Friday, November 11, 2016


Fabbri disappointed to be scratched, determined to get back in lineup; 
too much for a good penalty kill; coaxing Gretzky; players to be futbol fans

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Robby Fabbri just wants what was his most of the season.

The Blues' second-year forward wants his job back.

After being a healthy scratch for the first time in his brief career Thursday during a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, Fabbri was on the ice Friday for an optional practice at Nationwide Arena in preparation for the Blues' game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's the last thing you want to happen," Fabbri said. "When they're not happy with your game and you're not too happy with your game either, there's stuff you've got to do to make sure you're not getting out of the lineup and make sure you're earning the spot and you're not giving them that option."

Fabbri, who has one goal and three assists in 14 games this season after a rookie season that saw him tally 18 goals and 19 assists in 72 games, has been one of the young players thrust into a more prominent role this season. That means he's playing against more impactful players and receiving more attention.

"I feel like there's spurts in games where I feel comfortable and I feel like I'm playing my game and being effective and then you go through spurts in games where I feel like I'm not," Fabbri said. "That's not something you can have, you've got to be consistent. You've got to be good every night. That's something I've got to work on.

"First time I've been scratched. It's definitely a different feeling, not a good feeling. I'm definitely going to do anything I can not to be put in this situation again."

So instead of pouting about it, Fabbri was back working on his game Friday and determined to gain the necessary edge so once he gets back in, he stays in.  

"The worst thing you can do is hang your head over it," Fabbri said. "I had a good practice (Thursday), had a good workout, a good practice (Friday) and hopefully get the nod and come back faster, stronger and better."

* PK good, or too much of it? -- The Blues have had a strong penalty kill, and they've needed it. That's the good news.

The bad news is that for as well as the Blues' PK has been (they've allowed only five goals), they've been on it a staggering 62 times, which equates to 91.9 percent and tied for No. 1 in the NHL with Saturday's opponent, Columbus.

The 62 times, which leads the NHL by one over the Calgary Flames, averages out to the Blues having to kill off 4.13 penalties per game. And for the Blues, who use their top offensive players on the PK, it tends to wear players down, and when players wear down, there's no energy for offense, and the excessive PK work is putting a toll on the Blues' offense, which can't find the back of the net.

"That's something I think we stressed that we need less of is take penalties," said defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has played more than 10 minutes on the PK the past two nights. "We did a good job killing them off. We've been pretty good penalty killing all year, but I guess it plays into momentum, that sort of thing, but overall, we just need to find a way to score a little bit more and that comes from doing a lot of things. It's being more competitive, getting around the net, that sort of thing. We'll figure it out."

The Blues played well for the majority of a 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago on Wednesday, and held a 1-0 lead through 38-plus minutes in Nashville on Thursday before succumbing 3-1, but those games added to the futility of offense in which the Blues have scored one or fewer goals in eight of the past 12 games; they have two or fewer in 10 of 15 games this season.

"Yeah, some guys have got to play some hard minutes and some guys don't play at all," left wing Jaden Schwartz said. "It's a little bit of a mixture of both. You can kill off penalties; I don't know how many we killed off in a row, but it felt like it was almost half a period (Thursday in the second). Guys were sitting for that long who don't kill and some guys are working hard and tires them out a little bit, but if more than anything, it gives them momentum and lets them feel the puck more than they would 5-on-5."

And that's what Hitchcock, whose team is 27th in the NHL (2.20) in goals per game, feels needs to happen, more 5-on-5 play.

"It's disappointing to play as well as we did," Hitchcock said. "We played really well against Chicago and we played even better against Nashville until they scored their second goal and then we ran out of gas. It's why we're running out of gas. We're running out of gas because we're asking the same people to do too much because we're killing too many penalties. We're killing too many penalties and it's not allowing us to play our roster properly. It's disappointing to put that type of work in and play well and then basically not have the energy to come back. Some of it is back-to-back, but we were gassed. We were gassed in the third period.

"I think you go through stages like that, but I think a bigger part of it is you have to have energy to play offense and there's not enough 5-on-5 play for us. We need more 5-on-5 play. ... We've got to clean up that part of (not taking so many penalties) so that we've got the energy to play 60 minutes. The game's 60 minutes-plus. You've got to have the energy to play when the game's on the line and we've had too many times here where we've been tired, not being able to perform at a high level. We've got to do that."

* Soccer fans -- A group of Blues players will be attendance at Mapfre Stadium on Friday when the United States takes on Mexico in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier at 7 p.m. St. Louis time (on FS1).

Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen, Carl Gunnarsson and possibly David Perron will be on hand to witness a crucial three points on hand on the road to Russia in 2018.

"It will be interesting for sure," Steen said. "Obviously a rival game. I'm a big soccer fan, it should be a good atmosphere."

Steen was on hand when the U.S. took on St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a qualifying match at Busch Stadium.

"That was (like) an exhibition game and even despite that, it was still a great atmosphere," Steen said. "The fans got into it. It was a blowout. It's not what tonight is going to be. This is a big game for the U.S. and should be interesting. I haven't watched a game of this magnitude in a while."

Steen, who had a keen interest in the match between Sweden and France Friday afternoon, is looking forward to taking in Friday's match.

"Most of the games I've seen have been in Europe and most of those, Sweden playing," Steen said. "This will be a different feeling to see what the Americans are like and what the atmosphere will be at the game. I'm sure Mexico will have a lot of fans there as well. It'll be a cool thing."

* Pulling Gretzky in -- Blues radio color analyst Kelly Chase is a close friend of Wayne Gretzky, so when "The Great One" indicated that the Heritage Classic alumni game between the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets might be his last one, there was some lobbying to do.

And in the end, there was enough salesmanship to convince Gretzky to be on the Blues' alumni roster for the Bridgestone Winter Classic alumni game between the Blues and Blackhawks on Dec. 31 at 1:30 p.m.

"We got him to come in early," Chase said of Gretzky. "Once he committed ... you know Wayne, he's always so respectful. He didn't want to take anything away from what was going on in the Winnipeg one. He committed and we talked to him, he didn't want to say anything for the longest time, but he knows what's best for the game and he knows showing up would mean a lot to the fans of St. Louis. It'll mean a lot to his family because his wife (Janet's) from here. I think that's more than anything why."

Gretzky's name adds plenty of clout to the Blues' roster.

"The fact you have Bobby Plager there, the fact that you have Brett Hull there, Bernie Federko, when you go by eras, the most important, impactful players to be a part of it, and you add the great players around them, it really means a lot," said Chase, one of 14 forwards who will play in the game. "Wayne Gretzky, it's not even arguable, he is the best player of all time and to be a part of it, us guys playing with him or against him still relish the opportunity to be on the ice the same time as him."

* Butler assigned to Wolves -- With six healthy defensemen and all coming out of the game Thursday with no injury issues, the Blues have assigned defenseman Chris Butler to the Chicago Wolves.

Butler was in Nashville and scratched when Gunnarsson, who was a little dinged up against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, was able to play.

Butler was with the team in Columbus but rejoined the Wolves to play in Cleveland on Friday.

* Hull to illuminate Anheuser-Busch Brewery -- Former Blues great Brett Hull will illuminate Anheuser-Busch Brewery on Nov. 17 as part of the Brewery Lights holiday tradition, in its 31st year.

The Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery is welcoming thousands to the company's flagship brewery where guests can enjoy more than 700,000 twinkling lights, special beer, food and entertainment this holiday season. 

The Brewery Lights will kick off the holidays with a public lighting ceremony on Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. where Hull will be on hand.

New this year, the brewery will construct an ice rink for visitors to make memories under the twinkling lights of the historic Old Schoolhouse grounds. 

To help properly break in the custom-made rink, St. Louis Blues alumni including Hull, Terry Yake, Cam Janssen, Mike Zuke, Bobby Plager, Reed Low and Bob Gassoff Jr. will be available to sign autographs and take photos on select Thursday and Sunday nights by the skating rink. A portion of guests’ skate rental fees will be donated to the St. Louis Blues Alumni Association, which has helped raise more than $5 million for local charities.

Additionally, there are several special packages and a la carte options available to guests including a sampling wristband for guests 21 and older to enjoy up to five free beer samples along the tour route and food tokens available for purchase. StellaMart will be back this year for guests to do some quick holiday shopping at the outdoor market featuring numerous local St. Louis vendors.

Drive-through tours are welcome at the St. Louis brewery Monday through Wednesday evenings from Nov. 21 to Dec. 28 after dusk until midnight. Visitors can enter from Arsenal St. turning onto 7th Street and then travel along Pestalozzi St.

The Brewery Lights experience will be open Thursdays through Sundays from 5-10 p.m. apart from select holidays. 

Brewery Lights is free and complimentary parking is available for guests at the Anheuser-Busch Tour Center, located on the corner of Lynch and 12th streets.

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