Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Blues looking to get number of injured/sick players 
back; Elliott to stay in goal; Berglund could alternate positions

ST. LOUIS -- The list of injured/sick players the Blues are dealing with at the moment, one might go through a busy line at their favorite restaurant on a holiday quicker than reading off all the names.

But that list could take a strong cut by Thursday morning prior to the Blues (27-7-5) hosting the struggling Los Angeles Kings at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

First off, Chris Stewart, who suffered a nasty gash to his mouth by a Jason Pominville dump-in during the first period of the Blues' 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild, could get back into the lineup after sitting out the remaining 51 minutes, 30 seconds of Tuesday's game. 

"We'll just take him through tomorrow and see how he feels," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Stewart after Wednesday's optional skate. "He doesn't look great, but he's a hockey player."

Also, captain David Backes went through another hard skate with two handfuls of players. He's missed two games with an undisclosed upper-body injury after leaving Saturday's 6-5 shootout win against Chicago.

"Backes, we'll let you know on tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "Full skate today, so we'll see how that is.

"Everything was structured. Today was the first unstructured day, or it was just compete. If he feels fine, then he'll be good to go."

Defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) and Ryan Reaves (hand) could come off injured reserve and be, as Hitchcock said, "available for selection" for the game Thursday. Leopold has not played since injuring tendons in his hand against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 7, and Reaves broke bones in his right hand following a fight against the Dallas Stars and Brenden Dillon on Nov. 23.

In correlation to those players being potentially available, the Blues assigned forward Dmitrij Jaskin to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

"He did really well," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "We're really happy with him, but if Reaves or Leopold are going to come off IR here, then there's not going to be any room to play. We're not prepared to play him in the fourth line role.

"What surprised me is how strong he is ... as a 20-year-old player. That surprised me a lot because it's a tough league and he's giving seven or eight years on average away and he was able to hold his own physically, which is really a good sign. We played him anywhere from 10-15 minutes, which for a young guy coming (up) is a lot of minutes. I thought he did more than hold his own. He doesn't look like a big guy, but he plays like big guy, plays strong, strong on the puck. I think he's got a great future ahead of him. He's going to be a heck of a player."

As for both Leopold and Reaves, both have skated profusely in recent days but both haven't gotten full, hard skates in with the entire team.

"I want to wait what these guys have to say from a conditioning standpoint," Hitchcock said. "I just don't see them having the chance to (get full practices). I don't see us having a full hockey practice for a little while. They've been practicing with eight, nine, 10 guys getting banged around.  I think it's up to the doctors when the doctors clear them. We've got to decide whether we're going to play them or whatever.

"We've really got four guys. Army sent Jaskin down today. Whatever's here, we've got to come up with 20. So we want to talk to Stewy here, talk to Backes, see what Doug has to say on the other two guys and go from there."

Reaves, who has two goals and four points in 22 games, is most likely of the two between he and Leopold, who has two assists in 13 games, to get into the lineup.

"First of all, we like the way (Ian) Cole and (Carlo) Colaiacovo are playing," Hitchcock said. "With a guy like 'Leo,' it's a little bit different than it is with 'Revo.' 'Revo' can be effective playing anywhere between eight and 10 and 12 minutes. 'Leo' has to play a lot more than that. 

"If 'Leo's' cleared, we might take our time and have a couple more skates with him before we decide what we're going to do. When they're cleared, they're available for selection, not necessarily in yet. Both guys hopefully get cleared here in the next 24 hours and see where we're at here."

Hitchcock said Reaves' role is simple.

"Just play," he said. "We're not going to play 'Revo' unless he's 100 percent. If the doctor says he's 100 percent, then he's got to play his game ... away he goes. We're not going to put him on the ice with any restrictions. We've been waiting a long time. He's been skating full time for 10 days now, but we're waiting full time to get everything green-lighted so there's no restrictions with him."

* Elliott gets third straight start -- The Blues won't say it publicly, but they are riding the hot hand at the moment.

Brian Elliott will get his season-high third straight start tonight against the Kings (25-12-4).

Elliott, who is 10-1-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .922 save percentage on the season, is 6-0-1 in his past seven decisions with a 1.74 GAA and .935 save percentage.

It also makes it an easier decision since Jaroslav Halak, who was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Wild but was pulled because of illness, is still feeling under the weather.

"He's been solid," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "He's given us a chance every night. That's what we're asking. He's been very good early in games, he's allowed us to get our traction. I think that's been really good for us to be able to not start on our heels, to be chasing games. He came in a very difficult situation in Chicago, a couple goofy goals went in, but he still held his ground there. He was great after the game was tied. And then obviously he was really good in Dallas and he played really well last night. It couldn't come at a better time with Jaro not being able to have the energy that he wants to have right now."

But make no mistake about it: there is no goalie controversy. Hitchcock is trying to find the chemistry of two seasons ago.

"We're better playing both guys," Hitchcock said. "Sometimes it works better when they're a tandem. This is a good tandem. One guy maybe plays more early, the other guy plays more late ... whatever. 

"I think at the end of the year, you're going to see this thing is going to end up in the same place: 55-45 (percent). How we get there might be a little bit different. But we look like we're going to get to that position again. We seem to operate when it's a tandem. We don't wear one guy down."

* Berglund at LW? -- Hitchcock said there could be one change when some players return to the lineup, and that's using center Patrik Berglund at left wing on Backes' line.

The reason? Faceoffs. Backes winning draws on the right. Berglund can come in on the left.

"One of the things moving forward that we might look at a little bit in the next few games is maybe playing Berglund some left wing on a top line just because if it's with Backes, they can switch positions and stuff like that," Hitchcock said.

The Blues have toyed with the idea of using Berglund on left wing before but have never really gone through with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment