Fabbri trade best for both sides; de la Rose in process of settling in;
fourth line coming on strong; Tarasenko, Steen progressing from injuries
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- It became increasingly clear that Robby Fabbri was growing frustrated.
In Fabbri's second season post two knee operations to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, the Blues' 2014 first round pick (21st overall)felt his game was growing back, slowly but surely.
But after being a healthy scratch for the fifth consecutive game and eight of nine games, it was becoming increasingly clear Fabbri had no role with the Blues moving forward, and with the team winning without him, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong would do something that would not only satisfy Fabbri but close a chapter that unfortunately needed an ending.
After the Blues' 5-2 win at Edmonton last week, it was announced Fabbri was being traded to the Detroit Red Wings for forward Jacob de la Rose, thus ending his promising but frustratingly injury-riddled Blues career.
Since the trade, Fabbri has two goals and one assist on two games with the Red Wings, and he will get the opportunity to revive his career with an organization climbing from the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
This wasn't about the Blues ridding themselves of a player they didn't want or like anymore but one in which simply wasn't going to get the ice time necessary to help get his career back on track.
Fabbri asked for a trade over the summer, and finally, after some patience, according to Armstrong, the trigger was pulled.
"It started back a while ago," Armstrong said. "He's been a great teammate here and he's worked very hard to get back. At some point, you're an independent contractor in a sense that he was nervous that if he was not an every day player, getting a contract in the NHL would be difficult next year and I understood that. I asked him to be patient with us and I thought he was. We got on this road trip, the team was playing well. He wasn't a player that was going to go into our lineup and I said to him, 'I understand where you're coming from, we'll try to help you out.'"
Fabbri signed a one-year, $900,000 contract in the summer as a restricted free agent; he can be a RFA again next summer, but his career with the Blues ends with 73 points (32 goals, 41 assists) in 164 regular-season games, including 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists) his rookie season in 2015-16; he had 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 20 playoff games his rookie season and one goal in 10 games with the Blues last season in the playoffs.
"I think he's going to a great situation," Armstrong said of Fabbri. "He jumps right into a top-six role, he jumps right onto their power play. It's a good situation.
"Even when Steener [Alexander Steen] left our game the other night, if Robby was still here, it's not like he was going to get on the power play. Steener wasn't on our power play. It's opportunity. I said to Robby that I hope it's a Danny Briere situation where he goes somewhere else and finds his game and has a great career. I'm a big Robby Fabbri fan and I wish him nothing but the best. I think he's got some really good hockey ahead of him and we've seen the first couple games, he's got three points and I'm really happy for him."
* de la Rose settling in -- On the flip side, de la Rose made his Blues debut on Saturday in a 3-2 overtime win against the Calgary Flames to close out a perfect 4-0-0 road trip, helping the Blues reach their seventh straight win.
Playing on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Sammy Blais, de la Rose played 10:18 and had two hits in the game while spending 1:06 on the penalty kill.
"It was alright," de la Rose said of his first game with the Blues. "It's always tough to get used to a new system and everything. I feel like it's pretty simple. I've just got to skate a lot, I have to work hard, work on the forecheck. Obviously it's a big team and I'm a big guy. I think my style should fit in pretty good here."
Armstrong said the Blues have had their eye on de la Rose since he was with the Montreal Canadiens; he was claimed on waivers by the Red Wings after signing a two-year, $1.8 million contract prior to last season.
"We thought about putting a claim in on him a couple years ago, but you have to have spots for them," Armstrong said. "Just to put them in here and put them in a more difficult situation they were before doesn't make a lot of sense. But Robby DiMaio scouts the Montreal team very closely and Timmy Taylor does the Detroit team, so we have good information on him. He is as advertised. We think he can be a functioning part of our team.
"He's got size and he can skate, multi-dimensional, can play left wing. I don't want to overhype on what he is, but he's a guy that fits into the way that we play and with Steen going out, he is a penalty killer. It does give us another guy that can go in there. You're just trying to make the pieces of the puzzle fit as you move forward. We think de la Rose can come in here and be part of 12, 13 or 14 forwards."
de la Rose goes from bottom of the league in the standings to near the top and with a team that has aspirations of repeating as Stanley Cup champs.
"It's a different mood from what we had in Detroit," de la Rose said. "We had a tough start there, but it's a different mood and I can tell guys are playing with a lot of confidence here. I've just got to try simple and do whatever I can to fit into the group."
* Fourth line play coming on strong -- It may have been the most complete and effective game played by the Blues' line with Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist and Mackenzie MacEachern in the win at Calgary, but Blues coach Craig Berube has liked it for some time.
Barbashev scored his second goal in as many games to get the scoring started against the Flames (he also scored an empty-net shorthanded goal at Edmonton on Nov. 6), but that line was effective throughout in its customary checking role, and it produced multiple scoring opportunities.
"They've been noticeable for quite some time for me," said Berube, who's started them in each of the past seven games and will likely continue to do so. "I think they go out there and set the tone for us almost every game to me. They're a hard-forechecking (line), all physical players, skate, get on top of people. That's what they do. They've been good."
Alexander Steen was the third wheel on the line during the playoffs last season and was as stout as ever, but MacEachern has stepped in and continues to grow his brand.
"Yeah, he's gotten a lot more confident and hopefully that keeps growing," Berube said of MacEachern. "He's an excellent skater and a big guy. He's been playing physical, which is good. We need that. He's got to keep doing that. He's actually making some plays with the puck, which is good too. We want all our guys to be able to do everything and play 200 feet of hockey. They're doing that right now."
* Tarasenko, Steen making progress -- Armstrong said Monday both Blues injured forwards (Vladimir Tarasenko and Steen) continue to progress in the right direction but neither are on the horizon soon.
Tarasenko, who dislocated his left shoulder Oct. 24 against the Los Angeles Kings and had surgery, is still on the timeline to be re-evaluated in five months, which would put him towards the end of March, and Steen sustained a left high ankle sprain against the Oilers, is on a timeline to be re-evaluated in four weeks, which puts him sometime in the first week of December.
"Vladi's doing well, surgery went well," Armstrong said. "Update on Steener. He's back here and doing well. We'll have a re-evaluation on the high ankle sprain in four weeks on where that one is."
Tarasenko, who will speak to the media Tuesday morning for the first time since his injury, could conceivably come back sooner than the five-week timeline. It's not out of the realm of possibility but Armstrong wasn't going to get his hopes up.
"I hope he comes back sooner than that, but that's the most likely timeline for a good, strong re-evaluation," Armstrong said. "Part of these timelines are to allow him to rehab without the daily questions of, 'How are you feeling today?' We'll have an update. It would be great if he got back earlier, but we wouldn't have put that out there if we thought he was getting back earlier."