Thursday, March 29, 2018


Foley leaves school early, signs entry-level contract; 
Upshall to return to lineup; the shift that defines today's Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have added a fourth college player to their arsenal with the signing of power forward Erik Foley to a three-year entry-level contract on Thursday.

Foley's signing comes on the heels of the Blues inking two-year entry-level deals with forwards Nolan Stevens and Austin Poganski and free agent defenseman Mitch Reinke. 

There was some jockeying back and forth whether Foley would leave after his junior season. There was some thought he'd initially leave, then had second thoughts about coming back for his senior season with a chance at being a Hobey Baker Award winner, but decided that turning pro was best.

Foley, who just finished his junior season at Providence College, was acquired in the Feb. 26 trade deadline day deal with the Winnipeg Jets, along with a 2018 first-round pick, for center Paul Stastny.

Foley, 20, will report to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout contract after undergoing a physical examination in St. Louis, and his entry level deal won't kick in until the 2018-19 season.

Foley, listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, led the Friars with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 38 regular-season games and was named to the Hockey East First All-Star team.

Foley played in 110 career games at Providence and finished with 88 points (38 goals, 50 assists). 

A Mansfield, Massachusetts native, Foley appeared in seven games with the United States at the 2016-17 World Junior Championships and helped the team capture the Gold Medal. 

Prior to his collegiate career, Foley spent a year with the United States Hockey League's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and was a teammate of Reinke's with the RoughRiders in 2014-15, where Foley was named to the league's all-rookie team after 54 points (27 goals, 27 assists) in 55 games.  

Foley was originally drafted by the Jets in the third round (78th pick) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

* Upshall ready to play -- Blues left wing Scottie Upshall will mark his return to the lineup when the Blues (43-28-5), who will put a six-game winning streak on the line Friday against the Vegas Golden Knights (48-22-7).

Upshall, who sprained the MCL in his left knee March 3 at Dallas, missed the past 10 games but will replace Tage Thompson in the lineup.

"I feel good," Upshall said. "I almost feel better than I did before I was hurt. I've been working hard to get back. I've been really eager to get back in the lineup. We've got a big trip with two games. Hoping to get in one of those and help. The team's been playing great. During the time I've been getting healthy, the guys have been getting points and it's great. This time of year is all about playing your best hockey and winning games."

Upshall will join the fourth line with Oskar Sundqvist and Chris Thorburn. 

"He was ready last game," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Upshall. "We didn't want to change lines and we didn't feel that anybody deserved to come out. I think it's important that we get him in. We've got a busy stretch here and I think it's important that we use our depth right now.

"'Tommer' will come out for tomorrow's game, but I believe there's a good chance that he will get in for that Arizona game. I think it's important that we use everybody down the stretch here. But as far as looking at that game tomorrow, I don't think that 'Tommer' playing on the fourth line is really a good fit for him."

Speaking of Upshall, he got the chance to catch back up with Stevens, who he remembered from his playing days of playing for Stevens' dad, John Stevens, when the elder Stevens was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers.

Upshall was with the Flyers from 2006-08.

"It doesn't seem too long ago, but jeez, you look at the dates, it's been about 10 years since I've played in Philadelphia," Upshall said. "It's nice to see the boy's all grown up and having him here is pretty cool.

"At least I didn't play with his dad. If you're still around in the league where you're playing with some of your teammates' kids, it's probably good for you but you're reminded of how old you are and how young the guys are and how good the players are nowadays. It's good to have a great college career and we're happy to have him up here."

The 34-year-old Upshall took Stevens, 21, and Reinke, 22, after skating for the first time Wednesday out to lunch in the Clayton area.

"My dad coached him with the Flyers, so that's cool to see him again," Stevens said of Upshall. "I was really young when I last saw him. Just to be on the same ice with him is a really cool experience. 

"I was probably 11, 12 back when my dad was with the Flyers. I don't remember much from those days, but it's kind of cool to see him now."

* The near-perfect shift -- For those that are into the intricate details of the game, take a peek at the specific shift for the Blues' line of Vladimir Sobotka, Dmitrij Jaskin and Ivan Barbashev in the third period of the Blues' 3-2 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks.

When Jordan Schmaltz threw the puck along the right boards to Jaskin, who had to make the initial push in the zone and hound Sharks defenseman Paul Martin, with 6 minutes, 20 seconds remaining, the puck never left the Sharks zone again until Barbashev's pass caromed off a skater and out of the zone with 5:17 left, for a total of 1:03 of zone time.

Aside from scoring, all that line and defensemen Vince Dunn and Colton Parayko did were track the puck back six times, cycle it six times, get off five shot attempts and force two failed Sharks clearing attempts.

A goal would have made it the perfect shift, so let's call it near-perfect.

"They were a little too tired playing back to back and I think we just caught them in a bad position," said Jaskin, who led the Blues with six hits in the game and continues to apply his physicality to his play. "Keep grinding it out. I think it was great and got us going. We should do it like that every shift. ... It was good to spend some time in there. I think we just have to shoot more. We'll get more chances to score if we shoot more. It was great and we had another one after that and it felt good. When you have a shift like that, not just you, but everyone else had a lot of energy and it's way more fun to play.

"Every team's got star and individual skill. We have it too, but I think when we play like that the way we played last game, it's hard to beat us. It's the kind of play that we have to do and it's been working when we play like that." 

When Yeo analyzes the video and goes over what he sees, there isn't much the coach won't like. It created momentum, it created energy, and not just for those that came onto the ice following, but for those in attendance as well that appreciated the workmanlike effort.

