Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Malkin OT winner for Penguins downs Blues 4-3

Fabbri, Pietrangelo score pair of equalizers in third, St. Louis takes 
three of four points on road, finish stretch of nine games in 16 days 

PITTSBURGH -- The Blues finished a stretch of nine games in 16 days in which they played a lot of hockey with little time in between.

They finished collecting three of four points on a two-game swing going into the Thanksgiving break after Evgeni Malkin's backhander 1 minute, 3 seconds into overtime gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory against the Blues Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Blues (14-6-3) got the tying goal with 5:41 remaining from Alex Pietrangelo and battled back twice but couldn't gain the victory after Malkin hooked up with Phil Kessel on a 2-on-1, and Malkin slipped a backhand past Jake Allen.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) pursues Penguins center Sidney
Crosby during action Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Paul Stastny and Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist, Alexander Steen had two assists but it wasn't enough. 

They come home with three of four points after a 2-1 victory at Buffalo on Monday.

"Three-on-three is always kind of a toss-up," Stastny said. "It happens. You get one chance one way and if you don't score, they come back and score. It was important that we got that point, battled back in the third. We got a big point."

There was some question, and the Blues asked the officials to go to Toronto to see if there was an offside play but coach Ken Hitchcock said officials deemed the play legal.

"They said it wasn't," Hitchcock said of the officials. "They went upstairs with it. That goes to Toronto and they said it was onsides."

"The last two games, we haven't played near as well as we have on the road. We'll take three of the four points, get home and get some rest." 

He wouldn't admit it, but Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has had the Blues marked on the schedule.

Crosby, one of the more prolific players in the NHL, had 28 teams marked off on his things-to-do list when it comes to scoring a goal. The Blues were the lone remaining team to keep him off the goal-scoring sheet.

Crosby's two goals, the second on the power play and Ben Lovejoy scored for the Penguins (13-8-0).

The Blues came away with a good first period on the road but were tied 1-1.

Stastny's power play goal just seven seconds into it, 9:15 into the first period gave the Blues a 1-0 lead off a smart slap pass from Steen. Kevin Shattenkirk extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, seven assists), but the Penguins tied the game late.

A Carl Gunnarsson turnover led to Crosby alone in front of Jake Allen and the Penguins captain made no mistake with a slap shot high glove side with 3:41 remaining in the first to tie the game 1-1.

"We kind of let them into the game after after I thought that we were dictating for the most part in the beginning," Steen said. "It was back and forth pretty much all game."

Crosby's goal was his first in 11 career games against the Blues. He's scored on the remaining 29 teams in the NHL. Crosby has goals in two of the past three games and a three-game point streak after scoring only twice in 18 games to start the season.

Crosby struck again on the power play in the second period when he redirected Malkin's pass from the right half wall over Allen at 9:57 of the second period for a 2-1 lead.

With Dmitrij Jaskin off for holding, the Penguins won the faceoff, Malkin spotted Crosby in the slot and Jay Bouwmeester a stride off before slotting the pass and Crosby made no mistake.

The Blues, who also trailed going into the third in Buffalo before rallying to win, got the equalizer on Robby Fabbri's second goal in as many games. He took a pass from Pietrangelo and whipped a wrist shot that slightly caught the stick of Rob Scuderi and surprised Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-2 at 1:12.

The Penguins regained the lead on Lovejoy's wrist shot from the high slot after Vladimir Tarasenko blocked a shot and broke his stick, the puck came to former Blue David Perron, who dropped it to Lovejoy for a 3-2 Penguins lead at 6:49.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alex Pietrangelo gets congratulated from the Blues bench after scoring the
tying goal in the third period Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

The Blues fought back again, this time on an intercepted clearing pass from Steen and the puck got to Stastny, who slipped the pass to Pietrangelo. The Blues defenseman beat Fleury short side through the arm to tie the game 3-3.

"Paul was making plays all night," Pietrangelo said. "When I saw he had an opportunity to get it to me, I figured I'd go. Sure enough, he made a good play." 

(11-25-15) Blues-Penguins Gameday Lineup

PITTSBURGH -- The Blues will make one lineup chance ahead of their matchup today against the Pittsburgh Penguins (6 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Ryan Reaves, who has had a tough go of it in the first quarter of the season trying to battle back from a knee injury sustained during training camp, will play for the Blues (14-6-2) against the Penguins (12-8-0). 

Reaves, who has no points in 14 games this season, has been scratched in seven of the past 10 games, including three straight.

But with the Blues playing a talented group like the Penguins, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock felt it was time to bring in someone who can add some energy and add a player the coaches feel is healthy.

"An edge," Hitchcock said when asked what Reaves brings to this game. "He's uncomfortable to play against. He's had very much an up-and-down season. Most of it based on health. He's healthy now, he feels good. We've conditioned him. This is about as far as we can go with him and the rest is going to kind of be in his court. He's going to have to continue to maintain a fitness level from the injury and keep up to pace during the games. We think he can bring a good energy. If he's up to speed, he can bring a good energy."

- - -

The trade that happened more than eight-and-a-half months ago seems like a distant memory for both Robert Bortuzzo and Ian Cole.

The Blues, who acquired Bortuzzo and a 2016 seventh round pick for Cole on March 2, has settled into his new duds as has Cole, who is third on the Penguins in average ice time per game (19 minutes, 26 seconds) behind Kris Letang (25:42) and Ben Lovejoy (20:04).

"It's been great. It's been a great situation," Cole said. "Playing a lot in a lot of different situations. From that aspect of it, it's fantastic. Obviously miss all my old teammates, miss all the boys, the equipment and training staff over at the Blues, but obviously the career is one of those things that takes precedence. 

