Blues down two defensemen to injuries; Oystrick recalled, Nikitin close
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A week after being rocked by a Jordin Tootoo hit in Nashville, it's been confirmed that Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo sustained a concussion and has been placed on injured reserve.
Colaiacovo is on IR retroactive to Oct. 28, but Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said that the Blues defenseman, whose neck spasms have subsided but the headaches have not gone away, will not play against San Jose tonight nor will travel with the team for road games at Boston Saturday and the New York Rangers on Sunday.
The team has recalled defenseman Nathan Oystrick, who made his Blues debut Saturday against Atlanta, from AHL Peoria.
"The situation with Carlo was he had a sore neck that we thought might have been causing the headaches, but the neck injury subsided a little and the headaches are still there," Armstrong said at Wednesday's practice at St. Louis Mills Ice Zone. "We believe he sustained a concussion on that hit with Tootoo, thus we put him on IR now. He won't be making the road trip with us this weekend.
"We'll just evaluate it. Like all concussions, it's day-to-day until the headaches subside and he feels better."
The team initially did not come forth with the possibility of a concussion, rather that the headaches were caused by the neck spasms. Further evaluation by trainers and team doctors revealed that it indeed is a concussion.
"We weren't sure what was causing the headaches because he did not lose consciousness on the ice," Armstrong said. "We wanted to find out what was causing the headaches. Could it have been the neck or was it a concussion? ... Instead of misleading anyone or going down an area we didn't know, we wanted to rule out everything before we went to the concussion. Talking to our trainers and our doctors, they believe that's what he sustained."
Colaiacovo is listed as day-to-day but like all concussions, there is no definite timetable. Like Cam Janssen, who suffered a concussion in the season opener, Colaiacovo must pass a neurophysiologic test before resuming action. Janssen missed nearly three weeks.
"When the headaches go away, he'll do some exercises," Armstrong said of Colaiacovo, who missed some time in the preseason with a hip injury. "If they don't come back, he'll do a baseline test."
The hit by Tootoo, in the Blues' 3-0 win over the Predators, came late in the third period seconds after the Blues scored to go up by two goals. The Blues were hoping that the league would suspend Tootoo, who has been disciplned before for such actions, but that was not the case. Tootoo received a five-minute charging major and an automatic game-misconduct.
"The league did look at the hit. I did talk with the league," Armstrong said. "I respect the men making the decisions, but I disagree with the decision. To me, it was a dangerous hit by a dangerous player.
"You look at the timing, we had just scored a goal to go up 2-0, the distance traveled (before making the hit). A hit to the shoulder and then into the head area on someone who has a history of doing that. We just agreed to disagree on the extent of the hit. (NHL head disciplinarian) Colin Campbell felt the call on the ice was the right call but didn't warrant anything severe. I felt that ... when you look at the score and the gentleman that did it and the distance traveled towards the hit, I believe that he came off his feet."
Through the first nine games, the Blues (6-1-2) have already lost Colaiacovo and fellow defenseman Roman Polak, who will miss significant time after having wrist surgery last week to repair a torn tendon.
"We're going to deal with this kind of stuff all year long ... everybody is," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "It's really just how you handle it. These guys have stepped in, we've handled it fine so far. We've got another test (tonight) and we've got to welcome those challenges.
"I liked what Oystrick did. He played a solid game (Saturday). He had a hand in the game-tying goal. More opportunity for him to step in and continue to play."
The Blues are carrying six healthy defensemen, although Nikita Nikitin (broken wrist) began skating this week and is coming along quite nicely.
Armstrong was asked if Nikitin was healthy, would be go to Peoria to play, but with the loss of two defensemen and Nikitin's rapid rise up the organizational depth chart, it's possible he could remain here for a while.
"Right now, we have two injuries," Armstrong said. "We're going to see how he plays, how he looks with these guys and we'll make that decision. ... We're down two bodies.
"... He's still on the injured reserve list and we'll see how the next few days of practice go with him and into the weekend. He'll be joining us on the road trip, though."
Nikitin will in fact make the trip this weekend but it's difficult seeing how he'll get any ice time yet.
"We're looking at him getting to a point where we feel comfortable with battle level, conditioning levels, game-type situations before we make a full assessment on what the next step is," Payne said of the Russian-born defenseman. "... No firm plan in place just yet."
Nikitin broke his right wrist in a preseason game against Chicago. He skated with the team prior to facing Atlanta Saturday and has been on the ice every day this week. Reports from team doctors were favorable after being evaluated Tuesday.
"All reports were good so now we've got to make sure internally as a staff, we like what we're seeing, we like what we're seeing in practice, we like not only the physical level but the conditioning level in being able to handle the timing situations that go on," Payne said. "If he does that, then we've got to make a consideration as to which plan we throw in place after that."