In the end, what you had was Jaskin with four puck retrievals and two cycles; Sobotka with a puck retrieval and shot attempt; Barbashev with a cycle, a puck retrieval and forced failed clear; Parayko with three shot attempts and Dunn with a shot attempt and forced failed clear. 

"To talk about the goals, it's easier said than done obviously," Yeo said. "There's players all around the league, the best players in the world go out every shift and they want to score a goal, but it doesn't happen very often. There's certain things you want to accomplish in a shift. When you're looking at that shift, you're looking at the work ethic, the determination to hunt the puck back, the responsibility to work to the defensive side of things, to allow your defensemen to pinch down and keep plays alive without being a high-risk team. And then with that, what you want to do for your team, you want to generate momentum and I think that anyone that was in the building could feel the electricity and the crowd after that shift. I think that that's momentum in a nutshell right there.

"Everyone is different, but obviously the longer you're in there, the better. Sometimes you have a long shift or a decent, long shift and you're able to change guys, you're able to get five completely fresh guys on the ice playing against tired players. Sometimes you have one shift in there, they get the puck out to the neutral zone and you go back after them and you do that two or three times. So everyone is unique and everyone is different, but zone time itself is something that we're certainly looking for for."

Foley latest to sign entry level contract with Blues

Power forward acquired in Stastny trade from Jets will report to 
San Antonio, gets three-year deal that begins with 2018-19 season

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have added a fourth college player to their arsenal with the signing of power forward Erik Foley to a three-year entry-level contract on Thursday.

Foley's signing comes on the heels of the Blues inking two-year entry-level deals with forwards Nolan Stevens and Austin Poganski and free agent defenseman Mitch Reinke. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Erik Foley signed a three-year entry level contract with the Blues.

Foley, who just finished his junior season at Providence College, was acquired in the Feb. 26 trade deadline day deal with the Winnipeg Jets, along with a 2018 first-round pick, for center Paul Stastny.

Foley, 20, will report to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout contract after undergoing a physical examination in St. Louis, and his entry level deal won't kick in until the 2018-19 season.

Foley, listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, led the Friars with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 38 regular-season games and was named to the Hockey East First All-Star team.

Foley played in 110 career games at Providence and finished with 88 points (38 goals, 50 assists). 

A Mansfield, Massachusetts native, Foley appeared in seven games with the UNited States at the 2016-17 World Junior Championships and helped the team capture the Gold Medal. 

Prior to his collegiate career, Foley spent a year with the United States Hockey League's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and was a teammate of Reinke's with the RoughRiders in 2014-15, where Foley was named to the league's all-rookie team.  

Foley was originally drafted by the Jets in the third round (78th pick) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Stevens, Reinke arrive in St. Louis, practice for first time

College signees ready to learn on the fly the ropes 
of being pros while Blues are in the thick of playoff chase

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- For forward Nolan Stevens, it's okay to be a sponge.

What does that mean, you ask? Well, Stevens, the Blues' fifth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft who signed a two-year entry-level contract on Sunday night, joined the Blues along with free agent defenseman Mitch Reinke out of Michigan Tech. Both were on the practice ice in a highly limited optional skate on Wednesday at the Ice Zone.
(Northeastern University photo)
Nolan Stevens, who signed with the Blues on Sunday, just
completed his senior season at Northeastern.

Being a sponge will require a heavy amount of absorption of information and everything there is to being a professional hockey player. So Stevens, and likely Reinke -- although he is now the seventh defenseman and could get pressed into action at some point depending on injuries during the final six regular season games, will get a heavy dose of video sessions, listening and learning on the fly.

And where did Stevens, who finished his four-year college career last Saturday at Northeastern University, get the advice of being a sponge?

Of course, his hockey-coaching dad, Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens.

"Obviously he's really proud and his advice is this is a veteran team. Great staff and great organization so he just said, 'Take this time to learn as much as possible and just be a sponge,'" Stevens said of his dad. "That's all I've been trying to do is be a sponge and learn as much as you can.

"... It's been a great experience so far. All the guys and the staff are helping me learn as much as possible. It's been awesome."

The advice Stevens got from his dad probably is limited in a sense that Nolan and the Blues are in a fight with dad and the Kings for one of the remaining Western Conference playoff berths on the line.

"It's funny how small the hockey world is and just how ironic it is," Nolan Stevens said. "The Blues are fighting with the Kings, but that's just how hockey works. It's just a small world."

But don't worry Nolan, dad knows the Blues now sign your paychecks.

"Yeah," Nolan said laughing. "He for sure knows that. It's a fun little family rivalry now."

Stevens, 21, who's listed as 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, is coming off a 42-point season (24 goals, 18 assists) with the Huskies, who reached the Elite Eight at the NCAA Tournament, losing to Michigan 3-2 one step away from the Frozen Four.

But Stevens, along with linemates Dylan Sikura (Chicago Blackhawks) and Adam Gaudette (Vancouver Canucks) received notable attention this season for their play.

Stevens, who attended prospects' camp last summer, took considerable strides his senior season and instead of heading to the American Hockey League, the Blues have him up with the big club learning on the fly.

"I tried to take a step in my game every year and I thought we had goals at the beginning of the year, team goals we wanted to accomplish and we accomplished a few," Stevens said. "We got an NCAA Tournament bid and won a Beanpot. We finished in a good spot in our league. That's where I gauge my success, how our team does and I thought it was a good season.

"... (The Blues) did a really good job of letting me focus on my season. Once that was over, focus on the next step in my career, so I didn't really have a lot of time in my year to think about where I was going to be. I definitely didn't expect to be here right away. I'm just happy for the opportunity to be around these guys."

