Hutton back feeling good; Upshall getting close; Stevens, Reinke expected
in Tuesday; Allen earns star of the week; Brodeur picked as co-GM of Canada
ST. LOUIS -- Carter Hutton was back in full form on and Monday at Scottrade Center for Blues practice on a day when team photographs were first on the docket.
Hutton manned one goal while red-hot Jake Allen was in the other for the first time since injuring his neck during the morning skate before the Blues were to take on the San Jose Sharks, ironically Tuesday's opponent, on March 8 in San Jose.
"Ready to rock here," Hutton said. "Excited to get back and chip in here."
Hutton, who is 16-7-3 with a league-leading 2.02 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, would not divulge the extent of how he was injured, only saying he was glad to be back.
Ville Husso, who backed up Allen the past nine games, was assigned back to San Antonio on Sunday.
"I'm back now and that's all that matters," Hutton said. "... I've been feeling good for a few days here. I thought last week, maybe mid-week when I came home and skated on my own that it's getting close."
After getting in a couple skates last week, it was evident that Hutton is ready for active duty.
"That was what we were anticipating, that he would be full participation this week, so it's good to have him back," Blues coach Mike Yeo said.
It was an inopportune time for Hutton to go down, as it would be at any time for any injury. But Hutton was really carrying the ball for the Blues during a time in which they were waiting on Allen, who is 7-2-0 since taking the full reigns back, to get on track.
When Allen was 2-13-0 from Dec. 12-Feb. 25, Hutton was 11-5-0.
"Both have had really good years for us and obviously there was a time where with Jake, maybe it wasn't going as well," Yeo said. "We could point to the goal scoring, we could point to a number of things, but I think by his standards, I think by our standards, we knew that there was another level there and certainly we're seeing it right now with Jake.
"But Carter's play during that time, that was real important for the group. You need two goalies in the NHL right now. The days of a guy being in the net for 70 games a year and being problem-free for the whole season, it's too difficult not. It's too much parity, it's too much with all the schedules, too demanding. The importance of two goaltenders probably has never been more important."
WIth seven games remaining and the Blues, who held the final wild card spot heading into Monday's games, in a dogfight to make the playoffs, Hutton could see action this weekend when the Blues play back to back road games in Vegas and Arizona.
"I think it was something that over time happened," Hutton said of his injury. "Obviously frustrating. I thought I was playing well at the time. Jake's gone in and played great. It's awesome. When I left, we were out of the playoffs, now we're in, so it's great. I'm pumped to get back in and help out.
"Obviously I go down there and Jake steps right back in there. He's playing the best hockey of the season right now at the most important time. ... Opportunities come in weird ways. He's obviously taken advantage of it and my job now is come back and player better than I was or if not as good. When I do get a chance to play, compete and give our team a chance like I always do."
Allen, for one, is glad to have Hutton on board again.
"It's good to have 'Hutts' back," he said. "We're ready for the final seven games. There's not a whole lot left, but every game's meaningful. I'm sure he'll be ready to play whenever he's called upon. It's a big challenge. It's good to have him back. He's good for our team, even if he's not playing. He's good in the room. He keeps guys loose."
* Upshall close -- Blues left wing Scottie Upshall is close to returning from the sprained MCL in his left knee he sustained on March 3 in Dallas.
Like Hutton, Upshall began skating last week and has been building up for his return.
Upshall, who has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 61 games, didn't rule out Tuesday against San Jose but a more likely scenario is this weekend.
"It's getting there. I feel good," Upshall said. "It's been a hard week, lots of skating getting the legs back, but it's coming long good.
"[Yeo] and I have spoken. We have a pretty good line of communication. He knows where I am. I think today was a good day for me to just get into some good flow drills and some battle. Ultimately, our team is playing the way we need to play, winning games. At some point, I'm going to get a chance to jump in whether it's tomorrow or later on in the week on a back to back, we'll see."
With the Blues on a season-long five-game winning streak, Yeo acknowledged Upshall is close, but it would be tough for the Blues' coach to alter the lineup now.
