Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Blues looking to remain perfect with dads on the road

Players' fathers accompanied team on trip to Boston, Buffalo looking to build on 
4-0-0 record; Sundqvist sent to San Antonio, Walman reassigned to Binghamton

BOSTON -- Alex Pietrangelo knows what the record is. Just don't bring up when the Blues have done when they've brought their dads on road trips.

"I'm not going to talk about it," Pietrangelo said with a grin. "Don't even bring it up. Don't bring up the record. 

"I know the record, but I'm not even going to say it."

Perhaps the captain doesn't want to jinx it, but the Blues, who embark on a two-game trip to Boston on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday that includes a dad's trip for the third time in the past four seasons, will put their 4-0-0 mark on the line.

There's something about having dads around that brings out the best in the players, and it should. But the Blues, who won in Carolina and Washington in 2015 and Tampa and Florida in 2016 (they didn't have one last season for scheduling reasons) rightfully have some extra juice when dads are around.

"We're excited to have the opportunity to show our dads what we go through on the road trips," said defenseman Colton Parayko, whose father Tom Parayko will make his second trip. "It's exciting for us and really exciting for them. A lot of them have never had the chance to see or do the things that we get to do. We're looking forward to it and they kind of get a taste of what we do for our road trips and the best part of it is we get to spend some time with our dads.

"It's going to be a fun trip. Boston's going to be a good test, Buffalo works hard, they're going to be a good test. It's never easy winning on the road. Both games are gonna be tough. We're excited. We're confident, but we know we've got to play hard. They'll be watching us. ... It's kind of cool for us to feed off that energy and that hype for sure."

Yes, they will be watching.

"It's special, you know," said defenseman Joel Edmundson, whose father Bob Edmundson is on the trip. "When we were young kids, they were taking us to the rink every morning and now they can see us in the NHL, they come on the charter plane with us, they get to experience all the NHL lifestyle ... the dads have a great time and they seem to be good luck for us. We always keep on winning, so hopefully that continues."

"It's awesome," said center Kyle Brodziak, whose step-father Brian Soldan will accompany Brodziak. "It starts (today) when the dads will be around the rink for a practice and then jumping on the airplane and getting to a city. Usually guys will go to dinner to have the dads join that. Just to be a part of the routine, for them to get to see exactly how we live our lives for a few days, to feel a part of it is pretty cool.

"Guys are excited. Your dads are up in the stands. I know everybody wants to make their dads proud. It's just a cool experience and everyone just enjoys it quite a bit."

As soon as the players informed the dads of when and where another trip will take place, these dads were all on board.

"It's amazing," said Pietrangelo, whose father Joe is meeting the team in Boston. "Even seeing them up there [Tuesday] morning. You walk in in the morning and the dads sitting there having breakfast, it's pretty darn cool. You start seeing the similarities in the kids and the dads, right? That's the fun part. It's a special trip. I know all of us look forward to it. The dads talk about it all year. The camaraderie amongst them and for us to be able to walk in and say hi to someone's dad knowing we met them before, it makes them feel more comfortable coming in here. It's a fun trip for everybody.

"If you talk to all the dads, they look forward to it. It's no different than you getting together with a bunch of buddies and watch some hockey. For them, it's fun and I guess whenever the trend started, it was a good trend because it goes a long way. Those guys put a lot of effort and time into geting us to where we are."

While it's a business trip for the players, it's a fun and proud moment for the dads, especially Brayden Schenn's dad Jeff Schenn, who accompanied Brayden to the All-Star weekend in Tampa, came to St. Louis for this trip, will leave Boston to join older son and Arizona Coyotes defenseman Luke Schenn in Los Angeles Saturday for their dad's trip before returning home to Saskatoon.

"The dads have a great time together," Edmundson said. "Once we go to bed at night, they go out and have some drinks and they find their own fun. We do lots of team meals with the dads just to get them all together. It's just like a big family, everyone is having a good time."

A list of Blues players and dads/stepdads/father-in-laws/mentors accompanying them on the trip: Jake Allen (Kurt Allen), Patrik Berglund (Anders Berglund), Robert Bortuzzo (Oscar Bortuzzo), Kyle Brodziak (Brian Soldan), Jay Bouwmeester (Dan Bouwmeester), Vince Dunn (John Dunn), Joel Edmundson (Bob Edmundson), Carl Gunnarsson (Bjorn Gunnarsson), Carter Hutton (Jack Hutton), Dmitrij Jaskin (Alexej Jaskin), Alex Pietrangelo (Joe Pietrangelo), Brayden Schenn (Jeff Schenn), Zach Sanford (Michael Sanford), Paul Stastny (Burt Fowler), Alexander Steen (Thomas Steen), Chris Thorburn (Mark Thorburn), Colton Parayko (Tom Parayko), Jaden Schwartz (Rick Schwartz), Vladimir Tarasenko (Andrei Tarasenko) and Scottie Upshall (Scott Upshall). Tage Thompson was hopeful that his dad Brent Thompson, coach of the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers, could make it in for the game against the Bruins Thursday depending on the team's schedule.

* NOTES -- The Blues announced Wednesday they have assigned center Oskar Sundqvist to San Antonio of the American Hockey League and reassigned defenseman Jake Walman to Binghamton of the AHL from Chicago.