While Stevens was a Blues product, the road to St. Louis was a bit different for Reinke, 22, who left Michigan Tech after two seasons with the Huskies and was an undrafted free agent.

Reinke didn't want to talk about the other teams that showed interest in the 5-11, 181-pound d-man out of Stillwater, Minn., he said the Blues showed the most interest and that the decision to leave school wasn't easy.

"It's been really exciting," Reinke said. "Really busy, a lot of phone calls, but overall, it's just been a lot of excitement but really happy to be here and looking to get things going here. ... I knew there would be some things happening toward the end of the year. To be here, I don't know if I was expecting it, but I'm really happy to be here and looking to make the most of the opportunity.

"If I was going to leave school, I knew it had to be the right fit. They just had a lot of interest all year, a lot of opportunity with St. Louis, and I was really happy with the meetings I had with Mr. [Doug] Armstrong and some of the other management. That was the biggest thing."

Michigan Tech, also the Huskies, fell 4-3 to Notre Dame in the East Regional semifinals in Reinke's second season in which he finished with 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in 35 games and made Reinke's decision tough.

"It was a stressful," said Reinke, who also spent two seasons with the United States Hockey League's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. "I learned Friday night right when the game was over (against Notre Dame). I wouldn't say it was easy. It's always tough to leave. I was really close with my team. I know that they would want me back but in the end, you have to look after yourself and when I made the decision, they were all really happy for me. That support means the world to me so I'm thankful for that."

Stevens, who will wear No. 51, and Reinke, who will wear No. 39, skated with a handful of skaters today, and coach Mike Yeo even came out for a peek. 

The Blues (43-28-5) are in the thick of the playoff chase, but Yeo and the coaching staff will do all they can to incorporate the team's new additions in as smoothly as possible.

"That's going to be a challenge on their part," Yeo said. "It's not going to affect the rest of the group but for them to get up to speed, it starts with some video work today, then we'll get a look at them in practice. From there, it's a maintenance thing on our part to make sure they're using the games as far as learning opportunities. Maybe you sit up top, maybe you pick one specific player, maybe they sit with the coaches and learn some things there. In general, it's not an easy thing to do for them, but I'd hate to say it, but the focus is on our group and that next game in Vegas."

The likelihood of either playing a game this season is remote, so being sponges it is, and that's OK.

"I just try to look at everyone's routines and everyone's such a good pro here and how they go about their business," Stevens said. "It's pretty cool to see how they handle themselves and how they work on the ice. A short little skate today, but those guys that were out there with me today have such great habits and I had such a good time on the ice. There's already a lot to take in."
(Michigan Tech University photo)
Mitch Reinke, who signed with the Blues on Sunday, left school after his
sophomore season to join St. Louis in time for the stretch run.

"I'm just looking to come in and learn a lot and make a good impression," Reinke said. "It's kind of out of my hands if I'm going to play or not. I'm just going to do the best I can and hopefully make the most of my opportunity.

"In my opinion, I've always been the underdog in my hockey career. I've always been really small, sometimes overlooked, but it's never really fazed me. I think I just try to go out there and prove the player I am. When you're undersized, you have to prove yourself, you don't get the opportunity right away. It's nothing new for me. That's kind of where I'm at. (Being the underdog) has its benefits. A lot of people like to hear their name called but it's no big deal for me, in the end I got to pick that I come to the Blues, and play for St. Louis hopefully. I'm here now and that's what's most important."

Tarasenko OT winner is Blues' sixth straight win, 3-2 over Sharks

Right wing reaches 30 goals for fourth straight season, St. Louis 
moves into first wildcard with win, end San Jose's eight-game winning streak

ST. LOUIS -- It's becoming a theme with the Blues.

They. Just. Won't. Go. Away.

When one of their pursuers punches one night to try and knock the Blues out of one of the top eight playoff spots, they punch right back when given the chance. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko pumps his fist after scoring in overtime of a 3-2 Blues 
win over the Sharks on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

And who would have thought playoffs after that disastrous 0-6-1 start. But a 9-2-1 run since puts the Blues right back in the thick of the race, including six straight times now after a 3-2 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday before 18,947 at Scottrade Center.

Vladimir Tarasenko's second goal of the game at 2 minutes 33 seconds of overtime off a pass from Vladimir Sobotka after a great individual effort continued the Blues' season-high in wins, of which four have come in overtime.

The blue-collared Blues (43-28-5) moved into the first wildcard in the Western Conference with the two points, tied with the Anaheim Ducks but the Blues have played one fewer game. The Blues moved past the Colorado Avalanche by a point and three points behind the Minnesota Wild for third place in the Central Division.

They're also a season-high 15 games over .500.

"We just know we need the points," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "Guys are getting good saves at key times, guys are playing good defense, guys are stepping up, when we've got the puck, we're going on the attack because we know we need that extra point."

"Desperation," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "I didn't think we had a very good start tonight. It's something we have to address. We haven't had a lot of them lately to be honest with you, good starts. So we're gonna have to rectify that, especially going on the road now. You don't want to be putting yourself in a bad spot but when we start getting to our game we're a tough team to play against."

One game after ending the Columbus Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak with a 2-1 win, the Blues halted the Sharks' eight-game winning streak with this victory.

"We're going to play good teams down the stretch no matter what," Schenn said. "Whether they're on streaks or not, everyone's going to give us a good game, so we know that, it's nice to bust a few streaks."

