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

By LOU KORAC
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 
Columbus. 

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

By LOU KORAC
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 

By LOU KORAC
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."

(9-23-17) Stars-Blues Preseason Gameday Lineup

Ten players to dress again Saturday after playing Friday; Fabbri gets 
day off, expected to play Sunday; Thomas' turnaround; Vannelli's debut

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will play the second of three games in three days today when they host the Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center (7 p.m. on KMOX.com and on HD radio on Y98 HD3).

The Blues are coming off an impressive 4-0 win at Washington on Friday using a younger than usual lineup that featured plenty of solid performances.

Among them, Ville Husso's 27-save shutout and two goals from 2017 first-round pick Robert Thomas.

Ten players who were in the lineup last night will be in the lineup tonight, including Husso, who will back up Jake Allen, and Thomas. Also, Ivan Barbashev, Beau Bennett, 2017 first-round pick Klim Kostin, Magnus Paajarvi, Oskar Sundqvist, Thomas, 2016 first-round pick Tage Thompson, Robert Bortuzzo, 2014 third-round pick Jake Walman and Husso, a 2014 fourth-round pick.

"It's just how we wanted to assemble the lines," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We feel that we're giving everybody a real decent shot to really show us what they can do and the role that they can potentially play for us."

The Blues' lineup tonight includes:

Forwards: Ivan Barbashev, Beau Bennett, Samuel Blais, Klim Kostin, MacKenzie MacEachern, Adam Musil, Magnus Paajarvi, Vladimir Sobotka, Oskar Sundqvist, Chris Thorburn, Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson

Defense: Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Butler, Carl Gunnarsson, Colton Parayko, Thomas Vannelli, Jake Walman

Goalies: Jake Allen, Ville Husso

The Stars' lineup:

Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Brett Ritchie

Jason Dickinson-Roope Hintz-Devin Shore

Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Tyler Pitlick

R.J. Umberger-Gemel Smith-Remi Elie

Marc Methot-John Klingberg

Esa Lindell-Jamie Oleksiak

Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen will start in goal; Mike McKenna will be the backup

- - -

Robby Fabbri wasn't on the ice Saturday for either practice session, and after playing on Friday against the Capitals, Yeo said it was designed for Fabbri to have the day off.

"I'm pretty happy with his game overall for a first game back," Yeo said of Fabbri, ho played 19 minutes, 8 seconds. "I think the wing position a little it, less taxing and some defensive situations allowed him to be more offensive to his game.

"Robby, he's a competitive kid and as somebody who's dealt with that injury before, there's a mental hurdle to get over. I thought he did a real nice job with that not shying away from traffic. He was going into the hard areas, he was first on pucks, he was battling hard. If I were to say he was a good player in the game, he wasn't as good as Robby Fabbri can be and that's perfectly normal. That's what I would expect from him. For me, it was a really good first step for him. It's going to take him a little bit of time. I think you'll see each and every game, he'll find his rhythm and find his timing and his execution. It's normal when you haven't played it as long as he has. Th game happens a little bit quickly and for a player like Robby, things will slow down quickly.

"Find the timing again. Sort of get the feel for the game, Things go quickly out there and when you've been out for a long time, they happen a little bit quicker. Things will slow down for him as we move along but a good first step."

Fabbri is expected to play tomorrow when the Blues play in the Kraft Hockeyville game in Cranberry, Pa. against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. on NBCSN, KMOX 1120 AM and KMOX.com).

- - -

Thomas will play tonight despite taking a hard hit from the Capitals' Tom Wilson in the third period at the side boards by the Blues bench.

Wilson, who was not penalized on the play, is scheduled to have a hearing today from the NHL's Department of Player Safety. 

* UPDATED -- The NHL suspended Wilson this afternoon for two preseason games: (https://www.nhl.com/video/t-277440360/c-52886003)

"It was a good wake-up call for sure," Thomas said. "It was alright. I didn't really feel anything. No pain, so it was good."

Dmitrij Jaskin took exception and challenged Wilson to a fight, only his third of his career and second in the NHL (he fought Roman Polak prior to this).

"I was still playing the puck," Jaskin said. "I knew it was my centerman. He's not really a big guy. I knew something was wrong there. Puck was coming from that direction. I caught him with my eye.  

"I pick pretty tough opponents, but didn't really have a choice yesterday. I didn't even think about that as (Wilson). I just look him in the eye and dropped it, so we dropped it."

Jaskin said the reaction was only natural.

"It was just guys doing it for me when I was younger and, I don't know, it's time to step up," he said. "I don't really like the hit from yesterday, so it just came from the moment."

Thomas was appreciative.

"I owe him one for that," Thomas said.

