Friday, October 30, 2015


Parayko will be game-time decision; Tarasenko OK; 
Blues getting strong, flexible work from veteran Ott

ST. LOUIS -- The news on players that were dinged up Thursday night: there is no news as far as their availability is concerned for Saturday.

The Blues held an optional skate at Scottrade Center on Friday, and those affected by injuries (Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko and David Backes) were not on the ice, as expected.

Tarasenko, who scored his sixth goal in a 2-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks, left the ice for the final four minutes of the second period but came back to finish the game.

He had a bit of a limp a day after being hit by the Ducks' Shawn Horcoff but was walking on his own.

"He's good. He's good. He's ready to go," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Tarasenko.

As for Parayko, who departed with roughly 6 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the game after appearing to fall awkwardly nears the boards at center ice, he was in a walking boot on Friday that Hitchcock said was "a protection thing," but called his rookie defenseman "a game-time decision."

"We'll see where he's at tomorrow," Hitchcock said of Parayko, who leads NHL defensemen in goals with four. "... He just fell on the ice. We'll see where he's at tomorrow.

"It's kind of day-to-day, moment-to-moment. We'll find out tomorrow where we're at. We're assuming we'll have Jake Allen (playing) tomorrow and we'll just dress the same lineup and away we go. We'll see where (Scottie) Upshall is. He worked hard today at the skate. He might be a possibility for us, which would be good news. ... It's the off-day. Who knows? Tomorrow we'll tell you who's in the lineup. Everybody's got injuries. We'll see where we're at tomorrow. We'll evaluate it all tomorrow and whatever lineup shows up, shows up."

It's not known if Parayko hit a rut in the ice or perhaps stepped on another skate/blade. 

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who's missed seven games with a lower-body injury, took in his second skate in a row after sitting out Wednesday when Hitchcock said Shattenkirk was around 95 percent, but the team wanted to get him to 100 percent before resuming play.

"He practiced full today, so we'll see how he feels," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "For us with 'Shatty,' it's kind of when he's able to absorb some practices back-to-back, and today he was on the ice full time so we'll see tomorrow."

The Blues (7-2-1), who host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, are already without Paul Stastny for another 3-4 weeks (foot), Jaden Schwartz for another 11 weeks (fractured ankle) and Patrik Berglund through December (shoulder surgery). Any more hits would really test the mettle of the team.

But they've been able to adjust and alter their way of playing, and adding the right players as replacements has been instrumental.

"This is why they pay coaches," Hitchcock said. "You have to be able to do this stuff. It's adjusting your lineup. It's adjusting the way you play the opposition. The biggest challenge is the way you play the opposition. You have a game plan at the start of the year when you're healthy and when you're not, you have to adjust the way you play. That's what coaches are supposed to do, is make the adjustments based on the lineup. Some of it is simplifying the game, (but) the big part of it is the way you play your personnel. So you might go from where you're looking for advantages to where you're looking to negate people. Right now, we're in that situation where we're using people to negate people. 

"We're having a harder look at the opposition most of the season except for a dozen-15 games, you just look at yourself. But when you have injuries, and you've got to pull the opposition away from their game, now you're looking more at the opposition. So we spend a lot of time looking at the opposition looking to see what we can negate or what we can push out of the competition. That's coaching; you've got to be able to do that stuff when you're in this situation that you're in. Two times I've had experiences like this where you have to do this. We spent a whole year in Columbus like this and made the playoffs playing this way. It's the way you have to play to do it and you do it. The other factor is you've got to hunker down defensively. You've got to expect every night, you're going to score two goals and get points. Every time you score two goals, you should expect to get points. That's got to be your goal if you want to get in the playoffs."

The Blues' goaltending and defense have been catalysts with the recent rash of injuries. In light of missing the key personnel, the Blues have allowed four goals in three games on this homestand.

I think it's a combination. There's a partnership between the coaches and the players. Roles change," Hitchcock said. "We have people who came into this season with this type of role and their role has completely changed from where it was three weeks ago. It's been good on them that they've been able to make these adjustments, but these adjustments will not be short-term. These won't be three- or four-day adjustments; it's going to be a good month before we start seeing people come back and we're going to have these people's cooperation to make these adjustments. And I think our players have done a wonderful job in changing the way we have to play, changing our disposition on the ice and coaches changing the way they allocate ice time for us to get points every night."

* Ott shines -- The theme for the Blues that's seemed to work the past couple games is wherever a line or a teammate needs a boost, or if a key faceoff needs to be won, or have someone drop the gloves to stir the pot, veteran Steve Ott's name has been called a plethora of times.