The Blues never led in this game until the OT winner was scored, and what a play by Sobotka to make it happen. He went and won a puck battle behind the net off a faceoff from Mikkel Boedker, then was able to fight off Justin Braun while making a pinpoint no-look behind the back backhand pass  to Tarasenko, who tucked in his 31st of the season past Aaron Dell.

"I knew he would make this pass," Tarasenko said of Sobotka. "I'm not sure he heard me or no, but he's a great player. I just expect the plays like this from him. Obviously the great play, easy tap-in goal."

Oskar Sundqvist -- yes, Oskar Sundqvist! -- scored his first goal since April 2, 2016 and second of his NHL career, and Jake Allen improved to 8-1-0 in his past nine starts with 22 saves.

The blue collar effort wins out for the Blues again. It's not going to make any highlight reel tapes, but they're getting the job done.

"That's what we are. We have no other choice. We're not gonna win other ways. We're not gonna go out and just be fancy and win hockey games. That's not who we are right now. 

"Obviously you have to play to your strengths and strength it's more about our defensive game. We're getting good goaltending. It's about just how physical and hard-checking and hard-nose we are both offensively and defensively And we're doing that."

"We aren't a fancy team and I think everyone knows that," defenseman Vince Dunn said. "When we're playing north and we're getting pucks deep, and making (opposing) D turn around and chase for pucks, that makes it really hard on other teams. I think now our power play is starting to take a little bit of a turnaround and the goal tonight was really big, too. If we can continue our strong play on our special teams -- our PK and our power play -- we can find ourselves in better positions."

The Blues did it with relentless pursuit after a sluggish start in the first period.

They were down 7-1 on the shot clock at one point before grabbing the game back and went up 14-8 at one point despite falling behind twice.

And in the third period, even though the Blues didn't score, they hounded and harassed the Sharks in their zone most of the period, leaving San Jose pleased to come out of the game with a point.

"They were just keeping it simple and really outworking the other team," Schenn said. "They were winning their battles, working as units out there, and they were creating a lot of momentum for us. Those guys had a solid, solid game tonight and should have had more than one."

"I know my line is trying to play simple, get the pucks deep and just go to work," Sundqvist said of playing with Ivan Barbashev and Chris Thorburn. "It's going to be to hit guys and try to make plays. We're just trying to play simple and the last couple games I've been in the lineup, my line's been playing pretty well."

And then Sobotka's line with Tage Thompson and Dmitrij Jaskin caused all sorts of havoc, and when Yeo flipped Barbashev with Thompson, it really created all sorts of trouble.

"You look at the third period and we put 'Barby' up there a couple times, just based on matchups," Yeo said. "I thought he had a really strong game. But some of that momentum that they were generating in the third period, made it hard to switch back. We ended up going to three lines for a little bit. Just because that 'Barby, 'Jasky' and 'Sobe' line was so good."

Evander Kane put San Jose up 1-0 at 6:26 of the first period. It was his 14th point in 14 games since joining the Sharks on Feb. 26 after being acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.

But Sundqvist tied it 1-1 at 17:43. It was his first goal with the Blues in his 37th game, and second of his NHL career. Dunn, who played a strong game, kept a puck in at the left side blue line and made a play to the right side, where Colton Parayko got the puck to Sundqvist at the top of the right circle. Sundqvist, all in one motion, spun and wristed a puck towards a crowded crease in front of Dell, including Barbashev, and it squirted through the arm and body.

"Finally, that's what I thought," Sundqvist said. "I actually didn't see it go in before Barbashev raised his arms. It's always nice. It's been a long time since I scored.

"I didn't know what to do. Just a relief. It's been a long time."

It salvaged a slow-starting period that finished strong and pumped up Sundqvist's teammates and coaches.

"He's worked hard all year," Schenn said of Sundqvist. "When he wasn't in the lineup there for a while, he was doing extra, putting in extra time on and off the ice and so nice for him to get rewarded with a goal and you could tell from the celebration it was a big relief for him."

Joe Pavelski scored a power-play goal on a tip to give San Jose a 2-1 lead at 7:07 of the second period. Tarasenko tied it 2-2 with a power-play goal, his 30th goal of the season, at 12:03, after he sniped a wrister high glove side. 

It was Tarasenko's fourth goal in three games and his 30-goal season is his fourth straight, the first Blue to do so since Brett Hull did it six straight seasons from 1988-1994.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Vladimir Sobotka (71) fights for a loose puck with Sharks
center Melker Karlsson on Tuesday in the Blues' 3-2 overtime win.

"Coming back off the injury and he's quietly got four goals in three games, so obviously it couldn't be a better time to have your best players playing their best hockey," Yeo said.

"I feel like every game we play, we play more structured," Tarasenko said. "It seems like we're all on the same page and try to play full 60 minutes. I always said this, but this is true, I think we still can play better. Just enjoying our time in the rink right now and you know enjoying the game. It's really important wins, but you know when its tough it's fun, too. It's a really big win for us and a big road trip coming."

"We've got nothing to lose right now," Dunn said. "We're playing hard and we know we've got to get in those last two spots. We're playing pretty desperate hockey right now and I think everyone is playing for each other. We're seeing guys step up that maybe were a little slow at the start of the year. Everyone is on board right now and we can count on everyone to put in their effort."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

(3-27-18) Sharks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues get the chance to be streak busters once again on Tuesday night.

After ending the Columbus Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak on Saturday with a 2-1 victory, the Blues (42-28-5) get the chance to burst the bubble of the San Jose Sharks (44-23-9), who have won eight straight, when the two teams collide at Scottrade Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

San Jose (44-23-9), which has beaten the Blues twice this season, including 2-0 the most recent game in San Jose on March 8 and 3-2 on Feb. 20 here in St. Louis, is coming off a 4-3 shootout win at Chicago on Monday and has matched the third longest winning streak in franchise history.

