Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blues scoring drought continues in 2-1 loss to Oilers

Season-long fourth straight loss culminated by six total goals in streak

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues picked a bad time to go into a goal drought.

What makes it worse is they sent their top offensive defenseman packing on Monday.

The Blues scored first but couldn't sustain it, as Edmonton got goals from Milan Lucic and Mark Letestu in a 2-1 victory over the Blues Tuesday at Scottrade Center, their season-high fourth straight loss.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Paul Stastny (right) deflects a puck past Oilers goalie Cam
Talbot. Despite the goal, the Blues fell to the Oilers 2-1.

During those four losses, the Blues (31-26-5) have scored six goals and have been outscored 11-6. And with another loss, they fell two more points behind Nashville for third in the Central Division and trail by six, and they fell five points behind Calgary, who hold the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference and the Los Angeles Kings with their overtime loss to the Flames are now just one point back of the Blues.

"I think right now just seems way it's going, got to get out of this rut any possible way," said center Paul Stastny, who scored for the Blues tonight. "Sometimes you've got to score nice goals. It seems when you find a couple losses in a row, then you start pressing harder and you play a different game, but I thought there were times where we played hesitant. Then I think we started playing the way we wanted to play, a little more fearless, more aggressive, and that's when we started playing better. ... We were a little fragile after the first goal, and that's what happens when you've lost a couple and you're playing too safe. When 'Snake' (Jake Allen) plays like that, we've got to find a way to get a couple more goals in."

"It's not good enough obviously," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "We've lost, what, four in a row now? Gotta find a way to score some goals now. We gave up two tonight, Jake made some big saves, but we've go to find a way to get some ugly goals. We've got to find a way to get around the net, take more shots. It's been a theme. We've been getting a lot of good chances, but we've got to find a way to score some ugly ones."

Allen made 23 saves. 

The Blues played their first game since trading Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

"Yeah, I mean I thought about it maybe the first power-play there and then we scored, so that was nice," right wing David Perron said of Shattenkirk. "Great play by 'Petro.'"

Stastny put the Blues ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal at 11:07 of the first period. Stastny positioned himself perfectly at the top of the crease and was able to redirect Pietrangelo's shot past Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, who made 25 saves.

And it was Pietrangelo taking Shattenkirk's spot on the first-unit power-play.

"Yeah, I know the way a lot of the guys play," Pietrangelo said. "We've played together for five years now, most of us. I've had a lot of opportunities to watch them this year, they've been together for a while, so the transition felt OK tonight. We got one there, but it would have been nice to get another one."

But this is when the Blues allowed themselves to get in trouble when Lucic's slap shot from the top of the left circle that hit the stick of Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson and deflected off Allen's glove at 44 seconds later tied the game 1-1.

"I thought our first period, again, it's similar, have a great start, when they scored, mistakes happened in the game, when they scored, all of a sudden, we started watching them," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "It was like we were waiting for the next bad thing to happen and we stopped playing. That was the difference in the game because at that point, they drew the 5-on-3 and got the go-ahead goal. The second period we started to get more on our toes, get after them. But not nearly enough shots, not nearly enough net-front presence, third period was a little better but unfortunately too little, too late."

With the Oilers on a 5-on-3 power play for 1:34 after a Magnus Paajarvi slash and Colton Parayko delay of game, Letestu made it 2-1 with 15 seconds left in the two-man advantage and 41 seconds into the second period after Allen made a sprawling save on Connor McDavid.

Oilers right wing Leon Draisaitl thought he put Edmonton ahead late in the first during its 5-on-3, but Allen got his paddle on the shot with 15 seconds left in the first.

The Blues are getting the defensive game and goaltending. Now putting pucks into the net are hurting.

"We've got to do more of little things," Pietrangelo said. "I think we can be a little more aggressive. We're sitting back a little more than we need to, especially in our own end. That, (coupled) with not scoring is not really a good recipe."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (left) looks to move the puck by Oilers
forward Mark Letestu, who scored the game-winner in a 2-1 Edmonton win.

And with the Blues not being able to find the tying goal to at least grab a point for a fourth straight game, frustration is clearly evident.

"We're not winning, I think everyone's pissed off around here," Stastny said. "We know how valuable points are. We want to take it in own hands. We can't be sitting here relying on other teams to hope they lose and give us some breathing room. I think said earlier, I think the beauty of last 20 games this season is, it seems everyone you play is a playoff game or some kind of playoff implications where it's a two- or four-point game. All but three games for us are against Western Conference (teams). It just goes how important the next game is. Maybe it's good for us to not look too far ahead and just worry about things we can fix and worry about Winnipeg next."

(2-28-17) Oilers-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Life without Kevin Shattenkirk for the Blues begins tonight when they face the Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center.

In case nobody has heard or you've been living in a cave, Shattenkirk and Chicago Wolves goalie Pheonix Copley were traded to the Washington Capitals on Monday night for a package of draft picks, center Zach Sanford and AHL forward Brad Malone.