Sundqvist has been a healthy scratch the past six games and 12 of the past 13 games; he's played in 30 games and has three assists. He's off to San Antonio on a conditioning stint.

Sundqvist was acquired on June 23, 2017 at the NHL Draft along with a first round pick (Klim Kostin) from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Ryan Reaves.

Walman has played in 40 games for the Wolves this season and had 13 points (two goals, 11 assists). He was recalled by the Blues for games on Jan. 6-7 when Vince Dunn was out with flu-like symptoms.

Binghamton is the affiliate of the New Jersey Devils.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hutton sharp again for Blues in 3-1 win over Canadiens

Goaltender stopps 33 shots; Barbashev, Berglund, 
Steen score for St. Louis, winners of five of the past six

ST. LOUIS -- A three-day layoff following the All-Star break definitely showed early in the first period the Blues had left their skating blades behind them.

The Montreal Canadiens didn't and gave the Blues a good dose of offensive zone time, quality scoring chances and signs of a desperate team searching for success.

But the Blues have their version of an elixir, one that can stop anything in sight. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton (left) makes one of 33 saves in a 3-1 win over
the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday to improve to 8-1-1 his past 10 starts.

Goalie Carter Hutton picked up where he left off before the All-Star break; he stopped 33 shots and when the Blues got their skating legs going, they got goals from Ivan Barbashev, Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen in a 3-1 victory Tuesday before 18,149 at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (31-18-3), who have won three in a row and five of their past six, have beaten the Canadiens (20-24-6) five straight times.

Hutton has allowed two goals over his past three starts and made 94 saves; he has a .979 save percentage and is showing signs that he doesn't want to vacate the net any time soon.

"It's a product of the team too," Hutton said. "We're playing well. I think I just catch everybody off guard now because I play a few more times a week than I used to. I was playing well once every two weeks. Now it's a big deal.

"I think I'm the same goalie. I'm just playing more to be honest and confident in what I do."

Hutton is 8-1-1 in his past 10 starts out of the past 12 Blues games with a 1.72 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, and Blues coach Mike Yeo is seeing a player not willing to give up his net.

"I think we are," Yeo said. "I think we're seeing it's a mixture of confidence and desire to stay in there. He's doing a great job."

Charles Hudon scored, and Carey Price made 28 saves for the Canadiens (20-24-6), who have lost two straight and four of their past six.

The Canadiens had the early jump on the Blues. They outshot St. Louis 11-0 before the Blues got their first shot on goal with 2:57 remaining in the first period but couldn't crack Hutton.

"He's been playing unbelievable," Berglund said. "Obviously we wish to get him some better starts so he doesn't have to work his ass off, but we need good goaltending to win games and right now, he's bringing it."

Barbashev got to a loose puck outside the Montreal blue line and beat Price with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 4:38 of the second period to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.

"I honestly got a little lucky out there," Barbashev said. "The puck bounced right on my stick on the red line, but I just used the defenseman as a screen. I guess [Price] just didn't see it."

Berglund's power-play goal made it 2-0 on a rebound of Tage Thompson's wrist shot from the right circle at 5:14 of the third period.

It was the Blues' fifth power-play goal the past four games on 12 attempts and their first power-play goal against the Canadiens in 35 attempts dating to Jan. 20, 2010.

"A very easy goal," Berglund said. "[Thompson] made a good play, a good shot. My route just kind of took me right into the slot there. The puck just found my stick."

Steen's empty-net shorthanded goal with 2:17 remaining made it 3-0. Hudon ended Hutton's shutout with 1:07 remaining with a power-play goal.

The power play was a result of a Colton Parayko major penalty for boarding Paul Byron, who went hard head-first into the back boards.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ivan Barbashev (left) reacts after scoring in front of Canadiens center Tomas
Plekanec in the Blues' 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Yeo called for a challenge for goaltender interference, knowing full well he wouldn't win it, but it only cost the Blues a time out if they lost it, which they did, but it was more out of respect to try and get Hutton a possible third shutout in three games.

"It would have been nice. That was part of it," Yeo said. "You're not really going to have another opportunity to use your timeout there, so I figured I might as well try. It was a shot in the dark, let's put it that way."

"The guys were mad," Hutton said. "You come in here and guys were apologizing for it. It's no big deal. If we win 8-7, I don't care as long as we win. At the end of the day that's what it's about. It's about winning hockey games."

(1-30-18) Canadiens-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues felt good about their game prior to the All-Star break and want to continue in that trend when they come out of it and play the finale of a four-game homestand Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues are 4-1-0 the past five games and 7-3-1 the past 10 games and are right in the thick of the heated race in the Central Division, three points behind first-place Winnipeg and two behind second-place Nashville.

"That's important here that we have that mindset," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "I've said this a lot last year and going forward here, the goal is to make the playoffs, but the goal is to go into the playoffs feeling good about your game. The only way you do that is to make sure night after night, you come to the rink and you try and find ways to get better and you're pushing yourself and each other. 

"We've got to come here tonight, we've won four out of five heading into that All-Star break and I think it's important tonight that we assume that that momentum is just going to carry over. We have to come out here tonight and play a real strong, hard game and then obviously when you do those things, you get the results you want more often than not."

And where does Yeo think his team's game is at?

"I think we like our group and I think that for the most part, we like our game. We went through a bit of a stretch where we had a couple games where we didn't like, but for the most part, we're a team that's tough to play against and we give ourselves a chance night after night. There's some areas that we want to keep building on, but we like where we're at right now."