Ott, who arguably had his best all-around game as a Blue Thursday, is feeling good these days.

The 33-year-old seems to have caught some of the flare that he brought with him to St. Louis after being acquired by the Buffalo Sabres in 2013.

Hitchcock even commented after Thursday's victory that Ott is skating as well as he's seen since his arrival.

Ott got an assist on Tarasenko's goal, then he fought the Ducks' Corey Perry moments after Tarasenko was hit by Horcoff, and Hitchcock used Ott in a variety of roles.

Just another night at the office, and it's no coincidence either.

"Last summer, I came off of (sports hernia) surgery and didn't really have enough time to get myself going feet-wise," Ott said. "I felt like I was playing a lot of catch-up last year. It takes a little toll on your stride, but this summer, I really tried to add a lot of that, mix in a lot of skating, a lot of getting your feet going again, especially as you get older. The one thing you've got to do to stay around this league is keep your feet. If you can keep your feet, you're going to stay in this game. For myself, that was what I keyed on this summer."

Hitchcock's noticed, and he's rewarding Ott with more responsibilities.

"He just seems to be quicker on the ice, he's more patient with the puck," Hitchcock said. "He's being smart. I think he's being smarter with his energy. I think he's been smart with his positional play. 

"I think the biggest thing for me is he's been really smart with his positional play. That's really helping him. He's in the right spot, spacing on the ice is good. He's creating turnovers, he's got energy in the right places. I thought last year, the line for the first half of the year did a lot of chasing, so they had to cover too much ice. I think he's playing really smart, energized hockey and it's really helping us. We've been able to push him up the lineup, which has been a good sign for us. We get a game where we need the energy in a certain area and he provides it because he's in the right positional play. I think that's a good way we're using him right now. Obviously he and Kyle kill penalties together and they do a helluva job. From an energy standpoint, when we need a boost, we use him."

And Ott, who normally plays left wing on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves, doesn't mind the in-game adjustments.

"I've done that my whole career," Ott said. "For a long time, I don't ever remember myself being on one stagnant line or one line for the whole time. I've always kind of created my game as being able to play in all different situations. If it's center, if it's right wing, if it's left wing. Just give a coach the opportunity to be put in different situations.

"... I've been around a long time. I've got a lot of games in certain situations. I've played on some big offensive lines just a few years ago in my career. It's fun; you have to adjust on the go, but you know what, it's something that I kind of credit to coaching in situations myself back when I was younger and being thrown in all those different types of situations. It's not myself. Everybody;s bought into this kind of system. For us to be successful, you have to play your role. We're all trying to do that, we're all trying to chip in from 'Revo' all the way to Vladi Tarasenko. Every guy has a role on this team. For our team to excel, every guy has to buy into their role."

Ott, whose career-high in goals was 22 with the Dallas Stars in the 2009-10 season, is only happy to lend a helping hand to do his part until the injured guys return.

"Everybody's been raising their game," Ott said. "I think if you look at per minute-wise on this club, I think everybody's up right now and trying to take on extra minutes and an extra role. When you do that, that's the key role for all of us out there. 

"My own tester is how I feel. When I feel my feet are going, I get pucks, I'm on top of pucks, I just try to chip in as well."

* Jaskin, Rattie outlooks -- Both Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin, drafted by the Blues in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, have been tabbed as two of the younger players -- along with Robbi Fabbri -- to get opportunities to plug holes until injured players return.

Rattie played 9:43 but had the assist on Parayko's game-winner, and Hitchcock said Rattie, who's played in two of three games since being recalled from Chicago, progressively got better.

"I think he was a little bit nervous at the start and got better and better as the game went on," Hitchcock said of Rattie. "I thought his third period was his best period. He was more confident and stuff like that. I thought with the desperation in the game by both teams, I think it was a little bit overwhelming for him at the start, but as the game went on, he got better and better and better. Good sign."

As for Jaskin, who has two assists on the season (both in Winnipeg), he's began the game playing left wing with Backes and Troy Brouwer but eventually landed on the fourth line when the Blues moved Ott up to provide a boost.

"We pushed him into a role that he hasn't had yet this year and he's learning," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "He's trying to find his way. I think this is the first time where we've challenged him to be a worker and he's done a good job. Now we need a worker plus a scorer and he's learning to adjust to that right now. He's in that adjustment phase. It's interesting. When the game's on the line, he goes back to being the worker and you just love him. But we need him; we probably need more from that position because of where we're at. We're trying to engage him to get him going."

* Allen in goal -- Allen will make his third straight start against the Wild.

Allen's allowed only one goal on 49 shots the past two games in wins against the Ducks and last Tuesday, a 26-save shutout victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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