Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo progressing; Hutton close to returning; Schmaltz 
season debut goes well; Binnington recalled, Husso returns to San Antonio 

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues played Tuesday without three of their top-minute players in a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a battle of top teams in the NHL and could be getting at least one of them back as early as Thursday.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (undisclosed injury not related to the fractured left ankle sustained early in training camp) told coach Mike Yeo he was feeling better and the team is expected to make a decision in the morning, likely after the gameday skate prior to facing the Anaheim Ducks.

"I talked to him today. He's feeling better," Yeo said of Bouwmeester. "We'll see what happens there tomorrow."

Bouwmeester, who missed the first 21 games with that fractured left ankle, is dealing what an injury Yeo said was "nagging."

Stay tuned in the morning of Bouwmeester's availability.

As for captain Alex Pietrangelo, who is on injured reserve and is eligible to come off for Sunday's game at Winnipeg, the second leg of the back-to-back with the Jets (they play Saturday here), he's coming along.

"He's going to wait a couple days (before skating), but talked to him today and he's feeling better," Yeo said. "I know he hopped on the bike there. We'll keep him moving and obviously interested to get him back."

The Blues are obviously playing without Jaden Schwartz, who along with Pietrangelo missed his second straight game after both were injured blocking shots last Saturday in Detroit. Schwartz is out and will be re-evaluated in six weeks with a right ankle injury.

* Hutton ready to return -- Also on the injured front is goalie Carter Hutton, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to last Thursday after he sustained a foot injury taking a puck off the skate of teammate Scottie Upshall during the morning skate before the Blues' game against the Dallas Stars.

Hutton, who skated in an optional practice on Wednesday, was on the ice for a second day in a row and can come off IR on Friday ahead of the home-and-home series with the Jets.

"I'm feeling better," said Hutton, who called it a freak play. "Now it's just a pain thing and we can deal with that. That's the part of playing hockey. You're never really too healthy. You're always kind of too banged up in some sort of way, but it's good to be back out there. A couple days off, it always kind of sucks. It's one of those things where when it happens, you're like, 'Oh OK, there's lots of hockey,' but then you miss the first game and you like really hate it, feel guilty. You want to play, you want to help out. That's kind of my mindset the way I was raised. But we're back and we'll look back in a couple months from now and we won't even remember this little couple days off.

"I'm good to go. I'll be ready to rock, granted I don't take any more slap shots to the feet."

Yeo was also hopeful.

"Today was a good step and obviously every day he gets on the ice right now, he's certainly getting closer," he said.

* Schmaltz debut good -- Blues defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, who played in just his 10th NHL regular-season game Tuesday playing alongside fellow rookie Vince Dunn, played 14 minutes, 13 seconds in his season debut.

The stat line doesn't jump out, but the pairing of Schmaltz and Dunn were not on the ice for any goals against and handled themselves well against the Lightning firepower.

"Being my first (NHL) game in a while, it kind of almost felt like my first game again," said Schmaltz, who is tied for the team lead in points in San Antonio with 19 (five goals, 14 assists) in 24 games. "I thought I was solid defensively and I think I can build off it for sure.

"You try not to think about it. I think you've just got to approach every shift like it's your last one out there, do your job, play simple, play hard and get after them."

Blues coach Mike Yeo had no qualms about playing the two rookies together despite what kind of offensive weapons the Lightning brought. Felt confident in their abilities and trusted they'd get the job done.

"There was some thought, but we wanted to see how they went out and how they played," Yeo said. "Given how the other team's lines were shaped up, we felt that we could put them in some situations to give them a chance. You start the game, you don't really know how it's going to end necessarily. Obviously you hope it's going to end the way you started it. They showed us pretty quickly they were up to the task.

"I thought [Schmaltz] played well. To me, he's playing with more pace than he did in training camp. He looks quicker, he's making decisions quickly and that goes with the puck but that also goes without the puck. I thought he closed on people quickly, I thought his gaps were good. A little bit more aggressive and confident than what we saw in training camp."

The familiarity of Schmaltz and Dunn playing together with the Chicago Wolves helped matters.

"We read each other pretty well," Dunn said. "We were comfortable that we hadn't played with each other from the previous years. I think we're pretty good together and obviously we're both rookies. We need to be energetic and do the right things over again. I was comfortable playing with him and I think he was, too. I think we handled them well and were ready whoever we were out against."

* Binnington recalled, Husso sent to Rampage -- The Blues swapped goalie prospects and recalled Jordan Binnington, who is on loan to the Providence Bruins, and assigned Ville Husso to the Rampage.

With Hutton's return imminent, it was important to get Husso back playing games with San Antonio while the Blues need a backup one more time Thursday, which will be Binnington.

"It's just important for young guys to play," Yeo said. "'Huss' has been here. He's back and up right now. He's not going to play in the game tomorrow, so both guys have been doing a good job this year. Binnington's been playing really well from the reports that we've been getting Husso's been playing really well, just coming off the injury and it's important that he gets playing and we'll bring 'Binner' up now."

Binnington is 6-1-0 and ranks second in the AHL with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in eight games with the Bruins this season.

* Win streak ends -- The Blues' loss to the Lightning for the second time this season stopped a four-game winning streak but didn't come with many ill effects.

Other than converting on some solid scoring opportunities and beating goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped all 32 shots faced, the Blues probably were the better team on the ice but didn't win the most important category: the scoreboard.

"We played a pretty good game," Yeo said. "You look at every game and there's always some things that you can do a little bit differently, a little bit better in some situations. But their goalie played well. We checked hard, we defended well against a team that's not easy to defend against. We generated the opportunities. We had breakaways, we had 2-on-1's, we had opportunities in the offensive zone, but our execution in those situations weren't quite as sharp as we would have liked. Obviously we didn't find a way to score that dirty goal or that goal around the blue paint.

"We feel that if we can go out there and execute that game for the better part of 60 minutes, because it's never going to be perfect; don't matter who you're playing against. The opponent always has a say in it, but if for the better part of the game, if you're getting to your game, if it's got the picture of what your best game looks like, then yeah, more often than not, you're going to get the win. We didn't last night, so we'll have to find a way to come back and be a little bit better tomorrow.

It was a one-shot game until Nikita Kucherov scored to make it 2-0 with 6:23 remaining. That goal came moments before the Blues' Vladimir Sobotka missed on a wide open net that would have tied the game.

"I think we were in it right until the very end," Dunn said. "We definitely had our chances to put them in the back of the net. I think just looking at the positives, we can't shoot ourselves in the foot over that one. It's two top teams in the whole league coming together. We have guys missing, but definitely not an excuse. It wasn't a bad game, we weren't sloppy. I just think we need to capitalize when we have the opportunities. We've got to fight for those dirty goals."

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