So do the Blues (30-18-3), but they understand there's more that needs to be done.

"The last five games with obviously the exception of the Arizona game, I think as a group, we feel like as a group, we're starting to build it back up to where we know it's capable of getting to," center Kyle Brodziak said. "There's still things we want to work on and improve every day, but I think overall, there's a good feeling that our game's starting to come back. When that's the case, we know and I think we're pretty confident here as a group that we'll get a lot of wins if that's the case."

The Blues will want to take advantage of the Canadiens (20-23-6), who have just two wins (2-3-2) the past seven games and are 10 points out of a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

"If we continue to win and continue to play the way that we can, that'll take care of itself," defenseman Colton Parayko said.

- - -

The Blues are 4-for-9 on the power play the past three games, scoring twice in two of those games, including two in their last game, a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

What's been the biggest difference for a group that moved up from 29th in the NHL to 25th currently?

"I think part of it is the play of 'Dunner' [Vince Dunn] back there," Yeo said. "He's taking advantage of that opportunity and then when you put 'Petro' [Alex Pietrangelo] and 'Pary' on that second unit, obviously I think that makes them more dangerous, too. 

"The puck recoveries for me has been the biggest part. They're working to get pucks back. Obviously when you have possession of the puck in the offensive zone, that's when you have your opportunities to create and that's what we've been doing the last couple games."

- - -

After a day off Monday following All-Star weekend, Pietrangelo skated Tuesday and is ready to go for the game tonight.

Pietrangelo was the Passing Challenge winner on Saturday night and although he was part of the Central Division's losing side, 5-2 against the Pacific Division on Sunday, the Blues' captain said the weekend was awesome.

"It was great," Pietrangelo said. "A lot of guys I hadn't met but a lot of guys I knew, crossed paths, a lot of guys I played a lot of games with in different tournaments. Everybody brought their kids, nephews, nieces, families. A lot of people to hang out with, a lot of people to talk to, a lot of people that maybe you would never cross paths with when you go into a situation like that. We all had a helluva time; it was fun."

Pietrangelo said he had no clue how the passing competition was supposed to play out but did get a helping hand.

"[USA Hockey's] Hilary Knight, or one of the girls did it; she was on the bench and she was telling us and I still didn't get it," Pietrangelo said. "Thank God I didn't go first."

- - -

Center Paul Stastny has 10 points (four goals, six assists) the past 10 games.

Right wing Alexander Steen (four goals, three assists) has seven points during a five-game point streak.

Center Brayden Schenn has scored in four straight games for the second time this season and has six points (four goals, two assists) in the streak. He scored a hat trick against the Canadiens in a 4-3 Blues victory in Montreal Dec. 5.

Goalie Carter Hutton, who will start the sixth straight game tonight, is 4-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average the past five games. He's 7-1-1 with a 1.81 GAA and .938 save percentage his past nine starts. It will be the 10th time in 12 games Hutton will start.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Alexander Steen

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Tage Thompson

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson, Chris Thorburn and Oskar Sundqvist. Zach Sanford (shoulder) skated Tuesday but is out. Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season.

- - -

The Canadiens' projected lineup:

Max Pacioretty-Paul Byron-Charles Hudon

Alex Galchenyuk-Jonathan Drouin-Nicolas Deslauriers

Artturi Lehkonen-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher

Jacob de la Rose-Byron Froese-Logan Shaw

Karl Alzner-Jeff Petry

Victor Mete-David Schlemko

Joe Morrow-Jakub Jerabek

Carey Price will start in goal; Antti Niemi will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Jordie Benn and Daniel Carr. Shea Weber (foot), Andrew Shaw (lower body), Phillip Danault (concussion-like symptoms) and Ales Hemsky (upper body) are out.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Schenn right back to work after All-Star weekend; 
Hutton keeps net; Yeo happy for Paajarvi; Blues in good spot

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- All-Star weekend normally keeps those NHL players that participated in it grounded for that first practice back.

Not Blues center Brayden Schenn, who was one of two Blues (Alex Pietrangelo) who didn't take the weekend off and represented his team in Tampa this past weekend.

Schenn was a but of a surprise skater Monday afternoon when the Blues (30-18-3) reconvened for their final push down the stretch, which begins Tuesday when they wrap up a four-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens for the first of the final 31 games.

Schenn took a flight from Tampa Monday morning and arrived in St. Louis and found himself on the ice with his teammates despite being given the option of taking the day off or not. Pietrangelo opted for the latter.

"I flew in this morning. I didn't do a whole lot," Schenn, who leads the Blues in points (50) and assists (29) and is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for most goals (21) said before joking. "The whole weekend, you kind of have your ... drinks and your food and it's good to come sweat it out.

"You just come here, it's a quick skate. Nothing too much. It's good to get the legs moving again and then take a day off later in the week when you really need it."

Schenn was back on his pre All-Star line between Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen  

"He had the option as well, but he thought it would suit him better to come out today," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schenn. "I'm sure if that's what he needs for tomorrow I'm sure we'll give him another day off.

"[Pietrangelo's] back. We gave him the day off with the travel and everything."

Schenn is on a four-game goal-scoring streak, his second this season, and hopes to pick up where he left off.