- - -

Speaking of Thomas, he took the time to soak in his first NHL preseason game on Tuesday against the Stars and found out that the NHL game is so much different than what he's used to playing in.

The 18-year-old, who was minus-3 at Dallas on Tuesday, was able to dissect the experience and make the necessary adjustments to have a better game on Friday.

"You get thrown into it against some of the best players in the league," Thomas said. "It was definitely a good adjustment game for me and I definitely learned a lot. I think I took a lot of those positives and brought them into this game and I thought I had a pretty good game defensively and offensively. I just thought overall, it was a great experience and I'm starting to move forward.

"I wasn't too happy with (Tuesday's game). I thought I was just OK. I made a lot of mistakes. You just sort of learn over time as you get that experience, you tend not to make (the same mistakes). It was a great learning experience and I figured I'd get another chance to show myself.

"You never forget your first (goal). It was a great pas by 'Jasky' and I was just fortunate to tap it in. Getting to those dirty areas, that's what you've got to do to be successful. That's what I tried to do tonight."

Thomas is likely destined to return to the Ontario Hockey League and the London Knights, but until told otherwise, he's intent on leaving a lasting impression with management and coaches here in St. Louis.

"It's extremely hard to make the team, especially in your first year," Thomas said. "You're just trying to make them think about it as much as possible this year. You never know what's going to happen. It's obviously really hard to make it, but I'm just trying to put my best foot forward and make it a really hard decision for them.

"I would say I always have that thought in the back of my mind. That's sort of my mentality going in, but you've got to think about it realistically. Definitely in my mind, I think I can make a good foot forward."

- - -

Defenseman Thomas Vannelli, a 2013 second-round pick, will make his preseason debut tonight.

Vannelli, who has dressed for both away games this preseason but hasn't played, has sort of been a forgotten player and injuries have played a big role in it, so getting the chance to have a healthy camp is something he's looked forward to, and to play a game is even better.

"I'm excited," Vannelli said. "Boys are obviously playing pretty well right now. I'm just going to come in and enjoy the opportunity. 

"I've played well (in camp). In practice and the intrasquad game, I played well. Traverse City was pretty good. I think you've just got to come in and soak everything up you can from these guys because they're obviously here for a reason. That's what I've been doing when I go on the road with them."

Yeo said Vannelli deserves to get a game in after overcoming some shortcomings in recent years.

"I knew him a little from Minnesota as a prospect and coming into the organization last year, seems like he started to get lost a little bit," Yeo said. "Injuries put him to the sidelines and gave some other guys a chance to sort of jump ahead of him. He's been able to have a healthy camp here, he's been able to have a good showing in Traverse City. For me what I've seen, he's a guy who can move the puck, he can think the game. I think he's earned this game and now I'm anxious to see if he can take his game to another level in this game."

And Vannelli, 22, appreciates the support.

"Mike's been good about that," he said. "He's come up to me a couple times with some constructive criticism here and there but also some positive things, too. That's kept me positive throughout this and I'm getting an opportunity, so I'm excited."

- - -

The Blues will dress a number of main players for the game against the Penguins on Sunday. Among them include Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn, Joel Edmundson, Fabbri and Carter Hutton will get the game in goal.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Husso, kids earn good marks in 4-0 win over Capitals

Goalie gets 27-save shutout, Thomas 
scores twice for Blues in impressive effort

By LOU KORAC
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On paper, the baby Blues were up against it vs. a veteran-laden Washington Capitals lineup.

But needing to show something playing three games in three days, many of the young Blues players were thrown into the fire pit against a tough Capitals squad that dressed a decent number of their top players, including former Blue T.J. Oshie.

From Ville Husso in goal to Vince Dunn, Jake Walman, and Niko Mikkola on the blue line to Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson, Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin and Conner Bleackley at forward, an the long-awaited return of forward Robby Fabbri, the young Blues came to play on Friday and downed the Capitals 4-0 at First Capital Arena.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (second from right) reacts after scoring on Friday against
Washington in a 4-0 Blues victory.

Thomas scored twice and he and Bleackley scored first-period goals for the Blues (2-1-0), who entertain Dallas on Saturday before playing Pittsburgh on Sunday. Husso made 27 saves in his first-ever start for the Blues, and many of the same players that played Friday were all part of a 5-3 loss at Dallas in the preseason opener that exposed, at times, flaws in players' games, made vast improvement in this game.

"They played hard," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "First off, a lot of them showed improvement for me from the first game that they to this game. That's what you're hoping to see. I thought the first game these guys payed in Dallas, there was a lot of wait to see what other team was gonna do and I thought they were more aggressive and assertive tonight. It was a good sign."

