Monday night or Tuesday morning, but the organization is pleased with the progress some of these prospects have gotten in these few weeks of camp.

"We've been trying to use all of training camp," Yeo said. "What you see is the level gets harder. This is what we've talked about. Some guys are able to keep up and some guys start to drop off a little bit. We've got a lot of really good, young players here and a lot of guys that we are really confident that they are going to play in the league. It's one thing to do it now, it's another thing to see that you still have some development left and that's what we're trying to process through right now.

"It's getting close to decision time here."

(9-26-17) Blues-Blue Jackets Lineup

Megan making strong attempt to cracking Blues roster 
for opening night; lineups for Blues and Blue Jackets tonight

ST. LOUIS -- It was a perfect hockey life for Wade Megan.

The center iceman was playing collegiate for the hockey-rich Boston University program from 2009-13; he entered the program a year after the Terriers won the NCAA championship and was playing with former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

And Megan, 27, was selected by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Draft, so life was grand.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Center Wade Megan is making an attempt of cracking the opening night
lineup for the Blues.

But cracking an NHL lineup has been a challenge, to say the least, for the Canton, N.Y. native. 

Since 2012, Megan has toiled in the minors playing in the American Hockey League, first for the San Antonio Rampage, then the Portland Pirates and last season, Chicago Wolves. In between were two seasons of stints in the ECHL playing for the Cincinnati Cyclones. It's been five seasons of prodding and prying, searching for any opportunity to make an NHL roster.

But a call came from the Blues, and Megan, signed as a free agent on July 2, 2016, gave it a shot in the St. Louis organization, and now in his second training camp with the Blues and the Blues dealing with injuries to key forwards (Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund, Robby Fabbri and Zach Sanford), Megan has thrown his hat into the mix for a spot on the opening night roster.

"It's solid," Megan said of his camp. "I'm just trying to compete every day. Obviously with the players that are around here, it's a competitive environment, so I'm just trying to be ready and compete every day."

And with Megan, who broke out with 33 goals and 33 assists in 73 games with the Wolves last season, sticking to his instincts and continuing his determination and not giving up are what keeps him going.

It helps when the Blues finally gave Megan a chance in the NHL; he debuted on Dec. 22, 2016 when Paul Stastny could not play that night against the Tampa Bay Lightning and scored his first NHL goal.

"That's how I've tried to handle my career," Megan said. "You've just got to go every day and you just kind of reset and do the best you can every day. Whatever happens will happen.

"Obviously this is where I want to be. I'm just going to continue to work hard and try to stay here."

Blues coach Mike Yeo sees that determination, who has used Megan in three preseason games and has come away with good marks on him each time. Megan has three assists in the preseason.

"I had a nice little chat with him two days ago that basically he put himself on the map," Yeo said on Monday. "... He came up for us and gave us some nice minutes. Coming into the season for me, I was looking at him as a guy that can potentially play some games for us through the course of the year if he was doing a good job. What he's done through training camp is make me reconsider that and everybody reconsider if there's potential for more there. He's a competitive guy, he's a guy that finds a way to get involved, he's been physical, he's blocked shots, he's trying to make a difference in the defensive zone but when he's had an opportunity, he's recognized it and he's jumped on it and he's made some plays. That's a real good sign.

"It's hard for somebody to come in and play one good game, and that gets your attention, but when it starts happening over and over again ... he's had good practice after good practice which led to good game after good game. When you start seeing a pattern, then you know what you're getting."

Megan flourished under coach Craig Berube and assistants Daniel Tkaczuk and Darryl Sydor in Chicago last season, and having them here in St. Louis helps with Megan's confidence and morale boost.

"'Chief' did that down in the American League; he let me play and develop my game," Megan said of Berube. "... The coaching staff is awesome. They just gave me an opportunity, they let me play and kind of play in ways that I hadn't since last year in terms of getting some power-play time, playing a lot of minutes and just taking a lot of key draws. To some extent, that's what the American League's for, to put yourself kind of out of your comfort zone and develop your game. That's what those guys allowed me to do last year."

And to no surprise to anyone that played with him there, Megan thrived under the system.

"You can just trust him out there," said defenseman and Wolves teammate Vince Dunn. "At this level, trust is a huge thing. I think every time he goes on the ice, I think the players and the coaches trut him to make the right play, make a safe play but it's always usually a really nice play. He just does the little things so well. He wins important faceoffs, he's got a really good stick and I think that just makes him a really great player.