"Yeah, I think everyone's excited," Schenn said. "It's good to have that little break to get away. You see it, guys come back and they're excited to be back on the ice again, excited to see each other. For me personally, it's nice having 'Schwartzy' back. He's a huge boost for our team.

"I think you just get one (goal) and then confidence starts coming in, you start to see more plays maybe. Even before the one game I played with 'Steener' and 'Schwartzy,' we had lots of chances and we played really well as a team, getting solid goaltending again. We're gonna need all of that and more I think down the stretch here."

Schenn did enjoy his first All-Star experience representing the Central Division, which lost 5-2 against eventual champion Pacific Division on Sunday. Schenn also took part in the passing skills contest, won by Pietrangelo.

"It was good. It was fun," Schenn said. "You know a lot of the guys around the league. Fun for me, fun for family. It's good to be back and we're looking forward to this stretch right here.

"I don't think (there were) any awe moments. It's just cool being around those guys and seeing them showcase their skills. It's pretty lucky to be a part of an event like that. It's fun for me, fun for my family. I got to come down and got to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in the past and overall, a great experience. ... I got a few sticks signed by all the guys and stuff like that. It's good memories to have. You never know if you get a chance to go back."

Pietrangelo took home a cool $25,000 for winning the passing skills competition.

"'Petro' won some money, so we'll see what he does," Schenn joked. "Maybe treat the boys or maybe give to charity, I don't know. I think he said he was going to give to charity. Don't quote me on that, but good for him. He had a good performance."

* Hutton stays in goal -- Goalie Carter Hutton will get the nod once again against the Canadiens.

Hutton will make his sixth consecutive start and 10th in the past 12 Blues games, meaning it will be 23 days at the very least in between starts for No. 1 goalie Jake Allen, who did relieve Hutton on Jan. 20 against Arizona but hasn't started a game since Jan. 8 against Florida.

Hutton is 7-1-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and one shutout in his past nine starts.

"Carter did a good job leading up to the break and Jake is going to get in very soon," Yeo said. "We have a plan for that, but that's the decision we made for tomorrow."

Look for Allen, who is 1-8-0 his past nine starts, to get in net in at least one of the next two games, at Boston Thursday and/or Buffalo on Saturday.

* Paajarvi gone -- Yeo reflected on losing forward Magnus Paajarvi, who was claimed on waivers last Friday by the Ottawa Senators when the Blues needed to clear a roster spot to activate Schwartz.

"Disappointed, yes, but in the same sense I'm happy for Magnus too," Yeo said. "You obviously know there's a risk there and Magnus is a good teammate, he's a great kid, obviously he did some really good things for us last year, sealed a playoff victory for us and gave us some quality games. This year, he never really got the offensive touch, whether it was the confidence, whatever the case is, never really came around for him but still gave us some really good games. I'm happy he gets that opportunity."

Paajarvi had four points (two goals, two assists) in 44 games this season and finished his Blues career with 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 189 games over five seasons. He did score the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the first round playoff series last year against the Minnesota Wild to clinch the series 4-1 for the Blues.

* Playing for something -- When the NHL schedule resumes on Tuesday, the Blues will begin in third place in the ultra-competitive Central Division with 63 points, three points behind first-place WInnipeg, two behind second-place Nashville and just three ahead of Dallas and six ahead of Colorado and Minnesota.

All those teams have games in hand for the Blues, which could be a detriment if those teams accumulate points with those games in hand but on the flip side, could be good with the Blues playing a lighter schedule and having more days off while those teams play a rugged schedule when games will continue to get amped up.

"I think that we're in a good spot," Yeo said. "We're in a spot where we're in a fight, there's no question about that. We've said right from the start, from the beginning of the season, from the offseason, it's going to be extremely difficult to make the playoffs this year. Looking at our division, looking at our conference, we knew that it was going to be a battle and we put our selves in a good position now, set ourselves up with what we have remaining and where we're sitting right now. What I like about it is that it's up to us. We put ourselves in a good position where it's up to us. We don't have to rely or hope for somebody else to do something. We take care of our business and we'll be in a good spot."

The Blues have played 51 games, Winnipeg 50, Nashville 47, Dallas 50, Colorado 48, Minnesota 49 and Chicago 49 within the division.

It doesn't mean the Blues have easy opponents by any means. Of their remaining 31 games, 18 are against teams currently holding a playoff position and eight more against teams within four points of a playoff spot.

"I think we saw the effects of a real complicated and heavy schedule like we had in December," Yeo said. "You're dealing with two things, you're dealing with fatigue and you're dealing with rust. Sometimes you have to choose one over the other. There were parts of our game where I felt we looked a little bit tired during that stretch and there were parts of our game where maybe we weren't getting enough practice time, you could see some slippage in whether it's details or execution. I think now with the schedule we have here, it provides us with the opportunity to do both."

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Armstrong feels Pietrangelo, Schenn as All-Stars are "deserving"

However, Blues GM feels captain's first All-Star selection was a long 
time coming; feels Schenn was a motivated player when traded to St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Of course Doug Armstrong is pleased that Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is an NHL All-Star this weekend.

But the Blues general manager feels like this honor has been a long time coming.

"The All-Star Game is a reflection of offensive statistics," Armstrong said. "Alex has been our No. 1 defenseman for a number of years here, but I think probably for three consecutive years his offensive zone starts were polar opposites to a lot of offensive players.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo (27) was selected to his first All-Star Game
this weekend in Tampa.

