Friday, December 15, 2017


Gunnarsson injured in practice, joins growing list; Pietrangelo progressing; 
Hutton activated, will play this weekend; Bouwmeester to IR, Blais recalled

ST. LOUIS -- It's been quite the week for injuries as far as the Blues are concerned.

Add defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a list that grows, it seems, by the minute.

Gunnarsson left a short practice early on Friday after being hit around his right knee area, a wrist shot taken by fellow defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, during a special teams drill.

With Jaden Schwartz (right ankle), Alex Pietrangelo (lower body) and Jay Bouwmeester (undisclosed) all currently out with injuries, joining Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Robby Fabbri (knee), the Blues may have to enlist the M*A*S*H unit on ice.

"We'll see in the morning, we're hopeful," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Gunnarsson's availability. "My gut says that he'll be ready to go, but obviously we don't know how he's going to feel tomorrow."

Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak and Robert Bortuzzo all missed practice because Yeo said all are "A little dinged up, so we'll go in the morning and hopeful that they'll be players for us."

Speaking of Pietrangelo though, the news is trending upwards that he could very well rejoin the lineup when he can come off injured reserve on Sunday in the second of back-to-back games against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Blues (21-10-2) host the Jets (18-9-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) before the rematch at MTS Centre on Sunday at 5 p.m.

"'Petro' obviously skated again today; he's getting closer," Yeo said. "That's a good sign and we're happy with the group that we've got going. I think our 'D' have been doing a good job. You look at last game and obviously there's a couple times where I think we could have done something differently, something better, but that goes for our entire group."

As for Bouwmeester, who the Blues thought would play on Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks but was a late scratch, the Blues put the veteran defenseman on injured reserve retroactive to Sunday.

Yeo said on Thursday after a 3-1 loss to the Ducks that Bouwmeester would be held out of the games against the Jets and be re-evaluated next week.

"We thought he was going to be a player, but it didn't work out," Yeo said.

Recalling Blais from San Antonio for the fourth time this season is more indicative of perhaps an underlying injury to one of the Blues' forwards. Jaskin took a pop during the game Thursday.

* Hutton activated, Binnington reassigned -- The Blues activated goalie Carter Hutton off injured reserve on Friday, some good news on the injury front.

Hutton was put on injured reserve last Friday after he injured his left foot after taking a shot by Scottie Upshall during the morning skate on Dec. 7.

"Yeah, I feel real good actually," Hutton said. "A few days off obviously, I couldn't do much at the start with the foot and I was able to get some good workouts in. We found a lot of ways to get some extra fitness in that you can't really do sometimes when you're playing all the time and then just some good sessions with the goalie coach and some practices and I feel like I never missed a beat here."

Yeo said Hutton would get one of the two games against the Jets.

"He's going to play one of the two games," Yeo said. "We'll announce that tomorrow."

With Hutton's return, the Blues returned Binnington on loan to Providence of the AHL, and Hutton is ready to play a game for the first time since Dec. 1.

"You hope I'll get in one of these two and help out, but whatever happens, goes," said Hutton, who is 4-2-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .937 save percentage this season. "Jake's been playing great. 

"We've dropped a couple here at home, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort by any means. We look at any points in those games, I think it could have went either way. We've got to get back on the winning track. That's what this league's about is winning games, and we've go the team in here to do it."

* Fixing the offense -- Injuries aside, the Blues aren't making excises for their latest two-game slide in which they've scored just one goal in losses to Tampa Bay (3-0) and Anaheim (3-1).

But there's definitely an out-of-sync group that played Thursday. Against the Lightning, despite getting shut out, the Blues produced quality scoring chances and were thwarted by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

Thursday, the Blues displayed few grade 'A' chances and out of whack tendencies, and it goes from odd-man rushes to an ineffective power play to 5-on-5 play.

"When you're not scoring goals, obviously all of it is a factor," Yeo said. "You look at our rush play right now, I don't think we're fast enough, I don't think we're direct enough. I look at our offensive zone play, looking at the video again, we've got guys at the net, but we're not finding ways to create those shot opportunities, those second chance opportunities. Too many shots getting blocked and a little bit too much one-and-done in the offensive zone, too. I feel like when we're on top of our game, we've got more movement, we've got more zone time and are more dangerous because of that."

There's one common denominator to it all, getting to the interior, which is something the Blues and coaches continue to preach but get inconsistent levels of. Whether it's the opposition pushing the Blues out or just a lack of consistent traffic, it's something that needs quick fixing.

"We obviously haven't been scoring as many goals like we'd obviously like, but we're getting a few chances," center Brayden Schenn said. "I think we can do a better job of being harder around the net. That's a cliche answer, but really when it's not going your way and the tic-tac-toe goales aren't there, you've got to go to the net and get the dirty, greasy ones. We're going to try and do that and figure to get rewarded.

"It's a little bit of both. When you play these big teams, they do a good job of taking time and space away. It's hard to get in front of the net and blocking a lot of shots. There's nothing I think they're doing; I think we can do a better job -- all of us -- of getting pucks through and getting second and third chances.

"You try to will your way through it. It's nothing more than going to the blue paint to score goals. If you look at a lot of the goals around the league, they're scored within the five- and 10-foot range. We'll hopefully get to the front of the net tomorrow and try to find those rebounds."

* Mixed emotions for Thorburn -- Blues right wing Chris Thorburn admitted he took a peek at the schedule when it came out last summer.

After signing a two-year, $1.8 million contract to join the Blues, it marked the first time since 2007 that Thorburn would wear anything other than a Atlanta/Winnipeg jersey.

Thorburn spent four seasons with the Thrashers before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, and he spent the past six seasons with the Jets.

He'll face the Jets on Saturday for the first time.

"There's mixed emotions," Thorburn said. "... I think it is going to be weird, so I'm just going to take it in stride, just play my game. I'm sure there's going to be some chatting. 

"When I signed in the summer and the schedule got released, we definitely took a peek at it to see what the schedule held. It's something that's in the back of my mind."

Thorburn said he still has many friends on the Jets and isn't surprised to see them thriving in the heated Central Division.

"They were all my friends," Thorburn said. "We had a good locker room. All over the league, if you talk to many guys, locker rooms are pretty tight, especially if you're an older guy. I've been around for a while, so I cherish those friendships and memories that will last a long time.

"They were on the brink for a few years. They just had to tighten up on  few spots and they've done that. They're doing really well, but we are too, and it makes it a lot easier to handle."  

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