"I get a lot of PK, which is great. ... I've been getting a lot of PK time, which is fantastic." 

The two have played against each other already, and Bortuzzo actually scored a goal upon his return to CONSOL Energy Center when the Blues won 3-2 in overtime March 24. So the time of facing the former team is all but history now.

"I think I'm definitely a Penguin now. I don't consider myself a Blue anymore," said Cole, who has three assists in 20 games. "Obviously that happened, but I am 110 percent in all-Penguins, which is great. There still is a personal side of things and a separate from a professional side of things. Still have a lot of friends on that team. A lot of friends, a lot of guys you looked up to. But there's also some guys who are gone. A guy that was a huge mentor for me was Barret Jackman and he's in Nashville and I got to play against him in Nashville. That was pretty fun."

"I think it's worked out so far," Bortuzzo, who's played 13 games and has one goal, said. "You don't know how things are going to pan out, but I'm in a great situation here with an extremely competitive team. You get a chance to contribute. I'm in a spot to do that. ... I've grown in ways. I've had another summer to work on things."

Bortuzzo will play alongside of rookie Colton Parayko. The two are 6-foot-4 (Bortuzzo) and 6-5 (Parayko), respectively and give the Blues a definite size advantage on the third pairing.

"'Borts' is really good when he distributes the puck to somebody else," Hitchcock said. "It ends up on Parayko's stick a lot. They work well together in getting the puck to Colton. Borts is such an unselfish player. He energizes our team, he energizes the pair, he plays a very physically demanding game of himself, not fun to play against from an opposition standpoint and they like playing together. I think they really enjoy playing together. I think it affords us a chance to get Colton a breath of fresh air because sometimes when you're playing a young guy in a top four position, it's a lot of stress and a lot of pressure on him and I think this just affords us to back him off a little bit. They're obviously a good third pair. They're a good third pair on any team in the league right now."

- - -

Penguins left wing David Perron will also face his former team for just the seventh time and second in a Penguins uniform.

Perron, who was traded by the Blues along with 2015 third-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers on July 10, 2013, for Magnus Paajarvi, a 2014 second-round pick (which the Blues used to select Ivan Barbashev) and a 2015 fourth-round pick, has three goals and seven points in 20 games this season.

- - -

The Blues' last three trips to Pittsburgh have all produced victories, including a pair of 3-2 overtime wins and a 1-0 victory.

Hitchcock said it comes from a fear factor.

"From our standpoint, when you're a little bit scared, it gets your attention," Hitchcock said. "You don't want to be embarrassed by the skillset, especially with what's out there now. It almost scares you straight. Any mistake you make checking-wise you know is going to end up in the back of your net, so you've got a healthy respect for what goes on on the other side. The fear factor is a great motivator and I think that's what does it for us, is we have a healthy dose of respect for that they have going over there and there's also the fear part of it that dictates that you better play your best game checking-wise or else you're going to get embarrassed. I think that's why we've played so well in this building is because of that. We're not taking anything for granted. We know if we go to sleep on one shift, especially on the top three lines, we're going to get beat."

Penguins center Sidney Crosby, aside from the team he's played for his entire career, has scored a goal against every NHL team aside from the Blues in his career. Crosby, who by his standards has struggled with three goals and 11 points in 20 games this season, has five assists in 10 career games against the Blues. 

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-Jori Lehtera-Dmitrij Jaskin

Robby Fabbri-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Colton Parayko-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup. 

Scottie Upshall, Scott Gomez and Joel Edmundson are healthy scratches. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are on injured-reserve.

- - -

The Penguins' probable lineup:

Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist

David Perron-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Beau Bennett

Sergei Plotnikov-Matt Cullen-Eric Fehr

Rob Scuderi-Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin-Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole-Adam Clendening

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal. Jeff Zatkoff will be the backup.

David Warsofsky and Daniel Sprong are healthy scratches. Olli Maatta (upper body) and Bryan Rust (undisclosed) are out with injuries.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Stastny's return a success; Edmundson understands being scratched, eager 
to work on things; Pietrangelo managing his minutes; Allen to start vs. Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- For the first game action in five weeks, Paul Stastny's return to the Blues' lineup couldn't have been scripted any better.

That shiner under Stastny's left eye wasn't planned and of course if Stastny, who played 19 minutes, 37 seconds in his return to the lineup from a broken foot in the Blues' 2-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres, could have put his name on the scoresheet, it would have looked better. But considering Stastny played on the top line and played 19:13 of his time at even strength, it was a good start to what Stastny and the Blues hope is an injury-free rest of the season.

"I didn't even know what I played," Stastny said after an practice at CONSOL Energy Center. "Felt pretty good. Going to take a couple games for me to keep getting in … first shift, I wanted nothing to do with the puck, just get out there, quick 20, 30 seconds, get out of the zone. After that, think less and less. As the game went on, I started feeling the puck more, started making more plays. Early on, I think I was more defensive minded, being in the right spot. As the game went on, I got the puck more, started making more plays, got more comfortable, started putting more weight on (the foot), couple battles where maybe came in a little late. That may just be being away for a while, not knowing, then don't even think about the foot. That's the most important thing; out there not thinking about it, it doesn't bother me. When I'm standing there, maybe it does feel weird because I haven't been in a skate for five weeks. Maybe more psychological than anything. Then the game happens so fast, between periods, there's no worries, it was good, excited to be back."

Coach Ken Hitchcock, who was pleased with Stastny's first game back, was even more pleased with the aftermath.

