Monday, January 13, 2014


Polak set to return; Lapierre injured; Reaves happy with new contract

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The 'Roman Polak Door' could be opened on Tuesday night.

When the Blues (31-8-5) host the Phoenix Coyotes, there is a good chance the Blues get their defenseman back.

Polak, who was left off the Czech Republic Olympic team last week, has missed 10 games with a partial fracture of the left ankle, was a full participant in practice Monday after he accompanied the team on their recent Western Canada swing. 

"I think I have a green light to go," said Polak, who was injured Dec. 19 against the Montreal Canadiens. "I don't know when ... if it's going to be tomorrow, the day after, the game after. I'm going to do whatever I can to get back in the lineup and we'll see what the coaches decide.

"I'm pretty close. I feel pretty good out there. I had a good practice today, good back-skating with the coaches. This was my second full practice with the team and I felt pretty good."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said when Polak is ready, he steps back into the lineup. It does give Hitchcock options now with eight healthy, NHL-ready defensemen.

"We're going to evaluate him tomorrow," Hitchcock said of Polak. "Hopefully if he continues to feel good, then he's going to get clearance tomorrow to be able to play so that'll be really good for us, too. He's going to give us a real added boost of energy and physicality that I think we need in our lineup right now.

"What's happened over time is this has really been an advantage for Ian Cole. Ian's really improved and gotten better so we have options. We can play him there, we can play (Jordan) Leopold there. First, we've got to get clearance on Roman to make sure that he's 100 percent, ready to go and we'll take the next evaluation. But with so many games, all the guys are going to play anyways."

Hitchcock downplayed the notion that he has too many defensemen at his disposal.

"I think we're going to need right-plus," he said. "You play one game, with all the players that are going out every day, trying to stay reasonably healthy is a big challenge, especially over a short period of time."

The Blues will play nine games in 18 days beginning Tuesday but seven of them will come in a span of 12 days, beginning Tuesday.

* Lapierre injured -- With a full slate of skaters on the ice Monday for practice, Blues center Maxim Lapierre was the notable exception and absentee.

Lapierre suffered a lower-body injury late in the 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks after a hip check from Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis with 2 minutes 43 seconds remaining in the game.

Lapierre did not return to the game and Hitchcock did not have an update on Lapierre's status for Tuesday's game.

"He took that hit late in the game, that low hit there," Hitchcock said of Lapierre. "He's been exercising full, but not able to skate on a full-time basis. So we'll evaluate him tomorrow and see if he can play tomorrow."

Adam Cracknell centered the fourth line Monday, playing between Brenden Morrow and Ryan Reaves.

* Reaves locked up -- Speaking of Reaves, there was a noticeable smile from the Blues' fourth line enforcer Monday.

Why wouldn't there be after Reaves secured his immediate future Friday when he and the Blues consummated a four-year extension for $4.5 million.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and Reaves' camp hammered out a contract that took a few days to complete.

"I think they banged it out within two days ... that was a big relief," said Reaves, who will make $1.125 million annually after making $600,000 this season. "It felt really good. I can't tell you how excited I am to be here for another four years. I definitely didn't want to leave. The fact that they approached me mid-season, I was definitely happy about that."

The 26-year-old Reaves has five points in 27 games this season and 19 in 158 regular season games with the Blues.

"My energy role is kind of what got me noticed on this team," Reaves said. "On and off the ice, I try and be the energy for the team.

"It's crazy to think that seven years ago, I was getting healthy-scratched in the (East Coast Hockey League with the Alaska Aces) during their playoff run. I came from there and being a healthy scratch once in a while in Peoria and now here, obviously my first few years I was always wondering if I was in the lineup or not. That's a bad feeling. But working hard and trying to get that feeling out and knowing when you come to the rink and knowing you're going to be up on that board is a great feeling."

* Back to work -- Aside from the mandatory Christmas break in which the Blues had three days off, having three days between games has been a rarity.

The last time the Blues had three or more days off between games came during a rare six-day stretch from Oct. 19-24. But after seeing their seven-game winning streak snapped in a 2-1 loss Friday, the Blues got back at it Monday with their first full practice after taking Saturday and Sunday off.

"I think what was needed was the second day off," Hitchcock said. "We had a great practice today, a lot of energy. A lot of guys that looked tired at the end of the road trip were re-energized. We had a lot of execution and a jump at practice today, which was a great sign. Taking the extra day off, giving the guys that time away has really helped them."

Jaroslav Halak, who returned Thursday with a 33-save effort in a 5-0 win against the Calgary Flames following a lengthy stint with the flu, will get the start Tuesday against the Coyotes, who played Monday in Winnipeg.

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