Sunday, February 2, 2014

Roy has let play speak for him after benching

Veteran center has brought his level of play back to a 
higher level, with help from new linemates Schwartz, Tarasenko

ST. LOUIS -- Like any proud veteran player, Derek Roy didn't take his benching quietly.

Since being a healthy scratch Jan. 23 against the New York Rangers, the 30-year-old Roy hasn't used the media to voice his displeasure about sitting out.

Instead, Roy has allowed his play to do all the talking. And the results have been noticed by the coaches.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Derek Roy (left) has rebounded nicely after being a healthy
scratch against the New York Rangers on Jan. 23.

And now with Vladimir Sobotka sidelined with a left leg injury that will keep the Czech Republic native sidelined at least four weeks and force him to miss the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Blues will need Roy more than ever to help alleviate what's been vacated by Sobotka's absence.

"I think since Derek was not in the lineup, I think he's really made a great account of himself," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's been a real good player for us. He's been one of our best players on the power play, he's made great plays on the power play, he's been very competitive and I think he's really answered the bell and had a great attitude and I think he's really going to take on the responsibility of keeping that line going with Sobe not here."

Roy has 33 points (25 assists) in 53 games this season, which is good for seventh on the team and tied with Vladimir Tarasenko. He's had stretches of producing at a good clip throughout the season after signing a one-year contract. But Hitchcock has also limited his minutes at times as well, even relegating him to fourth-line duty when needing more from Roy.

He certainly got it Saturday night in a 4-3 shootout victory against the Nashville Predators, where Roy, Tarasenko and linemate Jaden Schwartz really lifted the team with a combined four points. And although Roy only has two assists to show for his production on the score sheet since being scratched, it's other areas that Hitchcock appreciates. 

"I just think he's competing," Hitchcock said of Roy, who had an assist Saturday. "He's competing for pucks, he's winning races, he's not on the outside, he's not reaching and he's using his quickness as a real weapon to pick up loose pucks. I think he's also playing in straight lines and that's why that line looks so fast. They play in straight lines, they play with great tempo and they're dangerous. They're dangerous because everybody knows that once they cross center ice, it's going towards the net. It's a really good thing for us. I really liked the way they played today. I liked the way they went to the net, I liked the way they hung onto the puck, I really liked their composure."

Schwartz, who scored his 17th goal of the season, likes the instant chemistry with Roy and Tarasenko, who had a goal, an assist and the shootout winner.

"They're both smart players, they have good offensive instincts so they can make plays from almost out of nothing," Schwartz said. "I think we're pretty responsible too in the d-zone. I think the biggest thing is they're smart players and they've got good instincts.

"You're not going to replace Sobe, but you have other guys step up and play more minutes. He's such a big part of our hockey club. We're going to miss him, but we've been in this situation before with losing key players and managing to win games. We've just got to continue to play a team game."

When the news filtered into the locker room regarding Sobotka, who was injured late in the 3-1 loss at Carolina Friday, there wasn't a panic in the locker room. More a sense of accountability from fellow teammates who had to step up in the absence of other key players that have been injured this season.

"We talked about it before the game, just work hard for each other," Roy said of his linemates. "We did that in the first period. We got a couple good first shifts and tried to create some chances. You're not going to create unless you work hard. We worked together and we talk a lot on the bench and we make sure we know each other are going to be on the ice.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (9) scored his 17th goal Saturday. With
linemates Derek Roy and Vladimir Tarasenko, it was a
good night for the trio.

"I feel like at the start of the year I had problems with my hip-flexors and groins and wasn't skating as well as I could and that's my game ... is to skate and create offense. The only way I'm creating offense is when I'm skating hard and I thought with Schwartzy and Vladi, they're both really hard on the puck and they both want it. We've just got to get better as a line, keep building on these games and keep playing."

Look for the line to continue to stay together, and for Roy to be the glue that keeps his fellow 2010 first round draft picks flying high.

"He's been playing well," Schwartz said of Roy. "I don't know necessarily if he was playing bad before. He might not have been creating as much, but he played good (Saturday) and he's such a smart player. When he gets time and space, he's going to make a great play."

Added Roy: "We've just got to keep working as a line and good things will happen."

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