"The best part for me was he looked fine at practice today, so that was a good sign," Hitchcock said. "... I didn't notice the minutes until I looked at the stat sheet. It didn't feel like he played as much as he did, but obviously he did. I thought his tempo was fine, I thought he kept up speed-wise. I thought he looked fine. He's in good shape. We're going to need him."

It probably would have helped Stastny out had he got minutes on the power play, but since the Blues didn't have a power play in the game at all, it was a trial-by-error type of game, and Stastny passed.

"I thought it was pretty good yesterday," Steen said. "It's just fun, enjoyable to have him back. Me and him do a lot of talking on the bench. He's good at keeping things light. I was happy to get him back.

"For me, me and him have extremely good chemistry. It's hard to find that type of connection between two players, like just switching in and out. We're good friends off the ice, too, which I think helps. It keeps you talking all the time. That's just been a benefit to this thing. I thought he played great for hi first game back. It's not easy. You're almost hoping for like a power play or something so he can get in and feel the puck, but there was none of that yesterday. But I thought it was great. I thought we made some quick, good plays. ... We could have had some goals; we've just got to start putting them in. I thought it was a good, first game. At the same time, it's his first game back in five weeks. It'll take a game or two, but I thought he looked good."

Stastny, who had five points in five games (four assists) before being injured, had a shot on goal, one hit and won eight of 17 faceoffs which was one of the toughest aspects of getting any rhythm back.

"I think sometimes it's in your head, trying as hard as you can, trying to use your body instead of what works, over-thinking maybe," Stastny said. "I want to get that first win, then go out there and play. I think I'm at best on faceoffs when I just go out and don't think. When I over-think, that's when I get in trouble."

Stastny, who said he took a stick to the face and then a thumb, said, "I was like a boxer.

"I got a stick in the face, especially (coming) back, right? Five weeks; that's what happens. It was just like a thumb and I was like, 'Man, it feels all swollen and I was like pushing in. I looked and it was a black eye."

* Edmundson to sit again -- Rookie defenseman Joel Edmundson understands he wasn't going to play 82 games this season. So the fact that Edmundson will be made a healthy scratch for the third time (second in as many games) Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmundson isn't pouting. He isn't taking it hard. But he is being hard on his past few games.

"Someone's got to sit out and being a rookie, I knew I wasn't going to play every game of the season," Edmundson said. "I wasn't too pleased with my last couple games. I think it's just time to regroup, watch a couple games, see how much space I actually have out there, just do some studying. Just got to take it as a positive and make the best of it."

It means ex-Penguin Robert Bortuzzo, who was a healthy scratch in seven of the nine previous games before Monday in Buffalo, will be in the lineup for the second consecutive game.

And it's not that Blues coaches are disappointed in Edmundson's game. But Bortuzzo brings a certain element Hitchcock thought was necessary. So in the meantime, Edmundson has been putting in the extra work with associate coach Brad Shaw.

"The exits out of our zone. I think I was a little hesitant, maybe should have just made the first pass and not think too much about it," Edmundson said. "'Shawzy' has been working with me after practice and whatnot. I think whenever I get back in the lineup, I think it will be a good steppingstone for me."

Hitchcock agreed.

"I think a combination of taking a step back and working on some skill stuff with Shawzy allows him to find another gear," Hitchcock said of Edmundson. "But it's just the evolution of a younger player. We're not disappointed, but with Bortuzzo, we've got a different energy and you go through energy flows with your team all the time. But we get a good energy with Robert. Our feeling was we needed a different energy back there, so Robert supplies it. You saw it yesterday. I'm sure you're going to see it again tomorrow, and we need that type of energy. But it won't be long before Eddy's back in and playing. I think one of the things, Eddy's such a physical presence. We're trying to get him to have that presence earlier in the game rather than later in the game. We're working hard with him. Obviously he's here, he's a young guy, we like what he brings, but when we need the boost, we want to put 'Borts' back in."

And being able to step back and watch from afar above the rink has given Edmundson, who has two assists in 20 games, a different perspective.

"I was out half the season last year, so I watched a lot of hockey," Edmundson said. "I think that really helped my game just seeing how much space is actually out there; you get more time than you think. That's what 'Shawzy' said, take a game or however many there is and watch the games and learn from it.

"I missed one game before last night, so I can't really complain. I'm a rookie; I knew I wasn't going to play every game. It's just how the way it goes. ... In a hotel for the past three months, going through camp, and everything about making the team and what-not, this might actually be good for me. I'm just going to keep my head held high and work through it. You never know when you're going back in, but when that time comes, I'll be ready. My body feels good and I've just got to keep a positive attitude."

* Pietrangelo's overload -- Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's use this season by the Blues is not what they intended, according to Hitchcock.

But it's been necessary.

Pietrangelo, who averages 27:24 per game, behind only Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (27:39), knows that the most important part of being fit for games and absorbing the amount of minutes he's getting is what he does away from the ice. Those off-days are equally as important.

"Pretty good," Pietrangelo said when asked how he feels. "I'm doing the best I can. I mean obviously it's a lot of hockey. There's no secret math, but you feel like you get into the game when you play those big minutes. So really I have to take the extra time to rest when I can, nutrition. All that stuff comes into play.

"You've got to make sure you're picking your spots, too. Your shifts have got to be somewhat consistent. Obviously you're going to get caught out there sometimes, but for the most part, try to keep them consistent, try and make the first play and not get yourself caught out there. ... Certainly it's not easy, but you get used to it, too. It's a learning process, too. How to manage your rest, how to manage days off, how to manage your time to prepare for that. I've had to put a little extra effort into that. It's been important to stay healthy, knock on wood. I've been pretty good my whole career. I've always played a fair amount."

Pietrangelo, who played a career regular season high of 32:54 against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (a 4-3 overtime loss), has been pressed into extra duty with the Blues in a group of games recently that has seen them trail and chasing the score.

Hitchcock wants to change it. He doesn't want to see Pietrangelo "hit a wall," but it's been impossible to avoid.

"It's not ideal, but when you're taking as many penalties as we are, it becomes necessary," Hitchcock said, "but it's not ideal. There's not a plan that we want to put forward that has that in it. It's not a plan that has a good ending. We've got to help him by not taking as many minor penalties. By playing more 5-on-5, we can manage his minutes a lot better, but it's very similar to what's going on with (Ryan) Suter. They had a plan to manage his minutes and you get killing more penalties than you want and that goes right out the door. That is not a good recipe moving forward."

It makes one appreciate what players like Suter and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty, Chicago's Duncan Keith and those that average 27-29 minutes per game year after year do on a daily basis.

"They hit the wall; you can't help it," Hitchcock said. "You can't play that many minutes during the long course of the season with all the travel and not hit the wall. We've seen Petro be the best player on the ice for either team and then all of the sudden at 25 minutes hit the wall. We've seen that from him. I think we've got to try and avoid that as much as possible. That's on us."

* Likely lineup for Penguins -- The Blues don't appear to be changing anyone out from Monday's game in Buffalo, which means Jake Allen will also start in goal for the 12th time in 14 games and appearing in a game for the 14th time in the past 15.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Blues rally in third to top Sabres 2-1

Brouwer, Fabbri score, Allen stops 24 shots 
to give St. Louis first win when trailing after two

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Blues have been in this position before. The key was not to panic.

They've been in this position before and instead of getting on each other after falling behind a goal against the Buffalo Sabres after two periods, the Blues stayed even-keeled, talked about what they needed to do and implemented it with a third period that produced a road victory.

Troy Brouwer tied it, and rookie Robby Fabbri won it with a fluky game-winner, but the Blues somehow pulled out a 2-1 victory against the Sabres on Monday night before an announced 17,563 at First Niagara Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Troy Brouwer (left), Jori Lehtera (right) and Alex Pietrangelo (second from
right) celebrate with Robby Fabbri after Fabbri's goal turned out to be the
game-winner in a 2-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

The Blues (14-6-1) had trouble generating much, if any, free ice against the determined Sabres (8-11-2), who coach Ken Hitchcock said checked the Blues the hardest for any two periods he's seen all season long.

So what did the Blues do? They checked back, and pucks remained in the offensive zone that led to opportunities in front of Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark.

Brouwer scored on a rebound off a blocked shot, and Fabbri scored applying pressure in the slot that led to Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges inadvertently knocking a puck into his own net with 6 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game.

Jake Allen did the rest with 24 saves.

"I thought we started checking them," Hitchcock said. "That's the hardest for two periods we've got checked all year. They were in our face, no space, no room, hard on us every shift. They made us pay a price if we were going to do anything. That's the hardest people played and I thought some of our veteran guys dug in and started to give it back a little bit in the third period, started to check them hard, scored a goal because of it, turned the puck over about three times in their zone. That's the hardest I've seen us get checked in a long time.

"We had to invest way more than we were if we expected to win the game. For the first two periods, we were looking for something easier and it wasn't there, and they weren't going to go away. They've got great structure, they've got speed, they've got tenacity, they've got size and they're starting to mature. You're going to have to pay a price to beat them. They're not going to give you anything easy, but we had to dig in a lot deeper than we were going. We did in the third period."

The Blues got Paul Stastny back for their game after the center missed 16 games with a broken foot. That was the good news.

But until the third period comeback, which was the Blues' first win when trailing after two periods (1-6-2), not much happened.

"We had to get in on the forecheck a little bit more," said Brouwer, whose goal was his first point in six games. "We had a couple rush opportunities, but we never were able to follow it up with anything. They do a real good job getting it back to their d-men, their d-men do a good job boxing out of the net. So it was tough for us to get in and around the goalie. They just did a good job getting it out of their zone real quick and apply enough pressure on us. I thought in the third period we did a good job of getting pucks behind them making sure that it was just a little bit slower for them to be able to clear their own zone.

"We're past that. Our young guys, we were talking to them making sure that they're settled in. I feel they've done a great job this entire year, just feeling comfortable knowing that we are going to make mistakes, we are going to be down in games, but the last thing you can do is get on each other. Our biggest comeback was against Chicago and there was nothing but positivity in our room and we were down three goals a few times. Tonight was no different. We just wanted to make sure that guys were feeling good about themselves, guys were making good plays because when you're down on yourself, that's when you're not going to make good plays, you're not going to have your head up and that's the mentality that we want to have in this room."

A scoreless first period had both teams with scoring opportunities; perhaps the Sabres had the better of the chances.

Both Ryan O'Reilly and Johan Larsson had high percentage looks in front of Allen but each hit the post. Allen actually got a piece of Larsson's rebound attempt.

"That's my job, to calm things down for the guys, make them relaxed back there, make them comfortable, give them a chance to play their game," Allen said. "It doesn't matter if it's in the first 10 minutes of the game or the last 12 minutes of the game like it was tonight where we found a way to win."

Steve Ott had the Blues' best chance after he scooped up a loose, bouncing puck and went in alone in Ullmark, but the Sabres goalie came up with the glove save with 12:41 remaining in the period.

The Sabres' tenacity finally paid off and they cashed in with a fourth-line goal late in the second period.

David Legwand's first with the Sabres came after Nicolas Deslauriers pushes a puck behind the net where Kyle Brodziak lost it trying to come back around the same side with it. Legwand picked the puck up, threw a backhand through the crease, catching Allen looking the other way and the puck caromed off Allen's left skate and in with 3:15 left in the period.

It was the first goal the Blues allowed to the Sabres in this building in the past 156:35.

"I didn't really know what happened on that," Allen said. "I'll have to look at the video after. I think it was meant to transition the other side of the net. Whatever happened, happened; it went in but we found a way to win. 

"I think it was a little bit of a chaotic first two periods, a little bit sloppy, some weird bounces for both teams off the glass, pucks weren't laying flat for anyone. But it was only 1-0, it wasn't the end of the world. We came out and guys did their job."

The Blues just couldn't generate any offensive zone pressure for 40 minutes but changed tactics in the third.

Brouwer's fifth of the season came after Kevin Shattenkirk's shot from near the point hit Zach Bogosian in the slot and Brouwer, camped out in front, popped home a backhander inside the near post 5:07 into the third to the the game 1-1.

Shattenkirk extended his point streak to six games (two goals, six assists).

"We weren't getting a lot of second opportunities," Brouwer said. "I thought we had a couple good shifts before that trying to get some momentum, creating some opportunities, get some speed through the neutral zone. We were able to get one and the second one was in similar fashion."

Fabbri's second game-winner in the NHL came after Jay Bouwmeester's shot fell into the slot, and Gorges tried to clear, but his clearing attempt hit Fabbri, caromed back near the top of the crease and off Gorges' right skate past Ullmark.

"I'll take it any way it comes," Fabbri said. "I know a lot of the guys feel that way. I was lucky to get that bounce and we've just got to keep it going here.

"To be honest, I couldn't really tell you. I didn't know where the puck was and I was spinning around and when I looked, I saw it was in the net and I put my hands up and didn't know who put it in, if it was me or not. It was something crazy like that. ... I went to go put it in and it went off my foot and up in the air and then it fell in between my feet again. I don't know what happened after that."

The Sabres, who fell to 6-1-0 when leading after two, used a challenge on the play. Coach Dan Bylsma contended the Blues were offsides entering the zone with the puck, and replays showed Brouwer dragging his skate to remain onside until David Backes moved the puck into the offensive zone. The call stood on the ice as a good goal.

"I just tried to drag it as long as I could," Brouwer said. "'DB' made a good play to stay out of range of the guy's stick. I probably could have straddled the line and gone with it, but I didn't want to lose my speed. Luckily I was able to stretch just a little bit far enough."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark makrs a glove save on Steve Ott's breakaway
attempt in the first period Monday at First Niagara Center.

The Blues played 6-on-4 for the final minute of the game when Carl Gunnarsson was whistled on a questionable closing hand on the puck penalty, but the Blues, who didn't have a power play in the game, weathered the storm.

"Our goalie was good again," Hitchcock said. "Our goalie was our best player again. It's getting to be like a broken record, but you're grateful for it. I thought their tenacity on us was really, really strong."

Stastny played 19:37 in his return to the lineup, centering Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. He won eight of 17 faceoffs and had a shot on goal.

"Any time you can have one of your best players on the ice, it always helps," Brouwer said. "A big boost in the room for us. ... To have 'Stas' back, he adds a different dynamic to our game. When he's on the ice, he controls the play the majority of the time."

(11-23-15) Blues-Sabres Gameday Lineup

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Little by little, the Blues are beginning to get healthier, and another key piece returns a little sooner than expected Monday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Center Paul Stastny, who's missed the past 16 games with a broken right foot, will return slightly less than the projected five weeks the Blues initially placed on his timetable.

Stastny, who was projected to miss five weeks, will take up his position back on the top line between Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. Stastny broke a bone in his right foot blocking a Matt Bartkowski shot against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 16.

The Blues (13-6-2) play the Sabres (8-10-2) at 6 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) for the second time in five days.

The Blues won 3-2 in a shootout at Scottrade Center last Thursday.

"It feels good," Stastny said after an optional skate at First Niagara Center. "I think it was just more about every day pushing it more and more. I didn't have any setbacks; it kept getting better and better and the docs checked it out the other day and said it was good to go. When it comes to the bone, I think it's different than it is a ligament. Sometimes it's just kind of like a wait-and-see approach and you have to wait until it heals. The older you are, the longer it takes to heal. 

"Good to be back with the guys. There's only so many skates you can do by yourself on full ice or with two guys out there. That's what I've missed the most, being with the guys and being part of wins and losses with them and being part of the ups and downs."

Stastny, who had five points (four assists) in five games before being injured, has been skating the better part of roughly two weeks and continued to amp up his intensity, which led to the belief that his return was imminent, and it gives coach Ken Hitchcock options down the middle and stability not seen since the early part of the season.

"It's good. It puts us in a more organized position there," Hitchcock said. "It's going to be a little bit of time before he's up to speed, but I think that line was an awful good line before Paul went down, and we'll see how quickly we can get up to speed. I think he's really going to help us on special teams. He was obviously very good on the power play and equally good killing penalties. So moving forward, if you get a three-dimensional player who can can play both ends on special teams and five-on-five, it's a good add."

With Stastny returning, veteran Scott Gomez will be a healthy scratch. It gives the Blues their starting four centers from the beginning of the regular season with Stastny, Jori Lehtera, David Backes and Kyle Brodziak.

"I'm not looking at options; I'm just looking at ... we squeezed a lot out of ourselves lately," Hitchcock said. "We're not going to rest just because a good player comes back, but I've said this before, every team loses players. But when you lose a player that plays in all three dimensions, it's significant, so we get a player that's played in all three situations and plays very well in them back, and that's a significant add. When you're adding an 18- to 20-minute player back in your lineup, that's very significant, and I think what it does, it puts people in the right spots in the lineup and it allows you to play with depth rather than you're chasing the game all the time. You're allowed to play with depth, and over time in the next three or four games, he's really going to add to the mix because he's really going to allow me to use matchups with Backes and with Lehtera in better situations.

"... I think you've got to know if it's not tonight, in the next two or three games (Stastny's) going to hit the wall, and it's going to be a tough go for him, and you've just got to battle through it. We've got to have some flexibility in center position where we have to push Lehtera in there a little bit at times; we'll see. We have three strong centers, actually four strong centers, so we've got some flexibility there where we can help him out if he gets tired."

Stastny's teammates are glad to have him back.

"I think other than his smarts, we finally get to have some depth at the center position," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "When it gets late in the game we can juggle the lines a little bit and use him in defensive zone faceoffs, offensive zone faceoffs, if we need that. He helps that line. I think he helps 'Steener' and 'Vladi' as a solid guy who can distribute the puck to both shooters."

Stastny, who injured his shoulder early last season against the Arizona Coyotes that set him back after a fast start, will work his way back in as quickly as possible.

"Early on, take a couple shifts not too long," he said. "You play the game at a totally different speed. I think for me, it's trying to get the timing back as quickly as you can. 

"Early in the game, take shorter shifts and start to get more and more comfortable as the game goes on."

The Blues went 9-5-2 with Stastny out of the lineup and considering some of the players that they've been without because of injuries, the fact the Blues are among the top teams in the Western Conference speaks of the depth that stepped in and filled gaps.

"We're realists. We know we're not going to win every game," Shattenkirk said. "It's a tough league this year and every year. For these guys to play the way they did and manage to find those points while we had a lot of key guys out was huge. We come back, we're not in a hole, not trying to chase anything. In our division, you can't really let any game slip away. It can get away from you very fast. It speaks a lot to our depth and lot of guys that stepped up and a lot of young guys that stepped up."

- - -

Speaking of Shattenkirk, he was announced Monday as the NHL Third Star of the Week.

Shattenkirk, who has a five-game point streak (two goals, five assists), had two goals and four assists in four games last week.

"It's very cool," Shattenkirk said. "I think, more importantly, I feel like I'm finally playing hockey like myself again. We've been battling. The team's been doing a really good job to get wins here while we had a lot of injuries. I'm glad I can come back and be part of it and help contribute."

Shattenkirk, who missed 10 games with a groin injury earlier this season, finally feels like he's up to speed and over the mental aspect of thinking about what ailed him.

"I think I'm 100 percent over that," Shattenkirk said. "Feel like I'm regular old me again. So it's nice.

"... More than anything, it was a mental hurdle to get back up to the speed of the game and make plays at the right time. Now with a few games under my belt everything feels like it's starting to come back to me."

Hitchcock, who said Shattenkirk's best attribute is "vision on transition," agreed.

"He's starting to get up to speed; not there yet, but he's had two significant injuries and missed extended time both times," Hitchcock said, including Shattenkirk's 25-game absence a season ago with an abdominal/groin tear. "Now it looks like he's getting comfortable playing minutes that we need. 

"We've got to have him playing 20-plus minutes every night for us to be effective. These two injuries have held him back from that, but last two games, we got into the big minutes that he needs to play. If you have gifted offensive players, they've got to get on the ice a lot. He's starting to show signs of where he was at when he was arguably a first-team all-star player until he got the injury."

Shattenkirk attributes his point streak to finally feeling up to speed in the game against the New York Rangers on Nov. 12.

"Really when I started to feel well physically was the Ranger game. I felt like I was skating like myself," Shattenkirk said. "Mentally I wasn't up to speed, that was a fast game, a great game. After that was when things started to click. Everything else started to catch up. The power play has been better now, that always helps when get to feeling well and start to play with more possession on the power play. But I think for me, just been pushing myself to skate more and jump in the rush. When I seem to play more aggressively and do that it seems to lead to better play from me."

- - -

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo will play tonight for the Blues, and rookie Joel Edmundson will -- in better terms -- get a breather tonight and he a healthy scratch.

Bortuzzo, who has one goal in 12 games, has sat out seven of the past nine games but played in two of the past three while Colton Parayko was out with a lower-body injury.

"We need his energy," Hitchcock said of Bortuzzo. "We missed having him in the lineup. We've got to get him in the lineup. He's got great energy, he's skating really well, he's playing really well. We need his energy."

- - -

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo played a career regular season high of 32 minutes, 54 seconds on Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit.

Hitchcock spoke earlier in the season of trying to cut down on Pietrangelo's minutes for the sake of not wearing him down as the season moved along.

But in games where the Blues are chasing the score, Hitchcock tends to use Pietrangelo more so than not.

Pietrangelo is second in the league behind Minnesota's Ryan Suter for average minutes per game at 27:20, or 19 seconds behind Suter.

"He gave us some looks from the bench like, 'What the hell are you guys doing,'" Hitchcock said half-jokingly. "But we were chasing the game. We were behind most of the game, really from the end of the first period on. We needed him there. We needed him to help us out, same thing with 'Shatty.' They were playing every second shift. I think 'Petro' played 10 or 11 minutes in the third period and did a helluva job. I don't think we want to get in a situation where we're playing a guy 30 minutes. I don't think it's healthy."

- - -

The Blues, who have won 17 of the past 19 games against the Sabres and outscored them 66-31, are getting a team that is winless in its past four games (0-2-2) but playing much better and much harder than ones in recent past.

Hitchcock said the Blues learned some valuable lessons in the game at St. Louis last week.

"We just can't let them get loose. They got loose on us a lot," Hitchcock said of the Sabres. "Their forwards are really quick, they put a lot of pressure on you on the forecheck and because they've got such good footspeed, they're willing to gamble on the forecheck, they're willing to take chances, pour more people in on it than we're used to and I thought that gave us fits. I thought that really was a problem for us until the third period and we'll be a little bit more adjusted to it. I thought their pressure game and their gap game ... they played very well against us. If we can get out a little bit cleaner and get out using numbers, then that's advantage us. They hemmed us in there pretty good the first part of the game."

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-Jori Lehtera-Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall-David Backes-Troy Brouwer

Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Robby Fabbri

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Colton Parayko-Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Scott Gomez, Ryan Reaves and Joel Edmundson. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are out with injuries.

- - -

The Sabres' probable lineup:

Matt Moulson-Ryan O'Reilly-Brian Gionta

Evander Kane-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno-Johan Larsson-Tyler Ennis

Jamie McGinn-David Legwand-Nicolas Deslauriers

Josh Gorges-Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe-Zach Bogosian

Carlo Colaiacovo-Cody Franson

Linus Ullmark will start in goal. Chad Johnson will be the backup.

Tom Schaller is the healthy scratch. Zemgus Girgensons (upper body), Mike Weber (knee), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody McCormick (blood clot) and Mark Pysyk (lower body) are out with injuries.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pulkkinen's OT goal gives Red Wings 4-3 win over Blues

Tarasenko ties game late, not enough to keep 
St. Louis from dropping fourth game in past six 

ST. LOUIS -- In a game that goalie Jake Allen said the Blues "were lucky" to get a point, Vladimir Tarasenko did his thing again and gave the Blues a chance at a second point.

But there would be no bail-outs this time. The Blues did manage to steak a point but fell 4-3 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings on Teemu Pulkkinen's power play goal with 18.8 seconds remaining Saturday night before 18,098 at Scottrade Center.

The Red Wings have defeated the Blues the past three times, all in overtime.

With Blues defenseman Colton Parayko sitting out an interference penalty, the Red Wings recovered a puck in the offensive zone after Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had a chance to clear and couldn't. Brad Richards' pass set up Pulkkinen's one-timer from the left circle that beat Jake Allen top-shelf.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Kyle Brodziak (right) carries the puck into the Detroit zone 
under pressure from the Red Wings' Jonathan Ericsson.

Pulkkinen's shot deflected off defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's stick and over Allen, who went down to cover the lower part of the net.

After the Blues won the faceoff, the puck hopped over Bouwmeester's stick and he tried to take it behind and around the Blues' goal. The Red Wings' forecheck kept the Blues from clearing before Pulkkinen sixth of the season.

"It's a hard play off the faceoff and goes against the boards," Bouwmeester said. "There's pressure and they've got more guys than you. Yeah, we wish we would have got it out, but it doesn't change anything. You're still trying to kill the penalty. The goal goes off a guy's stick. It's not like we gave him a wide open net. Any time you take a penalty in overtime, I don't think it was a very good call, but that's the way it goes and you've got to try and kill it."

Pavel Datsyuk, Luke Glendening and Dylan Larkin scored for the Red Wings (11-8-2), who won on back-to-back nights after defeating the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 at home on Friday. Jimmy Howard made 30 saves. 

Tarasenko had a goal and an assist. He has nine points (six goals, three assists) the past six games and tied Chicago's Patrick Kane for the NHL-lead in goals with 13. Kyle Brodziak and Jori Lehtera scored for the Blues (13-6-2), who got 28 saves from Allen. Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists to extend his point streak to five games (two goals, five assists).

Tarasenko tied the game 3-3 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining when he took Shattenkirk's feed, raced up ice and cut through the slot into the left circle, patiently outwaited Howard and beat him with a wrist shot.

But the mood in the Blues' locker room was they were fortunate to get a point. 

"I don't think it's a disappointment," Allen said. "I think we were lucky to get a point. I don't think we played our best as a group as a whole, myself included. Vladi saved us there and got us a point."

"I thought that we didn't win a lot of the puck fights that we have to win to beat that team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we allowed them to exit far too easy. What did they score, two goals in front of the net. I thought they won the front of the net. There were stages there that we did a good job, but I thought their tenacity in boxing us out, was better than ours. I thought we had some guys that really played well and we had some guys who were a little off today."

The Blues lost for the fourth time in six games and are among the NHL leaders in games played. There have been what Hitchcock called "cracks" in their game as well as those that have played the most in the league. But the Blues gave this Detroit team, chalk full of speed, too much time, too much space and too much respect.

"The third was a good response by us, but to throw away the first two periods, you can't be doing that," Brodziak said. "It's tough to pinpoint exactly, but we've got to figure it out.

"... It's a combination of things. Maybe not pressuring hard enough, giving them too much time and playing a little more on our heels than on our toes. Just execution-wise, we're not quite as sharp as we need to be at the start of games and we're relying on our goalies too much to keep us in the games when we're not starting well."

Offense dominated the first period, with each team scoring twice. 

The Red Wings struck first with Datsyuk's 76th point in 66 games against St. Louis. Datsyuk's first of the season came off Richards' pass from behind the net on a quick one-time shot from the slot 10:04 into the game. 

The Blues scored twice in 1:40 to take a 2-1 lead. Brodziak's short-side wrist shot from the right circle beat Howard top-shelf at 13:10; it was his 100th career goal. Lehtera's redirection of Bouwmeester's shot-pass into the slot at 14:50 gave St. Louis the lead. 

But Detroit tied it with 1:29 remaining when Glendening scored his first of the season off a rush, beating Shattenkirk before firing a shot from the slot over Allen's right shoulder to make it 2-2. 

Larkin was credited with his team-leading eighth goal at 8:42 of the second period and gave the Red Wings a 3-2 lead when Henrik Zetterberg's wrister him and deflected past Allen. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Larkin is the first teenager to score in four straight games for the Red Wings since Steve Yzerman did it twice in the 1984-85 season.

Larkin was questionable to play after hitting a rut with his skate Friday before leaving the game after his right leg buckled underneath him.

Zetterberg's assist was his team-leading 18th point and his 67th point (42nd assist) in 62 games against St. Louis.

The Blues were outshot at the start of the third 8-1 before getting six of the last seven, including Tarasenko's team-leading 13th. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (left) celebrates with teammate Kevin Shattenkirk
after his game-tying goal in the third period Saturday night.

But there were too many gaps in coverage, allowing Detroit easy ways out of their zone, and again, the Blues' exits from the defensive zone weren't clean.

"They've always been a good team possessing the puck and playing with the puck, and now they've got a bunch of young guys with a lot of speed," Bouwmeester said of the Red Wings. "We knew that coming in. Probably let them wheel a little bit too much, give them too much space at times. We had some chances. It just didn't work out."

"They're a quick team and they're a smart team," Allen said of the Red Wings. "They've got some of the best talent in the world up there in their top two lines. We just didn't have it tonight. I don't think our execution was on par with our normal game. We mustered a point out of it, which is very positive and huge for our division but Monday, get back to the drawing board."

(11-21-15) Red Wings-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Judging by the way defenseman Colton Parayko skated Saturday morning, the rookie will be available to play against the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. on FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

But the team will wait until the pregame skate to make a decision on whether Parayko, who was injured late in a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.

"We'll let you know on the night of the game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... Hopefully he gets to play tonight. I'm not sure we'll know until the game-time skate. We'll see how he gets through the rest of the day today."

The Blues went 1-1-0 with Parayko out of the lineup but definitely missed him.

"Mobility. He's a big guy who moves really well, really transitions the puck well," Hitchcock said of Parayko. "Him and (Carl) Gunnarsson have been a great pair because we get a real advantage matchup using 'Petro' and 'Bouw' because we can use them sometimes secondary matchups or even offensively. 'Gunny' and Colton have been a great pair for a couple weeks now. That's a good sign for us. Those two on the ice, we feel comfortable playing them against top players or whoever."

Parayko was skating with Gunnarsson at the morning skate. If he can't play, Robert Bortuzzo will draw back in.

"It's something I want to make sure I take care of," Parayko said. "I don't want it to keep lingering on through the season. Hopefully come game-time I'm a go and should be good.

"I wasn't exactly sure how long it was going to be. Initially I thought it was going to be a couple days. That's just the way it is. I want to get ready and come every night and help the team win. ... It seems like I sat out 20 games already and it's only been two. It's obviously hard to watch, but at the same time, you're got to make sure it's in the best interests and the best interests of the team. I've got to make sure I'm 100 percent so I can try and push forward for the team."

The Blues (13-6-1) would not have had the available resources had they played on Friday. An extra day helped get some guys feeling better health-wise.

"We know where we're at body-wise," Hitchcock said. "Instead of practice, this is now, what, almost three weeks we haven't had a hockey practice. We've opted to just focus on energy, get what we can from it and see if we can focus on that rather than spending extra time on practice."

- - -

Left wing Alexander Steen will dress in the 700th game of his NHL career against the Red Wings (10-8-2).

Steen, who has played 446 games with the Blues, has 188 goals and 258 assists for 446 points.

"He's kind of mister-do-it-all for us, I think," said defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who was drafted third overall, or 21 spots ahead of Steen in the 2002 NHL Draft. "Five-on-five, he's playing against the top lines, plays power play, kills penalties. He's obviously a leader in our locker room. I think he's probably one of the guys who's been here the longest with 'Backs.' Any time you get a milestone like that, it's kind of neat. You kind of just think about it at first and then you move on. You pass those little things and you think about what's gone on in your career. He's one of our best players."

- - -

Scottie Upshall will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Thursday.

"You like his energy, you love the speed, but we need the puck to be more part of his game," Hitchcock said. "He has the ability to really do good stuff at practice and he's very confident and he seems nervous to make a play during the competitions. We talked to him about it and I guess where he plays, whoever plays on that line, doesn't matter who it is, we need somebody that can make plays. When he's confident and can make plays, then he's an effective player. If you're just giving up the puck, then you're chasing it all night. That's really what a fourth line does."

- - -

The Blues assigned forward Jeremy Welsh to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. 

Welsh played in two games and did not register a point.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi-David Backes-Scottie Upshall

Robby Fabbri-Scott Gomez-Troy Brouwer

Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Dmitrij Jaskin

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko

Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Ryan Reaves and Robert Bortuzzo. Paul Stastny (foot), Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder).

- - -

The Red Wings' projected lineup:

Justin Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Dylan Larkin

Brad Richards-Pavel Datsyuk-Teemu Pulkkinen

Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Gustav Nyquist

Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Darren Helm

Niklas Kronwall-Mike Green

Danny DeKeyser-Jonathan Ericsson

Brendan Smith-Alexey Marchenko

Jimmy Howard will start after Petr Mrazek played Friday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Healthy scratches include Joakim Andersson and Jakub Kindl. Johan Franzen (concussion), Kyle Quincey (ankle) and Landon Ferraro (knee) are out with injuries. Ferraro was placed on waivers Saturday.