Starting with Husso, a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, it was his first start of any kind in a NHL game, and he made the most of it with a 27-save shutout. Husso's now stopped 36 shots in games during this preseason (he made nine saves in the third period and overtime Wednesday of a 3-2 overtime win over Columbus).

Husso played calm, he was confident, aggressive in the blue paint, challenging shooters from the tops of the paint, square to pucks and stood his ground when bodies were collapsing around him in the crease.

"It's been really good camp for me," Husso said. "When we came here, I was thinking to just play hockey and don't (feel) any pressure. It's been good camp for me so far.

"... Nice that get to play the whole game. It was a good game."

Thomas, the 20th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft who was a minus-3 in the game against the Stars but didn't play particularly poorly, felt that there were lessons learned from his first NHL game that he applied to Friday; he went to the dirty areas and sacrificed himself to make plays, went to the net twice on his goals, which were set up by a nice backhand feed from Dmitrij Jaskin in the first period and an even better pass from Ivan Barbashev for his second of the game in the third, improved vastly.

"It was definitely difficult in the first one, get thrown into it against some of best players in the league," Thomas said. "Definitely a good adjustment game and I learned a lot, took positives and brought into this game. I thought I had a pretty good game offensively and defensively. It was a good experience and start to move forward.

"I thought I got into dirty areas well, goals in dirty areas, got to go there. The one thing I learned in Dallas, you've got to go there to be successful. I applied that to the game tonight and it worked out pretty good."

As for Fabbri, who is coming off a left ACL tear sustained against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 4, it was his first game after the original play was to play Tuesday in Dallas. 

He played 19 minutes, 8 seconds and had three shots and split on two faceoffs.

"Good. That was exciting, Fabbri said when asked how he felt. "Good to get back out there again. You really see the difference there in a game than a scrimmage against the guys. I thought it was a good first game and was just glad to get my feet wet and keep moving from here.

"The biggest thing is try not to get too frustrated with the things out there. It's tough just come back in and be the same player right away. It's going to take a few games here. We're really going to be working here the next couple weeks to get ready for the season."

The mental aspect of the game was probably one of Fabbri's biggest adjustments. It's one thing to get hit by teammates who know not to hit you where the injury occurred, but to do it against the opposition is a different story.

"I'm not going to lie and say going into the corner against a couple guys isn't in the back of your head, but the first few encounters there, it's gone now and I started throwing the body around and got pretty confident out there," said Fabbri, who played on the left wing with Ivan Barbashev and Beau Bennett. "Glad to get that out of the way and get some hits in and really feel that."

Thomas pit the Blues ahead 1-0 by driving the net and converting Jaskin's pass at 17:40.

Bleackley made it 2-0 39 seconds later by collecting a rebound in the slot of a Nate Prosser shot and beating Braden Holtby.

Husso kept the Blues in the lead with a number of solid saves, including a sprawling right pad save on Tom Wilson's backhander in the second period.

"He was really good," Yeo said of Husso. "For a guy I didn't know a lot about, he's been impressive all through training camp."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robhy Fabbri made his long-awaited return to the lineup Friday, his first
game since Feb. 4.

Thomas made another rush to the net and converted Barbashev's slot feed after Kyrou started the play at 12:22 of the third, beating former Blues netminder Pheonix Copley for a 3-0 lead, and Kostin's pretty goal at 16:28 off a saucer pass from Wade Megan made it 4-0 and a solid all-around effort by the Blues.

"Thomas and Kyrou both elevated their game tonight," Yeo said. "Both were very impressive. ... Part of it is knowing what to expect a little more, I liked the attitude they brought into the game. They wanted to show they had more than they showed the last time and that's a good sign.

"I thought Magnus (Paajarvi) had real strong game. They played a hard-fought game, lot of team play was strong. When we needed someone to step up, they did it."

Prosser back looking to stick with Blues this time

Defenseman spent three weeks in St. Louis in 2014 before being 
claimed back off waivers from Minnesota; tonight's game lineup in Washington

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Nate Prosser has been through this routine with the Blues before.

The defenseman, who signed a two-year, two-way contract ($650,000 NHL/$400,000 AHL) on Aug. 3, has been through this rodeo before.

In the summer of 2014, Prosser signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on July 21, 2014, was all set to turn the page on his Minnesota Wild career and begin a new journey with the Blues.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Nate Prosser (left) celebrates with teammates after a goal
during Tuesday's preseason game in Dallas.

But when the Blues put Prosser on waivers Oct. 1, he was claimed on waivers by -- you guessed it -- the Wild, on Oct. 2. And coincidentally, the Blues happened to be playing the Wild in a preseason game that very night. So instead of hopping back on a commercial flight back to the Twin Cities and reclaim the life he just left, Prosser switched locker rooms and went back with the Wild on their team plane.