The Blues (31-25-5), who host the Oilers (33-22-8) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), are two points in front of the Los Angeles Kings for the second wildcard position in the Western Conference with a game in hand, but general manager Doug Armstrong said the trade for Shattenkirk was made so the 

Shattenkirk, who is in the final year of a four-year, $17 million contract with an average annual value of $4.25 million, has been linked to trades dating back the past two seasons, but the Blues waited until the end before finally pulling the plug and deciding that it was best to try and get something in return for a significant piece instead of allowing the 28-year-old to walk as a free agent without getting a return, as they did last summer with David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

"We certainly weren't trying to trade him for two years," Armstrong said. "We've had a very competitive team here for a number of years and he's been a big part of that. I would say this thought process started at the entry draft last year.

"I had a chance to talk to Kevin and his agent (Jordan Neumann) about July 1, there was a possibility of signing him to an eight-year extension. His response at that time was he felt he needed a different challenge. With (Colton) Parayko and (Alex) Pietrangelo, I think (Shattenkirk) was hoping to get more responsibility in different areas. He felt that signing an extension at that time with this organization wasn't something that he was prepared to do."

In losing Shattenkirk, who the Blues acquired on Feb. 19, 2011 along with right wing Chris Stewart and a conditional second-round pick from the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Erik Johnson, center Jay McClement and a conditional first-round pick, the Blues lose not only an important piece on the ice but one off the ice.

Shattenkirk was a popular player in the locker room and one of four assistant captains.

Shattenkirk, who has 11 goals and 31 assists in 61 games this season, leaves the Blues with 59 goals, 199 assists in 425 regular-season games.

"It's not the part of the business that you like," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "It's tough. It's always tough to see your friends go, tough to see a player of that caliber go, but it's the business and we've got to move on. ... Any time stuff like that happens, he's going to be a friend, he's going to be a friend for a long time.

"Obviously we know the (NHL Trade Deadline) is right now and it's tough for (Shattenkirk) to go through that, but it's obviously a big relief I'm sure for him to kind of put this in the past and move on.

"He's one of the best players I've played with," Pietrangelo added. "I've got nothing but the most respect for him. ... You can just probably tell by the way I'm talking it's upsetting to lose a close friend like that. ... Him and I have grown up together as friends and as people. This is a stage and we're at a stage in our life. We've kind of gone through it together. He's always just a phone call away. You're always rooting for a guy like that. He's going to go to Washington and have success there."

Coach Mike Yeo gets to make the biggest adjustments. It puts Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo into the lineup together now. 

"An important piece and a popular guy," Yeo said of Shattenkirk. "It's always emotional. It can always be a difficult time of the year, just what he brings to the group from an on-ice perspective. He's a very popular guy in the room, and so it's difficult. But that said, we're in this business and we're all pros. We've got a big match to get ready for tonight and we should be excited about that.

"For me, it happens all the time. We lost Robby (Fabbri) and we got right back to work. It happens with injuries, it happens to all teams. There's no excuses in our locker room. Again it's a good player and popular teammate, but it doesn't change our expectations. And it doesn't change our mindset, so we just get ready for the game."

As for Sanford, 22, the Blues get Washington's 2013 second-round pick. He has two goals, one assist in 26 games with the Capitals this season and is someone the Blues wanted in the trade.

"You base that on your scouting staff and what they see," Armstrong said. "They see a lot of (2016 first-round pick) Tage Thompson in him, a player we took in the first round. A big body, a point a game player as a sophomore at Boston College. So he was a one-a-game player on a very good team in college. 

"... Talking to Washington on players that we wanted and having to work our way to get to that player wasn’t someone that they were hoping to move on from. I see a big player that’s multi-positional. We’re hoping to see him as a centerman, a player that can produce offense and you hope everything works out perfectly but a 6-foot-4 Zach and a 6-4/6-5 Tage Thompson down the middle for a few years wouldn’t hurt my feelings."

- - -

Ivan Barbashev was back with the Blues and will be in the lineup tonight.

Barbashev received a small scare when he took a shot to the back of the head from Cleveland's Ryan Stanton last Wednesday during a skirmish. Barbashev was out with an upper-body injury and did not get recalled by the Blues after the bye week ended but he's OK now.

"I saw (Kenny Agostino) kind of got jumped and I just kind of tried to step in," Barbashev said. "Just maybe worried about a fight or something. The guy who fell, he thought I hit him. He stood up and punched me in the back of the head. 

"It was scary. I didn't feel at first anything. I left after the first period just to be safe. ... I'm feeling great, ready to go and glad to be here."

- - -

Blues right wing Ryan Reaves will be in the lineup tonight after missing practice Monday. Reaves was getting his foot evaluated after blocking a shot in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night but will play.

With Barbashev in tonight, Scottie Upshall along with Nail Yakupov will be healthy scratches.

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Magnus Paajarvi

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Ivan Barbashev-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

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

Scottie Upshall and Nail Yakupov are healthy scratches. Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season. 

- - -

The Oilers' projected lineup:

Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl

Milan Lucic-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle

Alton Slepyshev-Mark Letestu-Zack Kassian 

Matt Hendricks-Jujhar Khaira-Iiro Pakarinen

Darnell Nurse-Eric Gryba

Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera-Kris Russell

Cam Talbot will start in goal; Laurent Brossoit will be the backup.

