Time off good for Blues; D'Agostini fine, Sobotka injured in practice
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- After playing 16 times in 33 days, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock decided to allow his team to make the most of this rare time in between games.
Along with some brisk workouts, which the Blues partook in Monday at St. Louis Mills, there was a day off Sunday and another today before getting back to work.
"We needed a break mentally," said Hitchcock, whose squad will wrap up a five-game homestand by hosting the red-hot New York Rangers Thursday. "When you're playing every second day, it feels like you're in a playoff series.
"I think mentally, we've got time to regroup. Getting stuff done in practice today was the first time we ever put some things into practice we've never had a chance to work on. You couldn't afford to put this type of energy in knowing you're going to play the next day."
The Blues, who will begin a stretch of 20 games in 41 days leading into the all-star break at the end of January, have five days in between games. It allows the team and coaches to refresh and get re-energized.
"For us, kind of rest and work the combinations have been good," Hitchcock said Monday after practice. "I think the mental breaks have been good for the players too. We'll see how we respond on Thursday. But we've got a ways to go yet there."
* D'Agostini expected to be fine; Sobotka hurt -- The Blues got a break when winger Matt D'Agostini was knocked out of Saturday's 1-0 win over San Jose with an upper-body injury.
D'Agostini was checked near the defensive blue line by the Sharks' Jamie McGinn, and replays showed D'Agostini's head snap back in a whiplash form, causing his helmet to fly off.
But after receiving the standard concussion testing, mandated by the NHL, D'Agostini is expected to rejoin the team for practice Wednesday.
"He's going to skate hard (today) and then join us for practice on Wednesday," Hitchcock said. "That's the plan right now. ... There's a protocol when you pull him out. You've got to follow a protocol so we're following protocol."
While D'Agostini is expected back, the Blues will learn the extent of center Vladimir Sobotka, who took a close range slap shot from teammate Alex Steen at practice off his left ankle.
Sobotka limped off the ice after he and Steen fell to the ice and stayed on the bench for a bit. Then he tried to skate it off but left with trainer Ray Barile. He was seen leaving the practice facility in a walking boot and crutches and was getting further tests done on Monday. There was no further comment.
Sobotka, who has been one of Hitchcock's most consistent players with two goals, 10 points and a plus-9 rating, had a similar injury last season when he blocked a shot off his foot in a game at Calgary.
* Tkachuk to Hall -- Former Blue Keith Tkachuk was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011 Monday night in Chicago.
The 39th U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction class also included former defenseman Chris Chelios and Gary Suter, play-by-play announcer Mike "Doc" Emerick and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider.
Thachuk scored 208 goals and had 427 points in 543 games over parts of nine seasons playing for the Blues. The four-time U.S. Olympian and silver medalist (2002) ranks fourth in franchise history with 96 power play goals, fifth in goals, sixth in points and seventh with 29 game-winning goals.
A five-time NHL All-Star, the guy known as "Big Walt" ranks second in career goals (538) and fifth in total points (1,065) among U.S. born players. He ended his career in St. Louis after playing for Winnipeg/Phoenix, Atlanta and had two stints with the Blues.
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