"It's hard to even put into words because it was the weirdest situation," Prosser said. "It was basically like I never left (Minnesota). I got put on waivers, got back, Minnesota's down here playing and I just went on their flight back and it was never like I even left. My locker room spot was in the same spot. All my stuff was basically there for me to start the year. It was a very bizarre situation. Like I said three years ago, that's just the game of hockey. You never can predict what's going to happen or what's going on behind closed doors. I just kind of took it with a smile on my face and I wanted to be that positive teammate that had a regular spot."

Prosser spent approximately three weeks working with the Blues, then returning to familiar ground.

Prosser returned to the Wild, where current Blues coach Mike Yeo was coaching at the time and playing with current Blues center Kyle Brodziak.

"I actually stayed with (T.J.) Oshie for like a week or two and then a hotel for a week," Prosser recalled. "I played with Oshie in Sioux Falls for a little while. Just with him being from Minnesota, I kind of got a relationship with him. Being able to meet a few guys through him was a nice way to go about it, but had the car packed up, I hardly unpacked it. A few bags came out and just put it right back in there. ... It's the life of a hockey player right now. Nothing's guaranteed. I've got to find a way to impress management in a new way, I guess."

When it came time for free agency on July 1, Prosser, 31, was without a deal and he saw the writing on the wall that the Wild would be moving on without him.

So why not circle back to where Prosser was once willing to try a different venue? After all, many of the teammates he would have played with in 2014 are still on the Blues roster today, and Yeo and Brodziak are both in St. Louis, too.

"Obviously I know Mike Yeo and I feel like I know his systems and he knows what I can bring," Prosser said. "I know all the guys. I was here three years ago. I got acquainted with a lot of them. I was here for three weeks or whatever it was. I know the locker room well, it's a bunch of great guys. I feel like I can jell in pretty nicely with those guys. I just want to show management what I can bring this time around.

"Obviously, I knew what contracts look like, but I just wanted to come in and play my game. It's not something I want to be focused on when I'm here. It's just something that you kind of look in the summer. I just felt like it was going to be a good fit with coming back into this locker room and with this coach and coaching staff, Darryl Sydor too. It's not something like, 'Oh my gosh, there's six big contracts in front of me. What am I gonna do?' I'm focused on my day-to-day stuff."

Prosser will play in his second preseason game today for the Blues (1-1-0 in preseason) in Washington against the Capitals (6 p.m. on NHL Network and CapsRadio247.com); he played in a 5-3 loss at Dallas on Tuesday and logged 16 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time and had one assist and three blocked shots.

Prosser is not the guy will wow you on the ice, but what he does bring is a veteran presence that goes out and does what is asked of him.

"Typically guys like that, a lot of their games is a lot of people won't notice them, but the coaches do," Yeo said. "They see the small things in their defensive game. He's a guy that might not give you as much as somebody else in terms of offense or flash, but it's always about give-and-take and he's not going to cost you as well. He's a veteran guy who knows what his is. He plays with an edge and he's got a good identity as a player."

Prosser, who has been in the league for parts of eight seasons, all with the Wild, had two goals and five assists in 39 games last season before picking up an assist in three games against the Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

He came in to compete for the seventh spot on defense, but with the ankle fracture of Jay Bouwmeester, there is the distinct possibility Prosser could crack the opening night lineup.

"You're getting a guy who in the room every day, he's one of those guys who is good to be around," Brodziak said of Prosser. "He's always happy, always in a good mood. On the ice, you know what you're getting from him. If you've been able to watch him, for guys who are familar with his game, you know exactly what you're getting night in and night out. He's a smart player. He's not going to be overly flashy; I'm sure he's OK with me saying that. He's smart. He's dependable. He's a realiable player. He doesn't make big mistakes. He knows what he's doing out there. He usually gets the job done.

"He does his job. He knows what's expected of him. He stays within his limits and he's effective at it. I think that's why he's been able to stay around so long. You realize that at the end of the night, he was effective and he does a lot of little things that add up at the end of the night that might not get recognized on the highlight reel or the papers, or what you want to call it. He's a guy that does his job."

When it came time to get a new contract, Prosser was worried as the days of July came and went and now things got into August. But keeping connections with Yeo helped ease the tension and ultimately, led to an opportunity in St. Louis.

"Me and Mike have a good relationship," Prosser said. "I was able to have a few conversations with him over the summer. Just encouraged me along during the free agency process because it was pretty dry. If you don't go July 1st, 2nd or 3rd, it goes pretty dark for a while. It's kind of a stressful time for a lot of guys and it was for me and my family. It was nice to get a few phone calls from him. That's the kind of relationship that we have. He's kind of been my only coach in pro hockey other than (Bruce) Boudreau last year. My first time signing, I went down to Houston with him for a year and half and when he went up to Minnesota, I went there with him and I was there for five years. I've been with him a lot of years. He's a great guy, family man, great coach, a guy I really look up to."

