It wouldn’t be the St. Louis Blues if we weren’t talking injuries. While the injuries this season haven’t been as costly as they’ve been in recent years, the team is certainly banged up heading into the final few weeks of the season. The good news is the Blues have clinched a playoff spot and are very close to securing the top seed in the Western conference.
Alex Steen has been in Southern California for about three weeks where’s he’s been receiving two-a-day hyperbaric chamber treatments. Word is Steen has experienced the progress he was hoping for. He’ll meet with Head Coach Ken Hitchcock Tuesday night as the team prepares for back to back meetings with the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings beginning on Wednesday. I’m told Steen has been skating and/or working out on a daily basis since leaving the team last month. There’s a decent chance he resumes skating with the Blues as soon as this week but the team is cautious not to put the cart ahead of the horse. Steen will return to St. Louis with the club.
Steen and Hitchcock have been speaking on a weekly basis.
Andy McDonald skated this morning after missing Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a shoulder injury. Word is the grade of the separation is not as severe as first thought although there remains no true timetable on his return. He will make the trip with the team and continue to skate. He looked good Sunday morning but is still dealing with some severe discomfort.
Blues Captain David Backes will also make the trip although his availability is somewhat foggy. These injuries often come down to how much pain one can tolerate and I suspect that’s the case here. He’ll play as soon as he feels he’s ready. The Blues are saying Backes does not have a fracture in his left foot after blocking a shot Sunday in Tampa bay.
Ken Hitchcock is trying to squeeze in as many days off as he can for the 37 year old veteran. Arnott is banged up and the more “maintenance days” he can have the better. He’s been bothered by knee and shoulder issues as of late and Hitchcock says the soreness is affecting his ability to give the club the quality minutes they need. Getting some healthy bodies back will only allow for Arnott to get the rest he needs.
Matt D’Agostini is feeling much better as he continues to recover from a concussion. He’s been symptom free for several days and will make the trip out west.
Kris Russell is also improving as he recovers from his concussion. Some days are better than others and I sense the process has been frustrating for the smooth skating D-man. He will accompany the team on the trip as well.
Schwartz Passes First Test…
Forward Jaden Schwartz couldn’t have written a better script for his first ever NHL game. He was credited with the game winner and is doing his best to settle in with his new surroundings. Alex Pietrangelo is the one player Schwartz communicated with throughout the year. He stayed with Pietrangelo over the summer while he was in St. Louis training and is living with him for at least for the rest of this season.
The Blues coaching staff did a great job of getting him up to speed on systems etc…but most importantly he allowed his instincts as a player to take over. Having him sit and watch a few games worked in Schwartz’s favor as he looked comfortable in his debut.
Players such as Schwartz I like to say have a knack for hockey. Hitchcock says he’s not afraid to spot him in certain situations and isn’t worried about protecting him when he hops over the boards.
Not a bad first game for a guy with a few morning skates and only one real practice under his belt.
Berglund Comes to Life…
Patrik Berglund picked a good time to play his best hockey of the year. He has six points in his last six games and could reach 20 goals for the third time in his career. One thing you notice with Berglund is the pace he’s playing at. Even when he wasn’t scoring goals early in the year he was still working hard but he struggled turning the hard work into offense. The return of Andy McDonald has sped up Berglund’s game both with and without the puck. He’s making quicker decisions and is handling the puck as well as he has all year. With his size and speed there’s no reason not to expect more from him off the rush and we’re seeing him attack offensively as well as he has in a while.
Jennings Trophy to return to St. Louis…
It looks like the tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott will capture the William M. Jennings trophy for just the second time in franchise history. Roman Turek won it back in 1999-2000. The award is given to the goaltender(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team who allows the fewest goals against.
Elliott leads the NHL with a 1.62 GAA with Halak second overall with a 1.85 GAA.
Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch deserves some credit for the job he’s done. Here’s a guy who hasn’t tried to re-invent either goalie but has done a solid job of building off the strengths they do have. Hirsch takes the initiative to work with both goalies before and after practice and is a big believer in repetition. In reality this is a team award everyone should feel good about when you factor in a stingy team defense that allows an NHL best 26 shots per game.
Could be a fun awards night in Las Vegas with Ken Hitchcock likely up for the Jack Adams and Doug Armstrong up for Executive of the Year.
1997AAA Blues Head to Nationals…
The Bantam Major AAA Blues have advanced to USA Nationals with a late surge over the weekend. After a shootout loss to the Chicago Mission to open the weekend the Blues rebounded with back to back must wins over Team Wisconsin and Russell Stover out of Kansas City. Matthew Tkachuk scored in the final minute to lift the Blues over Russell Stover 2-1. The team got the help they needed when Wisconsin defeated Chicago to allow the Blues to sneak in. Nationals take place in Buffalo, New York. This team is coached by Jordan Janes and Keith Tkachuk.
The U-18 AAA Blues were hoping for a similar result but did not advance after losing to Milwaukee on Saturday. They went 2-1 over the weekend including a come from behind win over the Chicago Fury.
The U-16 and U-18 Chesterfield Central States teams have advanced to USA Nationals in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The U-16’s are coached by Nick Lamia with Lindsay Middlebrook leading the U-18’s.
More to come,
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