"They've given us two hard games thus far this year," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "They play well. They play connected. They seem to be a team that swarms in a sense that they're always on top of you and they always seem to be close by and good support for each other. That can be tough to play against at times. They're a good team and if we can move the puck quick and play with our speed, it's going to be beneficial and it's going to kind of break down their system as much as possible. It'll be a good game, I think."

Perhaps the loss to the Sharks on March 8 is where the Blues' turnaround has come. Since the Blues lost that game, they've won seven of eight and are 8-2-1 the past 11 games after going 0-6-1.

"We looked at that game, we talked about a lot of things with the group the next day, and really, when I look back at it, it's a little bit of a turning point for us in our season in terms of how we were attacking, the mentality that we had, and a team like this can really make you come to the realization you're not doing some things very effectively," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "So this is a team that smothers, this is a team that swarms, whether it's on the rush, the way they track, their gap, whether it's in the offensive zone, the way they get numbers in and around the puck. We're going to have to do some things differently and better than we did in that game."

The Sharks have averaged 4.15 goals per game since they acquired Evander Kane at the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26. Kane himself has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 12 games since joining the Sharks.

"He's obviously a good player, a great addition to the team," Parayko said. "I think that when you have a player like that that's dangerous on the ice all over the offensive zone, you've got to be aware for sure and you've got to make sure you take charge of knowing when he's on the ice and making sure you don't give those guys room and space. When you add a guy like that, it's going to increase their scoring abilities. A good challenge for us D's tonight to stop that line and stop the rest of their forwards obviously. They're definitely offensively powered and they can score some goals."

- - -

The Blues, on a season-high five-game winning streak, can match a six-game streak they established last on Feb. 6-16, 2017, so they can continue a run of their own. It's also a chance to reach a season-high 15 games over .500.

The Blues are one point behind Colorado for the Western Conference's wildcard, two points behind Los Angeles and four points behind Minnesota for third place in the Central Division with two games in hand on the Kings and one on the Avalanche.

"When you look at the standings and we just crept our way back in, we're not even in the playoffs yet," Parayko said. "It's just one day and you're in, out, in out. It's one of those things where we control our own destiny now. We win the rest of we win X amount, we'll be in, but it's crazy. You have a chance to win six in a row and you're still competing for the second wild-card. It's fun though, I think that's what's kind of bringing our group together We get the chance to come together in a time when we need it the most and we've done that. It's exciting and shows a lot of good stuff so far."

The Blues have reached the playoffs in each of the past six seasons and were able to clinch fairly early or have a good sense that they were comfortably in.

The past six seasons, they clinched in Game Nos. 77, 75, 77, 70, 46 (lockout season) and 73.

"I don't remember last year quite as well but I don't remember feeling too comfortable for quite a period of time," Yeo said. "I know that we did clinch a little bit earlier but I know there was a good amount of time when we felt the season was in jeopardy and we were in danger of missing the playoffs as well. Up to this point, what I think we'd say is that when the season's been on the line, when we've needed to be our best, our guys have found a way to play that way. I think that experience of being in the playoffs for six years, playing in overtime games, playing in elimination games, we have guys that have experience dealing with that pressure and so hopefully that will serve us well down the stretch."

Which is why the players don't feel the pressure of playing leapfrog with teams on a daily basis, something that could happen all the way until Game 82 in Colorado.

"Obviously we've done a good job of our games recently," Parayko said. "I think we understand the position that we're in and what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance of making the playoffs obviously. When you look at it, we pretty much have the same group of core guys that we've had all along. The guys know what to do to get to the playoffs, the guys know what to do when we're in the playoffs anf things like that. We have that in the locker room and numerous guys stepping up each night. It's beneficial and it's very important. I think we're doing a good job of handling it so far. It's a different scenario for our group that we don't necessarily have a cushion to sit back on. We pretty much have to break the cushion and just keep pushing through. It's exciting and we look forward to the challenge."

- - -

Blues goalie Jake Allen will make his 10th consecutive start, which would match a regular season career-best first set Feb. 25-March 16, 2016.

Allen is 7-1 his past eight starts with a 2.12 goals-against average and .919 save percentage but went 3-0-0 last week with a 1.00 goals-against average and .961 save percentage and was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week.

"Confidence is a big part of it," Yeo said. "It's probably a word that all of us as coaches, when it's not there we try to steer clear of it, but when it is there, it's a real thing. I would say it's a big factor inn the difference in his play. When he wasn't winning games, I would say he's not confident and understandably so, and now he is. He looks it. He looks more comfortable, more poised, he's even getting out of the net more, making more plays with the puck. Those are all signs of confidence. When your goalie has confidence, there's not very many nights where that's not going to filter through to the rest of the group."

- - -

Blues forward Scottie Upshall has been declared fit and ready to rejoin the lineup but will not play tonight.

Yeo said it may be beneficial for Upshall, coming off a sprained MCL in his left knee, to get in a few more skates before rejoining the lineup.

The Blues don't play again until Friday in Vegas.

"He was ready to go, I think. I think it's going to help him to have another practice," Yeo said. "He's only had a couple real practices. He's been skating but it's a different story to get out there and have contact and timing wise. The guys that have been in the lineup, it's hard to find someone to come out."

As for forward Nikita Soshnikov, who sustained an upper-body injury last Wednesday against Boston, Yeo didn't sound all too optimistic.

"He's getting looked at right now and maybe in a couple days I'll give you a better update here," Yeo said.