Prosser doesn't mind living the life of a nomad these days. He said his vehicle is littered with girls' toys. 

"I have three little girls, so my car is actually full of like princess doll houses, strollers, Barbie dolls," Prosser said. "There are bins of Barbie dolls in the back of my car right now. 

"We sold my house back up in Minnesota. Just kind of waiting until camp's over and then have them come down. They miss daddy and I miss them. It's just the nature of the business. You've got to leave your family and focus in on hockey here for a little while."

- - -

The Blues will begin a stretch of three games in three days tonight. They host Dallas on Saturday before playing in Pittsburgh on Sunday night in the Kraft Hockeyville game.

Here is tonight's lineup, which includes Robby Fabbri's first game since Feb. 4 (lines will be updated during the pregame skate):

Forwards: Ivan Barbashev, Beau Bennett, Conner Bleackley, Robby Fabbri, Dmitrij Jaskin, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, Wade Megan, Magnus Paajarvi, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson

Defense: Robert Bortuzzo, Vince Dunn, Niko Mikkola, Nate Prosser, Jordan Schmaltz, Thomas Vannelli, Jake Walman

Goalie: Ville Husso, Jordan Binnington

- - -

The Capitals' lineup:

Jakub Vrana-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky-Travis Boyd-Devante Smith-Pelly

Chandler Stephenson-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson

Mathias Bau-Tyler Graovac-Anthony Peluso

Lucas Johansen-John Carlson

Christian Djoos-Taylor Chorney

Aaron Ness-Tyler Lewington

Braden Holtby will start in goal and play two periods. Pheonix Copley will be the backup and play the third period.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

(9-22-17) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Armstrong to wait on outcome of younger players if move(s) need to be 
made in light of injuries; Blues to play three in three days; Fabbri practices

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- With the Blues dealing with a rash of early-camp injuries to significant players, general manager Doug Armstrong was asked if it alters the course of action for the team that has six preseason game remaining and less than two weeks until the Oct. 4 season-opener can fill the voids left by injuries to Jay Bouwmeester (fractured left ankle), Alexander Steen (left hand) and Zach Sanford (dislocated left shoulder).

"I would say the next three games, and that's why I'm hoping we get some 5-on-5 play in these games, is going to be a real good indicator for some of our younger players," Armstrong said. "It's a business where you're judged by wins and losses so we had a meeting with all our pro scouts in here. Let's make sure we're watching the players around the league because you don't mind as a management staff going into a season with the glass half full on a player or two. You don't want to go in hoping that six or seven of your players the glass is half full and it's going to work out. 

"We're going to see some real good evaluation from some of our younger players and from some of our veteran players who can step in. The Sanford injury, whether we had him on our team, that's gone. (Patrik) Berglund, another player we had on our team, he's gone. These aren't short-term injuries; these are long-term. We're at three weeks before re-evaluation on a couple other players and we've played two of our eight preseason games. If this was next Sunday, I might give you a different answer, but it's today and we have six more games and knock-on-wood, we don't have another injury, but we have to be doing our job as pro scouts to make sure we understand what's going to be available."

The Blues play at Washington on Friday, host Dallas Saturday and play at Pittsburgh's practice facility in Cranberry, Pa. on Sunday in the Kraft Hockeyville game.

Sanford will miss 5-6 months, Steen and Bouwmeester will be re-evaluated in three weeks but puts the first week of the regular season for them in jeopardy and the Blues are already without Berglund, who is out until December with a dislocated shoulder injury of his own sustained during offseason training.

"Time should be the tonic that they need," Armstrong said of Steen's and Bouwmeester's injuries.

The Blues have had a number of young players, Samuel Blais, to name one, stand out in the early portion of camp.

"Traverse City really caught our attention," Armstrong said of younger players. "I thought water found its level as camp went along a little bit."

The Blues made five more cuts Thursday, reducing their training camp roster down to 44 (39 not counting the injured players, which includes goalie prospect Luke Opilka) by assigning forward Alexey Toropchenko to juniors (Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League), forward Justin Selman and defenseman Dmitrii Sergeev to the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage, and they released forward Ty Loney and defenseman Michael McKee from their professional tryouts.

It's getting close to that time where the Blues combine groups and begin working with one.

Yeo said a number of guys will play two of the three games this weekend, and a number will play back-to-back games.

