Saturday, September 30, 2017

Upshall back in St. Louis

Veteran forward back on PTO, hasn't signed contract yet, hopes 
to soon; Blues, Capitals wrap up preseason with Sunday afternoon tilt

ST. LOUIS -- Scottie Upshall was back on the ice Saturday on familar ground.

Upshall, who played for the Blues the past two seasons, was back after passing a physical and signing a professional tryout (PTO).

Upshall, who will turn 34 on Oct. 7, was with the Vancouver Canucks on a PTO when he was abruptly scratched from a preseason game Thursday against the Calgary Flames.

With the Blues dealing with injuries to Robby Fabbri (out for the season after reinjuring his left knee), Alexander Steen (hand), Zach Sanford (out 5-6 months with a dislocated left shoulder) and Patrik Berglund (out until December with a dislocated left shoulder), the Blues are a little thinner on experienced forwards and turned back to a familiar face.

Upshall, who was wearing No. 9 (he's worn No. 10 the previous two seasons but it's occupied by Brayden Schenn), hasn't signed a contract yet but was hopeful of doing so soon.

"It's nice to be back in a nice, new dressing room," Upshall, who had 10 goals and eight assists in 73 regular-season games last season, said. "As far as I know, I was in the lineup (Thursday), I was preparing and just got a call from my agent saying that St. Louis had reached out and was interested in talking. That just kind of made things unfold. 'Army' (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) had me in today for a physical. I signed a PTO here this morning so I can practice and we hopefully work something out in the next day or two."

Upshall was skating on a line with Klim Kostin, Wade Megan and Chris Thorburn.

"Obviously we know 'Uppy' well," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "His teammates were excited to see him today, coaching staff, we were excited to see him today to have him out on the ice with us. We definitely know what 'Uppy' can bring to our group.

"It's not like we're dealing with a younger player or player coming from another organization that we don't have that familiarity with. He's a player that brought a lot to us as far as the role that he brings, his personality with the group, the way he fits with the culture around here. It's good to have him back."

Upshall was having a good camp with the Canucks and felt there could be something in the making as far as a contract there. But once the call came from the Blues, it was an easy decision.

"They were pretty optimistic," Upshall said of the Canucks. "They just at the time couldn't really guarantee me anything. It looked more positive on this end. Being familiar with this group of guys, the transition back would have been really easy. Vancouver was great, it was a great experience. Terrific organization giving me an opportunity to play, so I thank them for that. Great guys, but no, I'm excited for this opportunity that lies ahead and helping this group get to the next level."

Upshall's potential signing, expected to be a one-year contract, could indicate that the Blues aren't quite comfortable using some of their young draft picks just yet, feeling that Kostin and Tage Thompson aren't quite ready for the big show just yet.

"No, I wouldn't say that," Yeo said. "When we came into the season, obviously we talked about our depth and then part of that depth is out for the year or close to it. There's two guys (Fabbri and Sanford) that are gone now. I think that things change in there and you need that depth for situations like this, but it's going to get tested again later on during the season. It's a different role that 'Uppy' plays than what you would have a skilled player play. He's going to bring physicality, he's going to bring speed, and he's going to obviously bring penalty killing. If you believe that things are going to be called the way that they have been in preseason, special teams are going to be a very, very important part to the start of this season to being successful as a group."

But the thought of going into a season with multiple young players with little to no experience could have put the Blues in a tough spot.

"That's tough," Yeo said. "You're not going to see too many playoff teams with four or five guys who have never played in the league before. We haven't made any decisions here yet. All those guys are going to get into the game tomorrow. Another chance for them to show what they can do, but it's easy to look at some of the success they've had, we haven't publicized some of the things that haven't gone well. Fact of the matter is the league is going to get better. Things are going to pick up next week when we go into Pittsburgh. It's going to be a new level that most of these players haven't seen."

Upshall has been down this PTO road before; he was in on one with the Blues in 2015 when he earned a contract. 

"It's a grind, it's a mental grind for sure, but you know it's part of the game and part of you know what you sign up for when you lace them up," Upshall said. "I wish it would have ended up a lot smoother to end up in this dressing room again, but you know, I'm happy and I'm healthy to still can play. I felt great all summer. I felt like I was confident I could do in and make an NHL team. It was just a matter of how the cards fall."

The sides talked during the summer about a potential contract then but nothing materialized, and Upshall was ready to move on.

"We had spoke over the summer early before the expansion draft," Upshall said. "It didn't seem like it was gonna work, so I was kind of prepared mentally to go somewhere else, but this is just a very unfortunate situation with our injuries that we've had here losing key players, key young players is tough. It's nice to be able to come in and provide some depth and experience in the lineup and help out. I feel like I haven't missed a step here as far as getting going with this group."

As far as perhaps getting his old No. 10 back ... "[Schenn] kind of mentioned it," Upshall said of his former Philadelphia Flyers teammate. "It's not really a huge, big deal. It was brought up, but it's more like a laughing thing right now. I like No. 9 (wore it in Philadelphia)."

- - -

The Blues (3-4-0) will wrap up their preseason schedule at Scottrade Center against the Washington Capitals on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Here is their game lineup:

Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Thorburn, Paul Stastny, Kyle Brodziak, Tage Thompson, Klim Kostin, Magnus Paajarvi, Wade Megan, Samuel Blais, Oskar Sundqvist, Vladimir Sobotka, Vladimir Tarasenko, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo, Nate Prosser, Robert Bortuzzo, Jake Walman, Colton Parayko, Jake Allen and Carter Hutton.

Allen is expected to start and play all 60 minutes. Upshall will not play. 

The Capitals' lineup includes:

Alex Ovechkin, Brett Connolly, Jakub Vrana, Anthony Peluso, Chandler Stephenson, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller, Devante Smith-Pelly, Alex Chiasson, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie, Nathan Walker, Jay Beagle, Tyler Graovac, Evgeny Kuznetzov, Taylor Chorney, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Brooks Orpik, Aaron Ness, John Carlson, Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby.

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