"Here's a player that's been an end-of-the-year All-Star and he's in his first All-Star Game. When they're picking for the All-Star team, they're not looking for the best (all-around) players, they're looking for the best offensive players. When you're looking at the best players that play 200 feet, I think that offensively, this year he's going to go to the All-Star Game, but he's been an All-Star caliber player for a number of years."

Pietrangelo, 28, has 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 47 games this season and is statistically on target to eclipse the two seasons he's put up career-high 51 points (2011-12 and 2013-14), but with the added responsibility of being captain of the Blues for the second season now, continuing to grow as a leader and being the No. 1 defenseman on this team for a number of years, it's been long overdue to see him among his peers at All-Star weekend in Tampa today and Sunday.

"My goal is to play in every situation, contribute in all situations and they've given me the opportunity to do that," Pietrangelo said. "I've got to make sure I contribute as much as I can, not only offensively and defensively, but being a leader and all that. A lot of responsibility playing in all those situations, but I take it.

"... Obviously the way the whole team started, we had some ups and downs, and think overall the way this group has meshed together, our game's at a better spot than it was a month ago. I think things are going in the right direction. We feel good about our game. Obviously there's going to be some lapses, but this is a group that cares and put a lot of time and effort and make sure we build this thing heading into the second half of the season."

And Pietrangelo, who brought along wife Jayne, his parents Joe and Edi and brother-in-laws, will make the best of it.

"I'm going to have fun out there," Pietrangelo said. "I get along well with those guys, so I'll make sure I enjoy it. Take it all in.

"... The first one is obviously special. I have to make sure I enjoy it."

Continuing to grow as a leader has made the second-year captain more cognizant of the big picture in the list of accomplishments towards the team goal.

"I knew I was going to take a bigger role offensively and defensively with the departure of 'Shatty,"' Pietrangelo said of Kevin Shattenkirk. "I guess that started in the second half of last year, but being the second year, and a captain too, I think it was a good opportunity to build my leadership and that was something I wanted to do. I certainly feel more comfortable than I did last year, but still a work in progress and should enjoy it though."

"I think he's learning, he's getting stronger every day," Armstrong said. "He takes a lot of pride in (being a leader) and I see that."

As for Schenn, who leads the Blues in points (50), assists (29) and is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for the team lead in goals (21), Armstrong never wavered from thinking this would be a motivated player after acquiring him from the Philadelphia Flyers on the first night of the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23 for a package of Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2018 first-round pick.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brayden Schenn (right) is also a first-time All-Star who has been a huge
pickup after the Blues traded for the center iceman last summer.

"He's competing all over the ice for us and playing all situations," Armstrong said. "He's really fit into our culture very well as far as his character and what he provides off the ice. He's taking a bigger step towards our leadership group and his point total and goal total are of those of a top six forward.

"All players want to have a positive effect on the team. For whatever reason in Philadelphia, he would play multiple positions. We saw him as a centermen and that's where he thought he could develop. Mike did a good job of finding that synergy with he and [Jaden] Schwartz. They haven't looked back. Any time you go to a different organization, you try and put your best foot forward and we thought no different there."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Blues lose Paajarvi on waivers

Senators claim forward, ending five-year run in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- On the fourth try, the Blues couldn't hang onto Magnus Paajarvi.

The Blues lost Paajarvi through waivers after the Ottawa Senators claimed him Friday morning, a day after the Blues tried to get Paajarvi once again to go through with the purpose of assigning him to the American Hockey League.

It's the fourth time the Blues put Paajarvi through waivers during his Blues tenure; he passed through the previous three times.
Magnus Paajarvi

Paajarvi, 26, who had four points (two goals, two assists) in 44 games this season, was made expendable when the Blues needed a roster spot after activating Jaden Schwartz off injured reserve. 

The Blues had a handful of candidates to pick from and Paajarvi was chosen over the likes of Oskar Sundqvist, who would also require waivers and rookies Ivan Barbashev and Tage Thompson, who would pass without the requirement of waivers.

Paajarvi, the 10th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft acquired from the Edmonton Oilers July 10, 2013 along with a 2014 second-round pick (which the Blues used to draft Barbashev with) for David Perron, will be most remembered for the series-clinching goal in Game 5 of the first round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild last season.

"He didn't have the offensive confidence that he had last season, no question," Blues coach Mike Yeo said Thursday about Paajarvi. "I think his time in the minors last year allowed him to put himself in a position where he was forced to attack a little bit more and create a little bit more offensively and I think he brought a lot of that confidence up with him. We couldn't find it for a while here in the offensive part of his game."

Paajarvi had 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 189 games with the Blues; he became the fourth player the Blues have lost after exposing them to waivers in the past two seasons, joining Nate Prosser (Minnesota), Ty Rattie twice (Carolina and Edmonton) and Brad Hunt (Nashville).

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Blues start fast, Hutton strong again in 3-1 win over red-hot Avalanche

Stastny, Schenn, Steen score to help Blues win 
fourth in five games heading into All-Star break

ST. LOUIS -- Knowing the opponent and understanding the solid, consistent hockey the Colorado Avalanche were playing gave the Blues no other choice but to play with a purpose.

