Monday, September 24, 2018


Allen, Perron to make preseason debuts; Bozak expected to play; Fabbri
has groin strain; Blues trim camp roster down to 33, Mikkola impressing

ST. LOUIS -- Jake Allen will make his preseason debut on Tuesday when the Blues (3-1-0) host the Washington Capitals.

Allen was initially diagnosed with back spasms days before the start of training camp and was expected to miss up to two weeks but has been a regular on the ice since Sept. 18 and after putting in a full day's work, including flopping to the ice to make a save during a drill, all systems are go and he will play 40 minutes before giving way to Chad Johnson for the third.

"I'm gonna play two periods tomorrow, just get my feet wet in a game again and go from there," Allen said. "I don't know the schedule moving forward after that, but right now, we're just trying to get back in the swing of things of progressing well and feeling better in practice and things like that. I'm looking forward to getting into some action, just focus on a few things and go from there.

"Things are looking up and I'm glad to be in a game. It feels like camp has been going on forever to be honest because I wasn't really part of it to start and then jumping back in the swing of things and not being able to play the last four games. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and should be fun. ... It's nice to feel a lot more free in there. I was a little restricted before in my movements, but I feel pretty loose, pretty rotational and it feels good."

Blues coach Mike Yeo said there is no set plan for Allen; he'd like to get Allen in as much as possible but will take it day by day.

"He looks good," Yeo said of Allen. "Had a net to himself there today, getting him out there with the big boys. The next step now is getting him into game action.

"We want to get him in as much as we can. I don't have a plan past tomorrow. I just want to see how he does and how he feels tomorrow."

Allen could get the entire game Friday at home against Dallas or at Washington to conclude preseason play Sunday but isn't unsure himself.

"I imagine I'll get as much as I can. That's the plan," Allen said, who feels he'll be ready to go for the season-opener Oct. 4 against Winnipeg. "We didn't want to start off with a full game right away. Most of the guys lead themselves in with a half a game, so this is a start for me. Just (get in) a solid, two periods. It's more of a feel for me and timing and getting my game routine back. It's more those things. I imagine I'll get in at least two of the next three. We'll see where we go after tomorrow."

* Fabbri day to day with groin strain -- Yeo said that forward Robby Fabbri has a Grade 1 groin strain sustained in Sunday's 5-1 win at Columbus. 

Fabbri played the first period but did not return for the final two periods.

Fabbri is coming off two torn ACL surgeries on his left knee and last week, was dealing with a sore back and sore hip flexor.

"Keep him off the ice today," Yeo said. "I can't say we have a hard, set plan yet. It's just a matter of wait and see, how it improves here.

"It's the other side of his body. I can't say if it's connected it not. I guess it's possible he's compensating, but my medical degree did not cover that."

Fabbri will not play Tuesday and the team has the day off Wednesday, so the Blues hope to have an idea how he's progressed the next couple days before deciding a course of action.

* Perron, Bozak return to practice -- Forwards David Perron (sore groin) and Tyler Bozak (sore groin) returned to the practice group on Monday and with both skaters being full participants, the plan is for both to play Tuesday.

Perron hasn't skated since Thursday and has not played in a preseason game yet, and Bozak last skated in the 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild last Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.

"That's the plan that we have both of those guys in tomorrow," Yeo said. "If I go in and find out that they didn't feel great in practice or maybe something arises like it did the other day, then we'll change things up, but the plan is to have them in tomorrow."

* Blues assign seven to San Antonio -- The Blues assigned seven more skaters to San Antonio of the American Hockey League, reducing the camp roster down to 33.

The players assigned include forwards Klim Kostin, Mackenzie MacEachern, Adam Musil, Jordan Nolan and Nolan Stevens and defensemen Chris Butler and Mitch Reinke.

"When you have a roster cutdown, there's always some tough conversations, but I think the guys that went down to San Antonio, very pleased with what I saw from a lot of guys," Yeo said. "I think our organization, we're real happy with the depth and so that's a good thing. It's nice to get the one group, I will say that."

Among those still remaining include forwards Sammy Blais, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, defensemen Jordan Schmaltz, Jake Walman and Niko Mikkola, the surprise out of camp thus far.

"I thought his last game was very strong," Yeo said of Mikkola. "It's a young player, there's still some things we need to work on, some things we have to kind of coach out. He gets kind of a little too wrapped up in some man on man stuff sometimes. Sometimes maybe he's a little over-aggressive, but at the same time, you like a player as a coach that you have to pull back the reigns on a little bit as opposed to trying to crack the whip. Every time he's on the ice, he's trying to make something happen. He's trying to be a difference maker and he's trying to be a difference maker whether it's his gap, his stick, physicality. You can also see the way he's activating trying to get up in the play. I've been very, very pleased with him. He's been one of the biggest surprises for me. 

"I think for a defenseman, he plays a little bit of a European style. A lot of times those Swedish and Finnish defensemen, they have those tendencies. He's definitely been taught in a lot of different areas. He knows what his game is. He's moving well, he's big, he's rangy, he's physical and he's gotten better every day that he's been here."

Mikkola is a fifth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and has played in Finland on a wider European sheet of ice his entire career, but he's had a strong camp that's progressed as it's went on.

"I think I got a slow start because it takes time to get used to this North American rink," Mikkola said. "I feel like I get more confidence and I'm feeling better and better. Last couple games, it was pretty good, I think. A couple mistakes but good things also. 

"You have to pass fast and there's no time and space like back in Finland. I think I'm pretty good at that and I've got used to that pretty fast."

The fact he's still here says what the coaches think of the lanky 6-foot-4, 185-pound blue liner.

"I'm happy for that. Of course I'm pleased," Mikkola said. "It's good for me of course."

"These young guys are pushing right now," Yeo said. "We said we were going to have some competition in camp and we're seeing that. Even in practice, I thought that group looked good together. ... Things are getting a little bit more difficult and a little bit harder each game. We'll continue to see how they react."

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