Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blues to alter identity while injured players out

Goal remains same, Hitchcock said team 
will have to "manufacture points" for time being 

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues had an idea what kind of game they wanted to play well before the start of training camp.

Descriptions often included reckless, fast, with pace, speed, puck control, checking.

But injuries have derailed at least some of those plans before the team could get out of the month of October. And until they start to get some players back from those injuries (two of them are expected back Tuesday), it could be a case of good old-fashioned muck-and-grind.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Dmitrij Jaskin (23) will see an increased role with the Blues dealing with
injuries early in the season.

"I think quite frankly until we sort out our roster, this is what it is," coach Ken Hitchcock said after a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. "We're going to have to find ways to gather points in. We're going to have to find some different chemistry. I think we're going to have to get a little creative here with what we do with our roster and we're going to have to get more from certain people but if we keep up with our work ethic like we do right now, we keep our spirit up, we're going to get through this thing and hopefully come out better."

The Blues (5-2-1), even with a depleted lineup that included missing a line's worth of top six forwards (Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri), one of their top defensemen (Kevin Shattenkirk), and a guy that was expected to play a top-six role (Scottie Upshall) who came up sick an hour before the opening puck drop, leaving the team in an even bigger scramble mode. And going into the season, Patrik Berglund (shoulder) was shut down for four months.

The Blues found a way to grab a point Saturday, but they came away feeling they deserved two points after dominating the final two periods and had some high-percentage looks in overtime -- including one by Alexander Steen -- to seal the win.

It didn't happen, but moving forward, even with the additions of Shattenkirk, Fabbri and Upshall expected to come Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there will need to be some improvisation playing without some of their top guns, and it means other guys will need to fill important roles for the foreseeable future.

"We know we're anticipating that Shattenkirk and Fabbri will be back in on Tuesday," Hitchcock said. "I'm sure Upshall will be back in, so we're going to get a little bit of stability here to get some semblance of order of what we've got to do lineup-wise here.

"Some guys that took advantage, (Scott) Gomez played well (Saturday); I thought (Dmitrij) Jaskin ... he got a lot of minutes (a career-high 20 minutes, 46 seconds); this is the most he's ever played. He did a good job. We got young kids on defense really get challenged (Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson). Islanders are a good team. I think this is hopefully going to give them some confidence to keep moving forward. We're in the manufacturing part of it now. We've got to manufacture points, we've got to manufacture goals. It's not going to come as smooth and as easy as it once did."

Parayko was one who stepped up. His goal got the ball rolling; then he assisted on Steen's tying goal before serving up a potential game-winner to Steen in OT.

"I just think he's a young guy, this is his eighth game in the National Hockey League and he just gets better every day," Hitchcock said of Parayko. "Edmundson the same thing. Edmundson was really good for us. These guys get better every day. They've been put in situations because of the injuries that normally they wouldn't be in. I think they've responded and held together real well and I think they've done an admirable job." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Backes (middle) will need to pick up his production with the Blues
dealing with injuries to key players in the top six at forward.

Despite missing players, the Blues won't alter their outlook moving forward. They expect to win, accrue points along the way, and when people do come back, it will solidify an already strong and deep lineup.

"It's just about guys stepping up and filling roles," said goalie Brian Elliott, who fell to 4-0-1 with 19 saves Saturday. "We lost some big-time players. Now it's opportunities. It's about that opportunity of playing with the top guys on the team. Guys did a good job (Saturday)."

"We obviously started down two going into the third," Parayko said. "Great effort by the guys to come back and come into the locker room and get those two to tie it up and get the point. Obviously we want the two every night, but I guess it's all over, we'll take the one and keep moving on."

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