- - -

Forward Nolan Stevens and defenseman Mitch Reinke, signed on Sunday out of college to two-year entry-level contracts, are expected to arrive in St. Louis today.

Stevens, drafted by the Blues in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft, wrapped up his season with Northeastern University on Saturday, and Reinke is a free agent out of Michigan Tech.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund-Kyle Brodziak-Alexander Steen

Dmitrij Jaskin-Vladimir Sobotka-Tage Thompson

Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo

Vince Dunn-Colton Parayko

Jordan Schmaltz-Robert Bortuzzo

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

The healthy scratch is Scottie Upshall. Nikita Soshnikov (upper body) is day to day. Jay Bouwmeester (hip), Robby Fabbri (knee) and Carl Gunnarsson (knee) are out for the season.

- - -

The Sharks' projected lineup:  

Evander Kane-Joe Pavelski-Melker Karlsson

Tomas Hertl-Logan Couture-Mikkel Boedker

Timo Meier-Chris Tierney-Kevin Labanc

Barclay Goodrow-Marcus Sorensen-Jannik Hansen

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun

Paul Martin-Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon-Dylan DeMelo

Aaron Dell is expected to start in goal; Martin Jones would be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Joel Ward and Tim Heed. Joe Thornton (knee), Joonas Donskoi (upper body), Eric Fehr (lower body) and Joakim Ryan (upper body) remain out.

Much like last season, Allen has found his game again in March

Blues' goalie confident, winning just in time as Blues making playoff push going 
7-1-0 past eight starts, earning NHL Second Star of Week honors after 3-0-0

ST. LOUIS -- Instead of sulking during a rut that saw him win only twice in 16 starts, Blues goalie Jake Allen turned to goalie coach David Alexander, who's had Allen's trust since he was a teenager, for some tutorial.

It included plenty of video.

Lots of video, as a matter of fact.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .961 save
percentage in earning the NHL's Second Star of the Week honors.

"We really just sat down before, we went over about 300 clips from the start of the year and just what I'm really good at," Allen said. "We just said, 'Why would I stray away from any of that?' We sort of went back to it."

And by going back to "it," and as the Blues get set to face the San Jose Sharks tonight and Allen on the cusp of making his 10th consecutive start, he does so as the NHL's Second Star of the Week, announced on Monday.

What a difference a month makes.

Last month, one wondered if Allen would ever win a game again. Today, he can't seem to lose.

Sound familiar? Sound like last season? 

There are a lot of similarities. Ask the Minnesota Wild, who were stymied by Allen in a five-game playoff defeat in the first round last season.

Once again, something had to be done. It was getting to a point where it was deja vu all over again. Not quite to the extremes of last season when the Blues sent Allen home for a game to clear his head while the team was playing in Winnipeg and starting Pheonix Copley of all people before bringing assistant general manager Martin Brodeur out of the stands to resurrect Allen's season, but some of the old bad habits and even unfortunate luck started to be a stark reminder that Allen's season was spiraling in the wrong direction again.

Allen went 2-13-0 from Dec. 12-Feb. 27, the last game culminating with him being pulled after allowing three goals in the first period of an 8-3 loss to Minnesota, a game in which was the Blues' seventh in a row (0-6-1) and the lowest point in their season.

To Allen's defense, a number of those losses came with little to no goal support. He allowed 53 goals in 18 appearances (16 starts), but in 15 of those starts (minus the one he was pulled from in Minnesota), Allen received just 25 goals of support, or 1.67 goals per game. That's asking a lot of a goalie to hold the opposition to one goal or less for that long a stretch.

But he put in the necessary time, working on his game, and got himself in a better place again; he's 7-2-0 since Hutton went out and 7-1-0 in his last eight starts with a 2.12 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.

Allen went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .961 save percentage last week.

"I've been practicing real well for about the last two months," Allen said. "I'm pretty proud of myself for that and it's really translated into my game. Obviously you need some luck to go with it and the boys play well in front of you, but it just started to click and started to move in the right direction. It was a little bit frustrating. I thought I was playing well and not finding ways to win games, but it came and now we're moving on up."

So where did it all really turn?

Well, an injury, of course, helped the cause.

Doesn't it usually work when someone's misfortune turns into someone else's good fortune?

When Carter Hutton, who held the fort down going 11-5-0 during Allen's skid, sustained a neck injury during the morning skate of a March 8 game he was going to start at San Jose, Allen jumped in when he found out literally hours before puck drop.

And although Allen lost that game too, he only allowed one goal on 35 shots and gave the Blues a chance at winning a game they had no business being in.

It was the start of building quality minutes for the netminder. There was a glimpse of what could be the start of something.

Or was it?

"I think my game against Nashville (Feb. 25), we lost 4-0, but in Nashville, I thought I played really well that game and I feel that was the start of my transition," Allen said. "It was still tough to get a few wins after that game. We were in a tough position, but I think that's when the tides turned for me."

Blues coach Mike Yeo wanted to give every reason to go back to Allen, but he's in the business of winning games, and at the time, Hutton was winning and Allen wasn't, so he allowed his No. 1 netminder all the time he needed to work his kinks out.

"I know Jake's put a lot of work in just on video sessions and practice time, really working on his habits," Yeo said. "I do believe that when games, especially in the goaltending position, games really get intense and when things are really on the line, that's when your habits really matter. I think that him taking the time to really get back to some of the real important habits that need to be in his game, I think you can see that now. It's hard for me or a person who's not a goaltender to really pick up on that stuff. I think what the finished product is, I think what you end up seeing is he looks very controlled right now. Obviously he looks very confident, that's a huge part of it, no question. He seems to be doing himself an awful lot without having to take himself out of position or without having to overreact to everything. He's always an athletic goalie. He's going to make saves like he did in the first period in Columbus which are phenomenal, desperation-type saves, but I think he's making a lot of saves look easy right now too."