And considering the fact that a three-day break awaits all but Alex Pietrangelo and Brayden Schenn for All-Star weekend, the Blues wanted to go out on a nice note and with a good feeling against the NHL's hottest team.

The Blues set the tone early, scored two power-play goals, and Carter Hutton turned in another gem in goal with 36 saves as the Blues defeated the Avalanche 3-1 on Thursday before 18,817 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton makes one of 36 saves in a 3-1 victory over the
Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

The Blues were looking to build off their 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators and keep gaining momentum after a lackluster effort last Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes that saw coach Mike Yeo bag skate his players the following day looking ti get their attention.

Needless to say, the Blues have responded well, and they had no choice considering Colorado has been one of those Central Division teams nipping at their heels for third place in the standings.

"For sure, it's nice," defenseman Vince Dunn said. "Last break we were going in, we were a little upset with how we were performing. I think this time we can be a little more confident and proud of our efforts. We have to bring it back right from the start like the last game we did. We're doing a good job right now. We're finding ways to win and finding ways to hold leads all the way to the very end."

"It's nice," Hutton said. "Sometimes you have those games where you play and then you get a break and you have to sit on it. The Florida game (a 7-4 loss), we sit on it, it wasn't the nicest feeling going into break very disappointed. It's nice having a big win and when you do take a look at the standings, it's a little more comfortable knowing you grabbed those two points to end the break and we'll come back and ramp it up after a couple days off.

"... I've played in the Central Division the majority of my career and it never ceases to amaze me. If it's not one team, it's another. It's always a battle. I think it's always been on of the better divisions in the league and it's always fun to race, that's for sure."

Hutton made his fifth straight start and ninth in the past 11 games for St. Louis (30-18-3), which is 8-0-1 in the past nine against Colorado.

Hutton is 7-1-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and one shutout in his past nine starts and is definitely going to make it tough for coach Mike Yeo to take him out of the lineup.

"I try to just chip away, I try not to think too much into it," Hutton said. "I just play, compete when I do play, try to help us win. 

"We're playing really well too. You've got to give a lot of credit to our team and our defensemen. We've got a big defensive group that doesn't give up a lot of secondary chances and I'm able to see a lot of chances and when I do give up rebounds, guys are there fighting to eliminate pucks, and now getting a player like [Jaden Schwartz] back, it just adds to our arsenal."

"He played great again," Yeo said of Hutton. "So obviously he's got confidence right now and we all know what confidence can do for a player. He was real solid. I know he didn't let any in the other night and let it one tonight, but to me this game was better than even the other night. I thought he was real solid."

Alexander Steen had a goal and an assist, and Paul Stastny and Brayden Schenn scored power-play goals for the Blues.

"I really liked the start to our game tonight," Yeo said. "I thought that there was a good investment in the game itself as far as trying to send a message that it's going to be a hard night. I think that we do have a lot of respect for the team that we were playing tonight as far as their skill level and their ability to create offense."

Schwartz returned to the lineup after missing 20 games with a hairline fracture in his right ankle. He was injured Dec. 9 against the Detroit Red Wings and it was quite evident that his presence balanced out the Blues' lineup and had a trickle-down effect, even the power play, which was 2-for-3 for the second time in three games.

"Everything, it moves some pieces around," Steen said on what it meant having Schwartz back. "We're able to get back to, I think, lines that that we had prior to his injury that we really liked. Our line (with Steen, Schwartz and Schenn), I think, especially early on in the game, I liked our jump. It's easy playing with those two guys. They work extremely hard and all three of us read off each other. I think we turned a lot of pucks over and we were able to push the momentum into their offensive zone in the first period because we were so hungry on them."

Not only did the line pitch in two goals but also blanketed the hottest line in the NHL going right now with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.

"I think as a line, as a five-man group, if we get that matchup, the responsibility to go out there, you have to play tight-checking, but the best defense is a good offense where you're in their end and taking time and space away from them," Schenn said. "How red-hot MacKinnon is, how good he's playing right now, how fast he is, you have to be on him quick or else he'll make you look silly."

Alexander Kerfoot scored and Jonathan Bernier made 31 saves for Colorado (27-18-3), which has lost two straight after a 10-game winning streak.

Stastny, the former Av, scored on a rebound at 15:53 of the first period to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead; he followed up Alex Pietrangelo's one-timer from the top of the right circle.

"I think we're just working harder to get the puck, whether it's off rebounds, or off the faceoff or off the breakout," Stastny said of the power play. "And then from there it's more like second chances.

"My goal, we had a few chances before, we hemmed them in for a while and then eventually you get rebounds, score. And then Schenn's goal is the same thing. We hemmed them in for a while, couple point shots and then all of a sudden they're tired, hemmed in there, and then a nice shot.

"Sometimes it's simple, but if all five guys aren't on the same page it won't work. So whether it's off the draw or from the breakout I think we had all five guys working. Just to hound the puck back and try to keep it simple and get shots on net."

The Blues, who have won four of five and are 7-3-1 their past 11 games felt they needed a good start against an opponent playing well. St. Louis outshot Colorado 17-8 in the first period.

"Especially early on, we were extremely hungry on the forecheck and turned a lot of pucks over," Steen said. "The second period, the reason why they get a little bit of life is because we take that foot off the gas a little bit and we give them a little bit space to pick up passes and get their head up and move it. I think that's what we liked the most out of the first period is just how aggressive and quick we got on them."  