"He definitely leads by example. He's definitely one of the quieter guys but definitely speaks up when he needs to. I think all the guys really appreciate that. When he's on the ice, he's always a sneaky guy. His stick is just so good out there, and I think that just makes him so dangerous. He's always on the right side of the puck."

Megan will be in the lineup today when the Blues (3-2-0) play at the Columbus Blue Jackets (6 p.m.) in what is sort of a final audition for many of the fringe players looking to make the roster, including Megan.

"That's a good feeling and that's a feeling that I want to have," Megan said. "Whatever happens, happens. At the end of the day, I feel like I worked hard, I competed. I brought my best foot forward. Whatever happens is going to happen. We'll move on from there."

- - -

The Blues' lineup for tonight includes: 

Forwards: Ivan Barbashev, Sam Blais, Dmitrij Jaskin, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, MacKenzie MacEachern, Wade Megan, Adam Musil, Magnus Paajarvi, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson, Chris Thorburn

Defense: Robert Bortuzzo, Vince Dunn, Carl Gunnarsson, Petteri Lindbohm, Jordan Schmaltz, Thomas Vannelli, Jake Walman

Goalies: Jake Allen, Jordan Binnington

Allen will play the entire game, and Lindbohm will make his preseason debut after nursing a shoulder injury. Blais will play after leaving practice early with what Yeo called some discomfort.

- - -

The Blue Jackets' lineup:

Sonny Milano-Calvin Thurkauf-Vitaly Abramov

Pierre-Luc Dubois-Lukas Sedlak-Oliver Bjorkstrand

Matt Calvert-Justin Scott-Tyler Motte

Markus Hannikainen-John Mitchell-Nick Moutrey

Ryan Murray-David Savard

Dean Kukan-Markus Nutivaara

Scott Harrington-Gabriel Carlsson

Joonas Korpisalo will start in goal; Sergei Bobrovsky will be the backup

Monday, September 25, 2017

Weary Blues cut practices short after three games in three days

Game group Tuesday in Columbus to get one 
likely last chance to earn one of few spots remaining

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were on the ice again Monday after three games in three days, and albeit not everyone played in all three games, there was some weariness on the ice at Scottrade Center.

"I'm feeling it, I can tell you that, so I bet you the players are, too," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We monitor our heart rates and try to keep tabs on energy levels on players and the readings we got today would indicate that the players were a little tired, so we kept practice a little bit shorter."

The practices, split into two groups, each were done in under an hour. One was a group mainly comprised of Sunday night's game group that won in Pittsburgh 4-1, but it was a group of 18 that all likely make the opening night roster, and the second group was comprised of the remaining 19 players that are vying for the five remaining spots.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Kyrou (left) and Robert Thomas are likely to play Tuesday in 

What Yeo got out of wins in Washington Friday and Pittsburgh Sunday sandwiched around a loss to Dallas Saturday was some good and bad.

"I think we played two very good games and one very poor game," Yeo said. "What we're trying to do, I evaluate our team and our group and see where our team game is at, evaluate our individuals, the guys that we know are going to be on our team, how close are they to being game ready, whether it's conditioning, execution, the details of their game, those types of things. Obviously the big part that we're also focusing on is sort of identifying who's making a real case to be on our team. We're getting close to that process. We've got three games remaining here. We knew that this was not going to take one or two games to sort out. Looking forward to these last three games to see where we end up."

The group that played last night was an indicator that the Blues, who open at Pittsburgh on Oct. 4, are gearing towards that regular season opener.

"Last night was a real good indication that we're getting close," Yeo said. "We addressed some things. We had a little chat with the leadership group yesterday. I feel like the work ethic has been outstanding in training camp the focus has been outstanding in training camp. The play without the puck, I felt really had come along and then after we played the Dallas game, we talked about building some better habits with the puck and I felt that we did a much better job of that last night. Some of the offense that we created, the shots that we created, the scoring chances and the zone time I think were a real good indication of that."

The Blues are down to three preseason games left and the game group that plays in Columbus on Tuesday will be comprised of many of the younger players vying for those last few jobs.