"We want to keep a number of guys around through this weekend and we'll reassess from there," Yeo said. "The big thing for me is once we get through this weekend, I would say that you start thinking, 'Who is not going to factor into a game, and who do we not need for practices to make sure that we have enough numbers for the group.' Obviously that's where some decisions will come into play.

"I think we're going to see guys start to separate themselves. As camp goes on, typically what you see is the veterans continue to elevate their game. From here, we'll see who can keep up with that and who starts to drift off and fade to the background. I'm excited. Going into two very tough buildings this weekend and the chance to play in front of our home crowd again. Three games in three days, it's going to be a busy schedule. There's going to be a little bit of fatigue, but we want to see who can still think and play and execute in tough conditions like that."

Blais and defensemen Vince Dunn were given Thursday off after both played in Tuesday and Wednesday preseason games.

* Fabbri practices -- Blues forward Robby Fabbri returned to practice Thursday after missing Tuesday's game at Dallas, one he was expected to play in.

Fabbri, who is coming offseason rehab from a torn left ACL, has been a regular contributor in camp but was held out for precautionary reasons on Tuesday.

Yeo was asked if he could play Friday.

"I need confirmation, but (he) got through a pretty tough skate today," Yeo said. "Ideally, I would like to get him in, but we want to make sure we're smart about it, too. If I get the thumbs up, then he'll be in."

Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, dealing with a shoulder ailment, also hasn't played a preseason game but practiced on Thursday.

"I have to get the thumbs up on that one, but we decided to hold him out the first couple games to make sure and just to be a little more cautious," Yeo said of Lindbohm. "We're certainly getting to the point right now where it's time for him to get in the lineup as long as he's healthy. I'm anticipating that he is. That's what we thought was going to happen before the past few days. Hopefully that's still the case."

Blues hire Stanley Cup winner Larry Robinson as consultant

Nine-time champion will work with front office staff, coaching 
staff; will arrive on Saturday; Tippett leaves after week in St. Louis 

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Wanting to have another set of eyes, and another voice at their disposal for ideas, the Blues have hired nine-time Stanley Cup champion Larry Robinson to a position of senior consultant on Thursday.

Robinson played in 1,384 regular-season games and 227 playoff games during his 20-year NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens (1972-89) and the Los Angeles Kings (1989-92). He was a member of six Cup-winning teams with the Canadiens and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman twice before being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players on Jan. 27.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Nine-time Stanley Cup champion Larry Robinson joins the Blues as a 
senior consultant. He most recently worked with the San Jose Sharks. 

Robinson also won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 as a coach or assistant with the New Jersey Devils.

Robinson was most recently with the San Jose Sharks as associate head coach and director of player development.

"I talked to him when I found out he wasn't going back to San Jose last year," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "It was probably in May, about what he wanted to do. He was at the point now in his life where he wanted some separation from the game, not a commitment that was necessary day-to-day but one that would be attached to it. 

"I talked to Mike (Yeo) ... it just felt like going to someone like Larry Robinson, he's done an awful lot on the ice, to consulting, to working with someone like Lou Lamoriello, who I have a ton of respect for, to coaching a Stanley Cup-caliber team. He's going to be able to share experiences. Certainly in talking to Mike, it's another ... something that I knew about him, but I love the affirmation of 'Would you like Larry Robinson to come in and share his ideas?' He was like a kid in a candy store like, 'How quickly can he get here and how often can he come?' It's great that Mike wants to tap into the experiences of someone like Larry. I talked to Dave Taylor, who played with Mike, Darryl Sydor, who played with Mike and worked for Mike (in Minnesota and Houston of the AHL), Lou Lamoriello and Marty Brodeur, everything comes back that someone with great personality that's going to work very well, obviously what he's accomplished is just a great fit."

Robinson joins a cast in the Blues front office that are part Stanley Cup winners, Hall of Famers and Hall of Famer to be. That list includes assistant GM Brodeur, senior advisor to the general manager Al MacInnis, vice president of hockey operations Dave Taylor. Brett Hull, vice president of business operations, is asked often to consult on things and Bernie Federko, analyst at Fox Sports Midwest, is also on hand.

It's another voice at Yeo's disposal.

"For me, that's something that I've always been interested is that idea of having a resource like that, that you can turn to, somebody that you can have a chat with and just take from their experience to learn from," Yeo said of Robinson. "You look at a guy like Larry, his career as a player, his career as a coach, what he's accomplished, what he's experienced. It would be really difficult not to find a way you could use him and not to find a way you could learn from him. I think it's going to be a great thing for me and for our group.