Schenn's goal at 11:28 of the second period gave the Blues a 2-0 lead. He was able to collect a rebound of Dunn's shot, curl into the right circle and wire a wrister off the near post through Steen's screen for his fourth goal in as many games.

"Normally I've been pretty streaky," Schenn said after getting his 21st of the season. "It wasn't going in there for a while, but I was getting chances. You can't complain when the chances are coming. I think when you're getting chances, goals will come."

Colorado pushed and Kerfoot scored to make it 2-1 on a rebound in the slot at 17:09. He found a rebound of Anton Lindholm's shot from the left point after Lindholm picked off Ivan Barbashev's backhand clearing attempt.

But the third period saw the Blues absorb some body blows from the explosive, y oung and talented Avalanche before Steen scored with 1:20 remaining in the third period to give St. Louis a 3-1 lead.

The goal moved Steen past Red Berenson into eighth place in Blues history for goals with his 173rd. Steen also has a five-game point streak (four goals, three assists).
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Paul Stastny (26) and Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov
battle for a loose puck Thursday. St. Louis won the game 3-1.

"Yeah, I mean those things are always ... it's very touching to me," Steen said. "I'm honored. Those are some big names, big guys that are on those lists and I really respect what those guys did before we got here and that's a big honor for me."

Hutton shut the door when called upon and the Blues can head out for a little refresher feeling good about what they're starting to build again.

"Yeah, now we just have to keep it," Yeo said. "It just doesn't carry through for you. I think that we look at these home games and we had the one game we were disappointed with. But obviously we have one more coming out of the break and we have to make sure that we're ready for that game. It seems like as far as when we play some of these Western Conference or divisional opponent teams, I don't want to say that they're easy to prepare for, but I would say that we need a little bit more focus and determination to prepare the right way for some of these teams that we play from the Eastern Conference."

(1-25-18) Avalanche-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The good news for the Blues is they will have left wing Jaden Schwartz back when they end the pre-All-Star schedule by hosting the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Schwartz was activated off injured reserve and will be in the lineup playing with Brayden Schenn and Alexander Steen when the Blues (29-18-3) go for their fourth win in the five games.

To make room for Schwartz, the Blues put forward Magnus Paajarvi on waivers.

"I’ve made some strides and I feel like I’m ready to go again," Schwartz said. "Today was a day that I thought could be an option. You don’t really want to make any guarantees until I see if I could go through practice, go through the right steps. Try different things on the ice to make sure you’re ready."

With Schwartz, the Blues were a different team. They were 20-8-2 with him in the lineup, 9-10-1 without him.

"We're obviously very excited," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "It does an awful lot for our group. We've spent an awful lot of time talking about it here, talking about while he was out and what we were missing with him and what we're going to get back with him coming into the lineup. He's a huge part of our team, a huge part of our leadership group, and obviously a very important player for us."

Schwartz is third on the Blues with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 30 games. To expect him to pick up where he left off is asking for a lot, but it wouldn't surprise the Blues if he were to do so.

"Not really any expectations," Schwartz said. "I'm just excited to be back in the lineup to help out. I'm not going to try to change too much. Just keep playing and doing what I was doing before. A little less thinking tonight and just having fun and enjoying being back on the ice."

If anyone will be glad to see Schwartz tonight is Schenn. The All-Star had 36 points in 30 games (15 goals, 21 assists) with Schwartz in the lineup, 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 20 games without him.

"Huge," Schenn said. "He does it all for us. You don't realize how good he is until you start playing with him. He makes players around him better and we had some chemistry early on, so hopefully we can get it going again."

- - -

Paajarvi had two goals and two assists in 44 games with the Blues this season. He'll be most remembered for the series-clinching goal in Game 5 of the first round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild last season.

If Paajarvi doesn't get claimed, he'll be assigned to either Chicago or San Antonio of the American Hockey League. It will be the fourth time the Blues have put Paajarvi on waivers in his fifth season here. He's cleared each of the first three times.

"We all have a lot of belief in Magnus, he gave us some good games this year, and the one thing we always know we're getting with him was that he was going to be very reliable, effective for us in terms of shutting teams down and being solid defensively," Yeo said. "He didn't have the offensive confidence that he had last season, no question. I think his time in the minors last year allowed him to put himself in a position where he was forced to attack a little bit more and create a little bit more offensively and I think he brought a lot of that confidence up with him. We couldn't find it for a while here in the offensive part of his game. Obviously we'll see what happens here in the next couple days."

- - -

Carter Hutton will make yet another start in goal for the Blues, his fifth straight start and ninth in the past 11 games.

Hutton is coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators, and with him starting again tonight and the Blues not playing again until Tuesday, it will be three weeks between starts for Jake Allen, who is 1-8-0 his past nine starts.

"It's a hard decision in that we would definitely like to get Jake in there," Yeo said. "Easy decision in that 'Hutts,' it's typical for us to go back to a goalie after a shutout, and obviously when a goalie's playing at that level.

"We don't want [Allen] sitting around for four or five weeks. We're going to have to get him going very quickly after the break, but that's the decision we made for today."