Allen got back on the saddle and helped the Blues end their losing streak in emphatic fashion, 7-2 at Los Angeles on March 10, a game in which he made 38 saves. It got the ball rolling and extended it to wins at Anaheim (4-2), he made a game-saving overtime save March 17 against the New York Rangers and Chris Kreider in a 4-3 win before starting 24 hours later and winning a 5-4 shootout at Chicago. But his best games came last week wen he won NHL second star honors.

Allen allowed one goal in each of the three wins (2-1 in OT against Boston, 4-1 against Vancouver before helping the Blues snap the Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak, 2-1). 

In that win over the Blue Jackets, Allen's first-period glove save on Markus Nutivaara was one for the highlight reels.

"It's one of those plays where you just understand who's on the ice and where you've got to just know hands, which guys' hands are on the ice, lefty, righty," Allen said. "The guy's a lefty on the far side. I knew he was pulling over there. I didn't really even see him shoot it. I just sort of knew where he was going to go with it and I put my glove there."

His teammates knew Allen needed to steal one, which goalies are asked to do from time to time, and he did.

"He's playing aggressive and he's playing confident," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Allen. "We're doing a good job of limiting opportunities and obviously in Columbus, we needed him to steal one for us and he did just that. ... If you look at the job we're doing, we're doing a good job of taking those second chances away, not leaving him out to dry like we were for a while there. He's continuing to play well. We've got a lot of confidence in him obviously and with 'Hutts' back, the 1-2 punch is back."

"I guess you can say that from the outside," Allen said of the aggressive and confident style. "I've sort of went back to my old style, not changed a lot, but at the start of the year, I was very simple, very patient just sort of letting my natural ability do the work. I feel that's the way it's been going right now. Just giving the boys a chance. They're doing the right things in front of me too. That's why we're winning games."

And now that Hutton's back, it does give the Blues their 1-2 punch back, and to have both going well would bode well. But Hutton sees Allen back in form, and he's not about to make this about himself.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Since a stretch that saw him go 2-14-0, Blues goalie Jake Allen is 7-1-0 in 
his past eight starts.

"No, we're winning buddy. This is what it's all about, man," Hutton said when asked if his injury was unfortunate because of how he was playing. "I play for the Blues, right? I don't play for myself. The main goal here is getting in the playoffs and trying to win a Stanley Cup. Whether it's me, Jake or Tyler Stewart, it doesn't matter."

With the Blues, who have won eight of 11 (8-2-1) since their dreaded seven-game slide, in a fight for the playoffs, as usual, goaltending will need to be at its peak.

"We're in a good spot right now, especially from where we were a few weeks ago," Allen said.

And was there a video clip of those 300 that stood out over the rest?

"Just the ones that don't go over the red line," Allen said.

Monday, March 26, 2018


Hutton back feeling good; Upshall getting close; Stevens, Reinke expected 
in Tuesday; Allen earns star of the week; Brodeur picked as co-GM of Canada

ST. LOUIS -- Carter Hutton was back in full form on and Monday at Scottrade Center for Blues practice on a day when team photographs were first on the docket.

Hutton manned one goal while red-hot Jake Allen was in the other for the first time since injuring his neck during the morning skate before the Blues were to take on the San Jose Sharks, ironically Tuesday's opponent, on March 8 in San Jose.

"Ready to rock here," Hutton said. "Excited to get back and chip in here."

Hutton, who is 16-7-3 with a league-leading 2.02 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, would not divulge the extent of how he was injured, only saying he was glad to be back.

Ville Husso, who backed up Allen the past nine games, was assigned back to San Antonio on Sunday.

"I'm back now and that's all that matters," Hutton said. "... I've been feeling good for a few days here. I thought last week, maybe mid-week when I came home and skated on my own that it's getting close."

After getting in a couple skates last week, it was evident that Hutton is ready for active duty.

"That was what we were anticipating, that he would be full participation this week, so it's good to have him back," Blues coach Mike Yeo said.

It was an inopportune time for Hutton to go down, as it would be at any time for any injury. But Hutton was really carrying the ball for the Blues during a time in which they were waiting on Allen, who is 7-2-0 since taking the full reigns back, to get on track.

When Allen was 2-13-0 from Dec. 12-Feb. 25, Hutton was 11-5-0.

"Both have had really good years for us and obviously there was a time where with Jake, maybe it wasn't going as well," Yeo said. "We could point to the goal scoring, we could point to a number of things, but I think by his standards, I think by our standards, we knew that there was another level there and certainly we're seeing it right now with Jake. 

"But Carter's play during that time, that was real important for the group. You need two goalies in the NHL right now. The days of a guy being in the net for 70 games a year and being problem-free for the whole season, it's too difficult not. It's too much parity, it's too much with all the schedules, too demanding. The importance of two goaltenders probably has never been more important."

WIth seven games remaining and the Blues, who held the final wild card spot heading into Monday's games, in a dogfight to make the playoffs, Hutton could see action this weekend when the Blues play back to back road games in Vegas and Arizona.

"I think it was something that over time happened," Hutton said of his injury. "Obviously frustrating. I thought I was playing well at the time. Jake's gone in and played great. It's awesome. When I left, we were out of the playoffs, now we're in, so it's great. I'm pumped to get back in and help out.