"We're going to take a bit of a younger lineup tomorrow, which means more opportunity," Yeo said. "What that also means is younger players are going to be playing with younger players as opposed to playing with a veteran player that they might be in regular season action. For me, if I'm a young player or anybody trying out for the team, I don't care. An opportunity is an opportunity and a chance to prove yourself. I would hope that they look at it the same way."

Call it a final audition.

"I don't want to tell them that," Yeo said. "I don't want them going into the game thinking ... I guess that's part of it. They have to deal with the pressure and they have to understand that. I don't want them going into the game thinking that one mistake could be the difference. I want them to play with confidence, I want them to go out there and show us what they can do and not play with fear."

Yeo did say that no players would be cut on Monday.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Fabbri re-injures left knee, to be re-evaluated in 10 days

Forward had surgery for torn left ACL, played in Friday 
preseason game but will miss remainder of training camp

ST. LOUIS -- The injury bug continues to hit the Blues in the preseason, and it continues to key players.

The team announced Sunday afternoon that forward Robby Fabbri will miss the reminder of training camp and be re-evaluated in 10 days after re-injuring his surgically-repaired left knee.

Robby Fabbri
Fabbri, played 19 minutes, 8 seconds of a 4-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday and said he felt good after the game; he was expected to play Sunday in the Kraft Hockeyville preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins but was not initially on the game roster before the team made the announcement of the re-injury.

Fabbri said Friday that he felt good after the game Friday but was held off the ice from practice on Saturday. Coach Mike Yeo was hopeful of getting Fabbri into four preseason games, but that obviously isn't happening.

"I feel confident in playing four games with my body and everything like that," Fabbri said after the game Friday. "We're on the same page and it's going good so far."

Being re-evaluated in 10 days would put the season-opener in jeopardy on Oct. 4 in Pittsburgh.

The team nor Fabbri will have no further comment until Fabbri has been re-evaluated.

With Fabbri's injury, it's becoming more and more likely that one or more of the young forwards will make the opening night roster.

Fabbri joins Alexander Steen (hand), Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) and Zach Sanford (shoulder) to have been injured in camp. Patrik Berglund (shoulder) was injured during the offseason.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stars blank Blues 4-0 in test for young players

Players looking to make name for themselves miss opportunity to separate 
themselves in second of three straight preseason games this weekend 

ST. LOUIS -- The more we move along in the preseason, the more games get ramped up.

That means those looking to win jobs see the pace and intensity rise up the mercury. This is where you see who really has what it takes to crack the opening night lineup and those that need obvious seasoning, whether it be at the American Hockey league level or junior level.

The Blues faced a hungry Dallas Stars group that had legs, speed and tenacity. It amounted to a 4-0 loss on Saturday at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (left) and the Stars' Antoine Roussel
engage in a fight during the first period of Saturday's preseason game.

The Blues (2-2-0), who will complete their trifecta of games in three days with a Sunday tilt at Pittsburgh in the Kraft Hockeyville game in Cranberry Township, Pa., came out with some feistiness against a Stars team that brought it from the opening whistle, fell by the wayside.

The message from the locker room was no energy, no zip and no flow to the game.

"Obviously what we've got to do better," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "I didn't think we brought what's needed to win. ... We flip the page as fast as possible and understand that we've got to be better.

"We had a lot of good players out here. I just didn't think we had a bunch of mojo. It's best that it's preseason and it's best that we can take our lesson right now. Focus on tomorrow now and make sure we come to the rink ... we've got a game tomorrow."

Blues coach Mike Yeo agreed.

"That's exactly what I seen," he said. "I think we came out with some intensity right off the hop first shift and then it dropped very quickly from there. Obviously they got the early power play goal, but for me what was disappointing through the night was the turnovers we had. I really felt that any time we even tried to come close to try to get any momentum, the turnovers at the blue line, the way that we executed through the neutral zone and just the way that we just gave pucks away just made it impossible for us tonight.

"It just felt like we back-checked all night long. We soon as we got to their blue line, we were trying to make plays that weren't there, trying to make soft plays and that's a bad recipe."

The Blues dressed 10 players (Tage Thompson, Robert Thomas, Klim Kostin, Robert Bortuzzo, Jake Walman, Ivan Barbashev, Magnus Paajarvi, Oskar Sundqvist Beau Bennett and backup goalie Ville Husso) that played in a 4-0 win at Washington on Friday, and Yeo wanted to test many of the young guys in back-to-back games.

