Schenn right back to work after All-Star weekend;
Hutton keeps net; Yeo happy for Paajarvi; Blues in good spot
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- All-Star weekend normally keeps those NHL players that participated in it grounded for that first practice back.
Not Blues center Brayden Schenn, who was one of two Blues (Alex Pietrangelo) who didn't take the weekend off and represented his team in Tampa this past weekend.
Schenn was a but of a surprise skater Monday afternoon when the Blues (30-18-3) reconvened for their final push down the stretch, which begins Tuesday when they wrap up a four-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens for the first of the final 31 games.
Schenn took a flight from Tampa Monday morning and arrived in St. Louis and found himself on the ice with his teammates despite being given the option of taking the day off or not. Pietrangelo opted for the latter.
"I flew in this morning. I didn't do a whole lot," Schenn, who leads the Blues in points (50) and assists (29) and is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for most goals (21) said before joking. "The whole weekend, you kind of have your ... drinks and your food and it's good to come sweat it out.
"You just come here, it's a quick skate. Nothing too much. It's good to get the legs moving again and then take a day off later in the week when you really need it."
Schenn was back on his pre All-Star line between Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen
"He had the option as well, but he thought it would suit him better to come out today," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schenn. "I'm sure if that's what he needs for tomorrow I'm sure we'll give him another day off.
"[Pietrangelo's] back. We gave him the day off with the travel and everything."
Schenn is on a four-game goal-scoring streak, his second this season, and hopes to pick up where he left off.
"Yeah, I think everyone's excited," Schenn said. "It's good to have that little break to get away. You see it, guys come back and they're excited to be back on the ice again, excited to see each other. For me personally, it's nice having 'Schwartzy' back. He's a huge boost for our team.
"I think you just get one (goal) and then confidence starts coming in, you start to see more plays maybe. Even before the one game I played with 'Steener' and 'Schwartzy,' we had lots of chances and we played really well as a team, getting solid goaltending again. We're gonna need all of that and more I think down the stretch here."
Schenn did enjoy his first All-Star experience representing the Central Division, which lost 5-2 against eventual champion Pacific Division on Sunday. Schenn also took part in the passing skills contest, won by Pietrangelo.
"It was good. It was fun," Schenn said. "You know a lot of the guys around the league. Fun for me, fun for family. It's good to be back and we're looking forward to this stretch right here.
"I don't think (there were) any awe moments. It's just cool being around those guys and seeing them showcase their skills. It's pretty lucky to be a part of an event like that. It's fun for me, fun for my family. I got to come down and got to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in the past and overall, a great experience. ... I got a few sticks signed by all the guys and stuff like that. It's good memories to have. You never know if you get a chance to go back."
Pietrangelo took home a cool $25,000 for winning the passing skills competition.
"'Petro' won some money, so we'll see what he does," Schenn joked. "Maybe treat the boys or maybe give to charity, I don't know. I think he said he was going to give to charity. Don't quote me on that, but good for him. He had a good performance."
* Hutton stays in goal -- Goalie Carter Hutton will get the nod once again against the Canadiens.
Hutton will make his sixth consecutive start and 10th in the past 12 Blues games, meaning it will be 23 days at the very least in between starts for No. 1 goalie Jake Allen, who did relieve Hutton on Jan. 20 against Arizona but hasn't started a game since Jan. 8 against Florida.
Hutton is 7-1-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and one shutout in his past nine starts.
"Carter did a good job leading up to the break and Jake is going to get in very soon," Yeo said. "We have a plan for that, but that's the decision we made for tomorrow."
Look for Allen, who is 1-8-0 his past nine starts, to get in net in at least one of the next two games, at Boston Thursday and/or Buffalo on Saturday.
* Paajarvi gone -- Yeo reflected on losing forward Magnus Paajarvi, who was claimed on waivers last Friday by the Ottawa Senators when the Blues needed to clear a roster spot to activate Schwartz.
"Disappointed, yes, but in the same sense I'm happy for Magnus too," Yeo said. "You obviously know there's a risk there and Magnus is a good teammate, he's a great kid, obviously he did some really good things for us last year, sealed a playoff victory for us and gave us some quality games. This year, he never really got the offensive touch, whether it was the confidence, whatever the case is, never really came around for him but still gave us some really good games. I'm happy he gets that opportunity."
Paajarvi had four points (two goals, two assists) in 44 games this season and finished his Blues career with 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 189 games over five seasons. He did score the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the first round playoff series last year against the Minnesota Wild to clinch the series 4-1 for the Blues.
* Playing for something -- When the NHL schedule resumes on Tuesday, the Blues will begin in third place in the ultra-competitive Central Division with 63 points, three points behind first-place WInnipeg, two behind second-place Nashville and just three ahead of Dallas and six ahead of Colorado and Minnesota.
All those teams have games in hand for the Blues, which could be a detriment if those teams accumulate points with those games in hand but on the flip side, could be good with the Blues playing a lighter schedule and having more days off while those teams play a rugged schedule when games will continue to get amped up.
"I think that we're in a good spot," Yeo said. "We're in a spot where we're in a fight, there's no question about that. We've said right from the start, from the beginning of the season, from the offseason, it's going to be extremely difficult to make the playoffs this year. Looking at our division, looking at our conference, we knew that it was going to be a battle and we put our selves in a good position now, set ourselves up with what we have remaining and where we're sitting right now. What I like about it is that it's up to us. We put ourselves in a good position where it's up to us. We don't have to rely or hope for somebody else to do something. We take care of our business and we'll be in a good spot."
The Blues have played 51 games, Winnipeg 50, Nashville 47, Dallas 50, Colorado 48, Minnesota 49 and Chicago 49 within the division.
It doesn't mean the Blues have easy opponents by any means. Of their remaining 31 games, 18 are against teams currently holding a playoff position and eight more against teams within four points of a playoff spot.
"I think we saw the effects of a real complicated and heavy schedule like we had in December," Yeo said. "You're dealing with two things, you're dealing with fatigue and you're dealing with rust. Sometimes you have to choose one over the other. There were parts of our game where I felt we looked a little bit tired during that stretch and there were parts of our game where maybe we weren't getting enough practice time, you could see some slippage in whether it's details or execution. I think now with the schedule we have here, it provides us with the opportunity to do both."