"Very close," Yeo said. "I would say he's available for tomorrow, (but) I would say that there's a good chance that we'll go back with the same lineup tomorrow just with the sense that I think it wouldn't hurt 'Uppy' to have another practice and also I think guys that would potentially come out of the lineup have done a really good job and don't deserve to come out."
* Stevens, Reinke expected to arrive Tuesday -- Forward Nolan Stevens and defenseman Mitch Reinke, two of the three collegiate players [Austin Poganski] to sign two-year entry-level contracts on Sunday night, will arrive in St. Louis on Tuesday.
Stevens, the Blues' fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft who just finished his career at Northeastern University, is expected to arrive in the morning and Reinke, a free agent signee out of Michigan Tech, is expected later in the day.
Poganski was assigned to San Antonio on an amateur tryout.
"As far as the forwards, I'm not going to get into great detail for you, but I know that we've got two players coming here and obviously one going to San Antonio," Yeo said. "It's going to be a great experience for those guys. We'll see if opportunity presents itself for them to get into games; I'm not sure. I think that the first step is for us to get them into practice and see if we can get them up to speed obviously with the NHL game, NHL players, the NHL pace but also get them up to speed with our game and with our system. Heard really good things and excited to get them here."
Stevens, the son of Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens, is coming off an impressive 42-point season (24 goals, 18 assists) in 38 games, while Reinke played 35 games this season and had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists).
Both will be thrust right into the playoff chase.
"It happens," Yeo said. "You can see we're short bodies as it is. It'll be good for practice and it's going to be great experience for them. It'll give us a chance to get a feel for where they're at and see how it goes."
* Allen earns second star of week -- The NHL announced its three Stars of the Week and Allen was the second star behind Edmonton's Connor McDavid and ahead of Winnipeg's Kyle Connor.
Allen went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in wins over Boston, Vancouver and Columbus, ending the Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak on Saturday with 2-1 win.
"We've got a good thing going right now," Allen said. "I just happened to get the honor.
"It's not a huge deal. Right now, we're headed in the right direction. Seven games left, a big one tomorrow and looking forward to it."
* Brodeur named go-GM for Canada at World Championship -- Blues assistant GM Martin Brodeur on Monday was officially announced as a co-GM of Team Canada for the upcoming 2018 IIHF World Championship to be played in Denmark from May 4-20.
Brodeur and Burke were part of Canada’s national men’s team management group that oversaw the evaluation process, including an extended schedule of events from August to December 2017, for Canada's Men’s Olympic team that captured bronze in PyeongChang in February.
Brodeur is in his fourth season as assistant GM under Doug Armstrong and Burke is a scout for Montreal.
A three-time Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils, Brodeur represented Canada in international competition eight times, having won the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010), and two silver medals at the IIHF World Championship in 1996 and 2005.
* Moving on without Gunnarsson -- Speaking of injuries, the torn left ACL by Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is a tough one in itself since the re-evaluation process will take place in six months, but for the kind of season Gunnarsson was having, makes it even more difficult to swallow.
The Blues are already without another lefty, Jay Bouwmeester, who had surgery to repair a left hip injury sustained Dec. 10 against Buffalo, but not having the reliable Gunnarsson (five goals, four assists in 63 games) will put more of an onus on the likes of Jordan Schmaltz.
"Someone asked me what they should write an article on and I said, 'Write an article on 'Gunny,' because if you've watched him and the way he's played over the last month or so, I might have got the accolades but he's holding me there," Blues defeneman Alex Pietrangelo said. "He's a rock for me back there. We found our groove together. I know what I'm getting from him every single night. It's tough to find. That's the part of being a pro and being a veteran guy is you know what you're going to get from 'Gunny.' He was playing good hockey and you hate to hear that stuff. You know how good of a guy he is. You never want to see that."
* Updates -- Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who's managing a knee ailment he's been dealing with since Feb. 16 at Dallas, took a maintenance day Monday, and Nikita Soshnikov, who sustained an upper-body injury in a 2-1 overtime win against Boston last Wednesday, also missed practice; he's missed the past two games.
"We'll still call [Soshnikov] day to day right now," Yeo said.