"I love it, for me personally. I'm pretty stubborn and I'm pretty strong-minded as far as things that I believe in and certain things that I want to see take place. But at the same time, I need to grow, as a coach. Just like players need to grow. If we want to win a Stanley Cup, we have to get better, each individual. I'm asking our players to do that, to buy into that. It wouldn't be serving them properly if I wasn't asking them to do the same thing. I've got a lot of things that I really believe in, but I'm committed to learning some other ideas and have some other voices around that's going to continue to push our group going forward, so I think it's going to be a great thing."

Armstrong said Robinson will join the team on Saturday for the home preseason game against the Dallas Stars and be on hand a couple times a month, at best, to lend his services.

"He'll be with us for the next week getting to know our team," Armstrong said. "Then he's going to be in and out, maybe once or twice a month depending. There's no set timetable, but he'll be watching our game and we'll all bounce ideas off of him.

"There's a lot of great hockey minds. We're always trying to get better and learn and I believe that for us to ask the players to get better, we have to try and get better and having these people around to bounce ideas off of, whether it's a Brett Hull to talk to  young player about scoring or Al MacInnis and we saw what Marty did with coaching last year, these are things that are just invaluable."

Yeo is looking forward to the opportunity.

"It's going to be somebody who is, I would say, a little bit removed," Yeo said. "They are able to take the emotion away. He's not going to have any biases whereas a lot of times if we get caught up in what's going on day-to-day, he's going to be a little bit removed from that, he's going to see a little bit of a different picture and give us a bit of a different perspective and it's up to me to decide how we use that. In a lot of ways, it's like adding another extremely qualified, really good assistant coach, but I would say it's much bigger than that."

While the Blues are saying hello to Robinson, they said goodbye to former Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who was in St. Louis for a week to simply lend a hand and give a differing voice to the opening week of training camp.

Armstrong said Tippett was not under consideration for some sort of full-time position.
(Arizona Coyotes photo)
Former Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was in St. Louis since the start of
training camp in an advisory role and left on Thursday.

"What we wanted for Dave to come in here and do was share ideas and let him feel comfortable and let him gain something out of it," Armstrong said. "This is a job Larry has."

Tippett, who mutually parted ways with the organization as coach of the Coyotes after last season, was another voice at Yeo's disposal.

"I had a great relationship with 'Tipp' when I played with him and when he coached me," Yeo said. "I enjoyed his presence around and again, it's a fresh set of eyes coming in in a different perspective. It's nice to have one of those guys who have been around with that much experience just to compare. It's nice for me just to say, 'This is what we're doing today. What would you do in this situation?' Whether it's comparing drills or even ideas or thoughts about the game. It challenges you as a coach and as a leader to get better and to learn and I enjoy that."

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tarasenko scores twice, including game-winner in OT

Blues down Blue Jackets 3-2; players, coaches talk of 
importance to adjust to slashing calls after eight were made Wednesday

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The rest of the league had its fair share of slashing and faceoff infraction penalties, players and coaches were chiming in on the abundance of them even though it's early in the preseason.

The Blues didn't see many of them in their preseason opener Tuesday in Dallas. They still haven't seem a ton of faceoff infractions -- one was called Wednesday -- but the slashing penalties were plentiful, and the consensus is that they are going to be an adjustment.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left) Magnus Paajarvi, Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul
Stastny and Colton Parayko celebrate a goal Wednesday against Columbus.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime of a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday at newly renovated Scottrade Center, but the talk after the game was the amount of slashing penalties called -- eight of them in all including one on Alex Pietrangelo in overtime and another on Columbus' Matt Calvert that led to Tarasenko's goal.

Pietrangelo was especially displeased with his, saying it was more "a one-handed touch to the pants where the guy has double the pads.

"It's questionable to say the least."

It's safe to say that the league and the players are going to have to adjust to the new set of rules, which are meant to protect the players from injury due to slashes to the hands/wrists. 

"Slashes to the hands, yeah they're dangerous, they're trying to protect us," Pietrangelo said.

But ... 

"That's a very thin line that we're talking about," The Blues' captain said. "... That's a lot of power plays and penalty kill, especially for the guys that play one or the other. It's kind of taking the flow out of the game. It's the preseason and hopefully everyone gets to see to get the kinks out and see if it lasts.

"It's going to be tough to adjust. You're talking about some grown men playing a fast game. I agree that slashes to the hands that are dangerous, we've got to get those out of the game. But if you're hitting a guy's pants, it should always be the ref's discretion as it always is. Maybe they can be a little more thorough like the ones right on the hands, but like I said, if you hear pants or shin pads, then it's pretty questionable."

Blues coach Mike Yeo saw firsthand what a slashing call -- or non-call in this case -- can do to a hockey team.

Alexander Steen was slashed at Dallas, a call that wasn't made, and Steen will now miss a minimum of three weeks with a hand injury, so Yeo isn't one that will call out the new approach being taken.