- - -

The Blues are catching the Avalanche (27-17-3) as one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

Colorado is coming off a 10-game winning streak, the second-longest streak in franchise history that was broken Tuesday with a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

"It's fun," said Avalanche defenseman and former Blues d-man Erik Johnson. "Ten in a row is good. It didn't feel like we won 10 in a row. We were pretty even-keeled professional about it I think. Just as a group, pretty business-like. We were flat on the back-to-back, so a good opportunity to respond tonight against a really good team in our division."

Colorado, which didn't trail at any point during the streak until Monday night in a 4-2 come-from-behind win over Toronto, is right in the middle of the playoff race. If it were to end today, the Avalanche, which was the worst team in the NHL with 48 points -- 21 worse than anyone else -- last season, has had a culture change and it's paid dividends under second-year coach Jared Bednar.

"We had a lot of turnover from last year as far as old to young," Johnson said. "I think we were one of the older teams in the league last year. Now we're the second youngest. We've had a lot of young guys come up hungry to prove themselves and have created some really good internal competition for us. I think it's really upped everyone's level and we're playing a more mature game in all three zones and it's turned into some good hockey for us.

"It just feels like a different overall group this year and obviously it's translated to the ice, too."

"We come out of that streak there and we have a letdown there in Montreal," Bednar said. "We looked a little bit tired. We did some good things, but it didn't look like we had the legs behind us and the extra push we needed to win that game and I thought they were a really hungry team. They lost a couple previous games at home. They played pretty good and we just didn't have enough to get the job done. Tonight it's just getting back. We had a day to rest yesterday and it's time to move past what we've done lately. It's time to move on and really stop this thing. We really want to make sure we're not losing two in a row in the second half. Our resolve and our desire to win this game has got to be stronger tonight against a tough team."

The Avalanche went 22-56-4 last season.

"It's really good, especially after last year," Johnson said. "I missed half of the year with injury, so it was a rough year. To see what kind of happened after that was tough to go through away from the rink. It feels good to be a team that's on the up-and-up and will be for a long time.

"We haven't done anything yet. We're still right in the wildcard spot, but a lot of season left. As good as it's felt for the run we've been on, it's not enough yet and we have a lot of work left to do still."

Johnson, a former first overall pick of the Blues in 2006, still has fond memories of St. Louis. The only holdovers on the Blues roster that were teammates with Johnson when he was traded to the Avalanche along with Jay McClement and a first-round pick for Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and a second-round pick are Steen, Vladimir Sobotka, Alex Pietrangelo and fellow 2006 first-round pick Patrik Berglund.

"I loved playing in St. Louis. It's a great city. I still like coming back here," said Johnson, who lists Dominic's Trattoria in Clayton as a favorite eating establishment of his. "They've had a lot of roster turnover there as well. I think there's only three or four guys that I played with, but still an awesome sports city to come back to. As far as Denver, I love living there now in my eighth season. It goes really, really quickly. Probably more downs than ups there, but there's been a lot of good times, too. It's really a fun city to integrate yourself in and I've really enjoyed it."

- - -

Also back in St. Louis is former Blue Nail Yakupov, who spent last season in St. Louis following his trade here from the Edmonton Oilers.

Yakupov, who had three goals and six assists in 40 games with the Blues last season, already has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 41 games with the Avalanche after he signed a one-year, $875,000 contract.

"It's good," Yakupov said. "Guys are really nice and friendly. I'm enjoying the city where I'm staying. It's always sunny, you never get depressed, there's always something to do. When the team is doing good, it's much easier to live a life. You don't have to worry about anything. You just enjoy coming to the rink, really happy, excited, ready to do the things you've done in the past, maybe even more. It's a good time. I enjoy being in this organization."

Yakupov spent some time before the morning skate today with Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev and Dmitrij Jaskin.

"I got to see a couple few guys here, especially 'Vladi,' 'Barby,' 'Jasky' and other guys swing by and say hi," Yakupov said. "We had a really interesting life together. It's kind of weird to now play against them but at the same time, it's good. I had some memories, bad and good memories, but I'm happy to be where I'm at right now."

Yakupov is extremely fond of Tarasenko, who took him in and played the role of big brother.

"He did a really good job from his side," Yakupov said. "I was here by myself most of the time. We had some dinners, breakfasts, lunches. He was always inviting me to hang out at his place and sometimes stay overnights there. He has an unbelievable house. A lot of extra room so I could pretty much take all downstairs for a couple nights. He has a good family, he enjoys being here. I think it's one of the best persons I've ever known in my life.

"It makes your life and your hockey much easier when you have those guys helping you around. He's been here for so long, he knows everything. If I had any questions or issues, 'Vladi' was always there."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Alexander Steen

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Tage Thompson

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson, Chris Thorburn and Oskar Sundqvist. Zach Sanford (shoulder) skated today but remains out. Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season.

- - -

The Avalanche projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Matt Nieto-Carl Soderberg-Blake Comeau

Dominic Toninato-Alexander Kerfoot-Nail Yakupov

Gabriel Bourque-Tyson Jost-A.J. Greer

Nikita Zadorov-Erik Johnson

Patrik Nemeth-Anton Lindholm

Samuel Girard-David Warsofsky

Jonathan Bernier will start in goal; Andrew Hammond will be the backup.

The Avalanche have no healthy scratches. Semyon Varlamov (groin), Tyson Barrie (hand), Sven Andrighetto (leg), Vladislav Kamenev (arm), Colin Wilson (illness), J.T. Compher (illness), Mark Barberio (lower body) are all out.