"Obviously I go down there and Jake steps right back in there. He's playing the best hockey of the season right now at the most important time. ... Opportunities come in weird ways. He's obviously taken advantage of it and my job now is come back and player better than I was or if not as good. When I do get a chance to play, compete and give our team a chance like I always do."

Allen, for one, is glad to have Hutton on board again.

"It's good to have 'Hutts' back," he said. "We're ready for the final seven games. There's not a whole lot left, but every game's meaningful. I'm sure he'll be ready to play whenever he's called upon. It's a big challenge. It's good to have him back. He's good for our team, even if he's not playing. He's good in the room. He keeps guys loose."

* Upshall close -- Blues left wing Scottie Upshall is close to returning from the sprained MCL in his left knee he sustained on March 3 in Dallas.

Like Hutton, Upshall began skating last week and has been building up for his return.

Upshall, who has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 61 games, didn't rule out Tuesday against San Jose but a more likely scenario is this weekend.

"It's getting there. I feel good," Upshall said. "It's been a hard week, lots of skating getting the legs back, but it's coming long good.

"[Yeo] and I have spoken. We have a pretty good line of communication. He knows where I am. I think today was a good day for me to just get into some good flow drills and some battle. Ultimately, our team is playing the way we need to play, winning games. At some point, I'm going to get a chance to jump in whether it's tomorrow or later on in the week on a back to back, we'll see."

With the Blues on a season-long five-game winning streak, Yeo acknowledged Upshall is close, but it would be tough for the Blues' coach to alter the lineup now.

"Very close," Yeo said. "I would say he's available for tomorrow, (but) I would say that there's a good chance that we'll go back with the same lineup tomorrow just with the sense that I think it wouldn't hurt 'Uppy' to have another practice and also I think guys that would potentially come out of the lineup have done a really good job and don't deserve to come out."

* Stevens, Reinke expected to arrive Tuesday -- Forward Nolan Stevens and defenseman Mitch Reinke, two of the three collegiate players [Austin Poganski] to sign two-year entry-level contracts on Sunday night, will arrive in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Stevens, the Blues' fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft who just finished his career at Northeastern University, is expected to arrive in the morning and Reinke, a free agent signee out of Michigan Tech, is expected later in the day.

Poganski was assigned to San Antonio on an amateur tryout.

"As far as the forwards, I'm not going to get into great detail for you, but I know that we've got two players coming here and obviously one going to San Antonio," Yeo said. "It's going to be a great experience for those guys. We'll see if opportunity presents itself for them to get into games; I'm not sure. I think that the first step is for us to get them into practice and see if we can get them up to speed obviously with the NHL game, NHL players, the NHL pace but also get them up to speed with our game and with our system. Heard really good things and excited to get them here."

Stevens, the son of Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens, is coming off an impressive 42-point season (24 goals, 18 assists) in 38 games, while Reinke played 35 games this season and had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists).

Both will be thrust right into the playoff chase.

"It happens," Yeo said. "You can see we're short bodies as it is. It'll be good for practice and it's going to be great experience for them. It'll give us a chance to get a feel for where they're at and see how it goes."

* Allen earns second star of week -- The NHL announced its three Stars of the Week and Allen was the second star behind Edmonton's Connor McDavid and ahead of Winnipeg's Kyle Connor.

Allen went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in wins over Boston, Vancouver and Columbus, ending the Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak on Saturday with  2-1 win.

"We've got a good thing going right now," Allen said. "I just happened to get the honor. 

"It's not a huge deal. Right now, we're headed in the right direction. Seven games left, a big one tomorrow and looking forward to it." 

* Brodeur named go-GM for Canada at World Championship -- Blues assistant GM Martin Brodeur on Monday was officially announced as a co-GM of Team Canada for the upcoming 2018 IIHF World Championship to be played in Denmark from May 4-20.

Brodeur and Burke were part of Canada’s national men’s team management group that oversaw the evaluation process, including an extended schedule of events from August to December 2017, for Canada's Men’s Olympic team that captured bronze in PyeongChang in February. 

Brodeur is in his fourth season as assistant GM under Doug Armstrong and Burke is a scout for Montreal.

A three-time Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils, Brodeur represented Canada in international competition eight times, having won the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010), and two silver medals at the IIHF World Championship in 1996 and 2005.

* Moving on without Gunnarsson -- Speaking of injuries, the torn left ACL by Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is a tough one in itself since the re-evaluation process will take place in six months, but for the kind of season Gunnarsson was having, makes it even more difficult to swallow.

The Blues are already without another lefty, Jay Bouwmeester, who had surgery to repair a left hip injury sustained Dec. 10 against Buffalo, but not having the reliable Gunnarsson (five goals, four assists in 63 games) will put more of an onus on the likes of Jordan Schmaltz.

"Someone asked me what they should write an article on and I said, 'Write an article on 'Gunny,' because if you've watched him and the way he's played over the last month or so, I might have got the accolades but he's holding me there," Blues defeneman Alex Pietrangelo said. "He's a rock for me back there. We found our groove together. I know what I'm getting from him every single night. It's tough to find. That's the part of being a pro and being a veteran guy is you know what you're going to get from 'Gunny.' He was playing good hockey and you hate to hear that stuff. You know how good of a guy he is. You never want to see that."

* Updates -- Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who's managing a knee ailment he's been dealing with since Feb. 16 at Dallas, took a maintenance day Monday, and Nikita Soshnikov, who sustained an upper-body injury in a 2-1 overtime win against Boston last Wednesday, also missed practice; he's missed the past two games.

"We'll still call [Soshnikov] day to day right now," Yeo said.