"It can be frustrating, but at the same time, they're letting us know what the standard is going to be," Yeo said. "So it's up to us to make sure we react and start building the habits. If they're going to call it, then obviously the special teams are going to be a huge focus and a huge key to every hockey game. Obviously it was tonight. We win the game on a power play and we had to kill a 4-on-3, a full two-minute 4-on-3 in overtime. It's going to be a huge focus for us to make sure we build the right habits right now. If that's the way it's going to be called, let's make sure we adjust to it.

"There's a reason why they're doing it. Players got hurt last year. You look at what happened to 'Steener' this year, I understand why they're doing it, so I'm not going to sit up here and complain. Those are the rules, so it's up to us to adjust to it."

Tarasenko, the recipient of slashes often, also said the adjustment will need to be made.

"I can't comment on referees, but just ... it's a little bit different for the first time," Tarasenko said. "It gives more power plays more opportunities. You just need time to get used to it. You need time to get used to everything. It's not our decision. We just play hockey.

"It's still not going to change. They can't call all the calls, but not never cry about it. It's still hockey and there's supposed to be toughness in the game. Whatever they decide, we just play. We just listen to our coaches and we go out and play."

As for the game itself, there were good moments and then some others that Yeo can tell can be cleaned up. The Blues' coach acknowledged that there's still some summer hockey to get out of the system.

"We did a lot of good things," Pietrangelo said. "Momentum changed a bit there in the second. We had some good stuff going, then it was penalty after penalty on both sides and our power play kind of bled into our 5-on-5 where we thought we had more time than we actually did that kind of changed the game around. It's Game 2 of the preseason at home. A win's a win."

Forward Samuel Blais continues his good play in the preseason; he got a second straight game after playing Tuesday in Dallas as did defenseman Vince Dunn, who was paired with Colton Parayko. Blais was on a line with Jaden Schwartz, who scored a shorthanded goal in the game and Brayden Schenn made his Blues debut.

"'Blaiser,' I thought big improvement," Yeo said. "I thought with the puck, outstanding. There were only a couple moments tonight where he kind of reverted kind of back to some of the things we talked about. I can see a greater focus in his game without the puck and that's what we're looking for. 

"'Dunner' I thought was an improvement as well. A little more control to his game, but with Dunner, I think still he's got to get a little more ... I don't know if it's respect for the level that we're in. You have to manage the game a little better and that's young defensemen and that's the conversation we'll have tomorrow. I'm not down on him and certainly that doesn't take him out of the mix here. Just looking for improvement. I saw a little bit from last game and would like to see more the next game."

Dunn got the text from Yeo after landing from Dallas that he would play again.

"I was a little surprised finding out last night, but it's a good feeling coming in for a first game in my own rink," Dunn said. "It was a good feeling. I was a little more comfortable getting that first game out of the way.

"(Yeo's) just looking for consistency. With my style of game, I can't be trying to do too much. I think today I took over the game a little bit more than last night. I controlled the play a little bit more, so I think just being consistent there and letting the puck do the work. ... Tonight, I felt more comfortable. I was moving the puck a little better. 'Pary' helped me out being his partner out there. It's a good combo for me and him."

Schwartz made his preseason debut and picked up where he normally leaves off: making his teammates better, according to Yeo.

"I don't know if that's going to be the combination," Yeo said of the pairing with Schenn. "Obviously with 'Schwartzy,' you wish you can clone him with every line because he makes players around him better. I think he got one shift with 'Vladi' tonight and was able to set up the game-winner and those guys obviously have great chemistry. It gives us options though. It's hard not to have chemistry with a guy like 'Schwartzy.' His work ethic and his hockey sense and his skill combined, he's a guy that makes players better."

Ville Husso, who relieved starter Jake Allen at the start of the third period, made a strong debut making nine saves.

"I think he played really well," Yeo said of Husso. "He seems like he's a gamer to me. He covers a lot of net. He's got a good presence in the crease. He's talking, he's engaging players on the ice and to me, that's a good sign."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (17) scores a shorthanded goal, beating Columbus goalie
Brad Thiessen in a 3-2 overtime preseason victory on Wednesday.

Tarasenko, who scored both Blues power-play goals, found himself in the high slot after getting Schwartz's feed and beat Jackets backup Ivan Kulbakov on a puck that was deflected at 2:58 of OT.


It wasn't necessarily designed that way.

"No, not really, but there are no bad goals," Tarasenko said. "It happened by accident, so I just decided to shoot. It's nice to start at home with the win. We will keep improving and we will be ready for the season 100 percent.

"It's good we have a win. I think everyone was excited to play the game."