"I think part of the lesson is a lot of guys played last night and the schedule is tough," Yeo said. "The lesson is that can't be an excuse and you have to be able to deal with that. You have to find a way to come to play and you have to find a way to have your legs and you also have to manage your game a little bit better. It's an easier game to play when you have the puck and it's a tougher game to play when you're chasing. Faceoffs, we weren't sharp on, I thought that 50/50 pucks we weren't sharp on, but again, they managed the puck through the neutral zone way better than we did tonight and that was the difference in the hockey game. That's why they got a lot of shifts in our zone. That forced us to change at bad times, that forced us to come onto the ice and spend time in our own zone. That for me, is the lesson there."

Obviously, there's no excuse according to the players.

"No, it's the preseason," Barbashev said. "You've got to go every single game, even if you're going to play that third game in a row. It's just a good teaching (moment) for everybody. ... We didn't get the puck to the net tonight. That's something that we've got to do better. They just played better than us today."

The game began with the zest of an intense divisional regular season game, with 14 penalty minutes in the first 12 seconds and 16 in the first 28 seconds. It started with a spirited fight between the Blues' Bortuzzo and the Stars' Antoine Roussel.

Bortuzzo would never admit it, but surely it was payback for Roussel's slash on Alexander Steen that has sidelined the Blues' forward for a minimum of three weeks.

"We're just playing hockey," Bortuzzo said. "He plays hard the same way. Things happen out there. Just happened to get in a scrap.

"We're just playing hard. You always want to stand up for teammates in any case. He plays the game hard, I play the game hard. These things happen. It was just a fight."

It got even more spirited when Kostin, not known for his fighting prowess, delivered a big hit on the Stars' Roope Hintz at the Stars' blue line, to which Dallas' Devin Shore took exception to and went after Kostin, who handled himself quite well when asked to drop the gloves.

"He's a big boy," Barbashev said of the 6-foot-3, 196-pound Kostin. "... I know him pretty well right now, so I know he can drop the gloves. He's a big boy, bigger than me. The guy can hit and he can stand up for himself and especially for a teammate."

There were sporadic moments for the Blues, but not much more. They were outshot 38-21 for the game and were 0-for-7 on the power play, including a 5-on-3 for the final 31.7 seconds. 

"That mirrored the rest of our game," Yeo said of the power play. "Too cute, too soft in our game, too soft with the puck and too easily separated from it. Obviously it's tough to score if you don't have the puck. I didn't feel like most of those power plays that we had, that we had good zone possession, that we had good zone time and obviously not a lot of looks if that's the case.

"You can't get to feeling too good about the game you had the night before. Those are the lessons. It's disppointing, but we weren't ready to put anybody on our team after last night and we're not ready to cut anybody just because of this performance. We're looking at the camp as a whole. We're still looking for progress from guys and that's our focus."

So from a standpoint in which the Blues were perhaps looking at some young players looking to crack the lineup, nobody really stood out and might make Monday's cuts easier for coaches and management to make.

"We also don't want to play guys that didn't have a chance at making our team," Yeo said. "We want to give them the opportunity. It's a tough challenge with the back-to-back. They're going to face it, too. All teams are going to face it. That's life in the NHL and you have to show that you can play well when everything's going well. We also have to show that they can perform when the conditions aren't exactly perfect."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' MacKenzie MacEachern (62) gives chase to the Stars' Roope
Hintz during Dallas' 4-0 preseason victory in St. Louis on Saturday.

Dan Hamhuis and Jason Spezza scored first-period goals, and Remi Elie and Mattias Janmark scored in the third for the Stars (2-2-0), who got 21 saves from Kari Lehtonen. Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues.

"They had a pretty good lineup, especially offense," Barbashev said of the Stars. "I think we weren't really ready in the first period. We just finally got to our game maybe in the second period. I don't know, it was just a tough game for us.

"We had too many turnovers on the blue line, especially on the fourth goal. That's a bad one. It just has to be at the net or something. This just can't happen here."

"They had a lot of zip out there," Bortuzzo said of the Stars. "They played a high-energy NHL team game tonight. Collectively as a group, they had more jump as a group than we did. That's going to make you pay at the end of the day."