Matt Benning, Drake Caggiula and Brandon Davidson are healthy scratches. Tyler Pitlick (knee) and Benoit Pouliot (shoulder) are out.

Blues trade Shattenkirk to Washington in blockbuster

Defenseman, AHL goalie Copley dealt to Capitals for 2017 first-round pick, 
2019 conditional second-round pick, forwards Zach Sanford, Brad Malone 

ST. LOUIS -- To trade or not to trade. That's been the challenge facing the Blues and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Kevin Shattenkirk.

That answer came down Monday night when the Blues dealt their offensive defenseman along with minor league goalie Pheonix Copley to the Washington Capitals in a packed return of a first-round pick in 2017, a conditional second-round pick in 2019, center Zach Sanford and minor league wing Brad Malone.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk was traded to the Washington Capitals 
Monday night.

As Shattenkirk, 28, continued to put up impressive offensive numbers moving along, Shattenkirk became the top rental moving into the NHL Trade Deadline, which comes to a conclusion at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

With Shattenkirk's four-year, $17 million contract expiring June 30, the Blues have been dealing with the notion of whether they could afford to resign Shattenkirk to what is believed to be around a $7 million average annual value for up to 7-8 seasons.

The answer apparently is no.

So as early as last summer at the NHL Draft, as was reported here, the Blues and Edmonton Oilers engaged in talks regarding Shattenkirk at that time, and it was reported here that the Blues inquired about Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, and Edmonton would have entertained an offer for either or under the condition Shattenkirk, who had one year remaining on his current deal, signed an extension, but that was never even an option, so the Oilers moved elsewhere and traded Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson.

Another option was the Detroit Red Wings, and the Blues allegedly inquired about the availability of young forward Dylan Larkin, to which Detroit said no.

Shattenkirk's name had been linked in rumors with Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Boston, Toronto, Washington and Pittsburgh.

So Shattenkirk, who has 11 goals and 31 assists in 61 games this season, moves onto the Capitals, who are first overall in the NHL and reunites with former Blues teammate T.J. Oshie along with weapons like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetzov, among others.

"We are excited to welcome Kevin to our organization," Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said in a statement. "We felt it was important to acquire another defenseman to strengthen and add depth to our blueline. Kevin is a skilled, puck-moving defenseman who we think will help our team at even strength and on the power play. In addition, we are also pleased to welcome Pheonix back to the organization. We feel his addition solidifies our goaltending tandem in Hershey."

The conditions for the second-round pick in 2019 include Shattenkirk resigning with the Capitals or if Washington advances to the Eastern Conference Final and he plays in 50 percent of the Capitals' first two rounds in the playoffs, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

ESPN's Craig Custance reported that the Blues will retain 39 percent of Shattenkirk's remaining salary this season.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong will address the media at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Scottrade Center before the Blues, who hold the second wildcard in the Western Conference by two points, face the Edmonton Oilers later tonight. 

Shattenkirk is expected to make his Capitals debut Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Blues teammate Scottie Upshall posted a tweet Monday night that read, "Best of luck bro! You will feed 'Ovi' so many perfect one timers, he will need offseason shoulder surgery! Go get em pal!"

Sanford, 22, was Washington’s second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Hes 6-foot-4, 203-pounds and has played 26 games with the Capitals this season and has two goals and one assist. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (right) played his final Blues game on
Sunday night against Jonathan Toews (left) and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Malone, 27, has dressed in 52 games for the Hershey Bears of the AHL this season and has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists). The 6-1, 210-pound forward has appeared in 176 career NHL games, including stints with Carolina and Colorado, recording 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists)
Copley is headed back to the Capitals after the Blues acquired him along with Troy Brouwer in the summer of 2015 for Oshie.

Shattenkirk leaves the Blues with 59 goals and 199 assists in 425 career regular season games.

Monday, February 27, 2017


HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Even though the Blues gave up another empty-net goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-2 loss Sunday night, their 6-on-5 sequence actually looked like there was some merit to it.

What was lacking though was funneling pucks at the net and going for a loose rebound.

When Jake Allen was pulled from goal with 1 minute, 36 seconds remaining, the majority of that time was spent in the Chicago zone, but the Blues spent an awful lot of that time around the perimeter trying to look for that perfect shot, it seemed. But there was substance to what they were doing, according to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

"I think last night was a little different in the fact that they had that icing, so we knew they were tired and we didn't call a time out, so we didn't really look to have a set play," Shattenkirk said. "A lot of times you go to the bench and we try to draw something up. I liked last night because we played with a 5-on-5 mentality and we tired them down a little bit and then we waited for everything to up. We had good looks at it and I think it's so tough, especially against a tired team like that. 

"You want to funnel pucks to the net, but when they all get tired, there's just five of them sitting in the middle, so you kind of don't have the numbers there. A shot there, it's a loose puck and they have five guys right around it. You've kind of got to get to the inside and that's just more so what we need, to crash the net a little harder on those. But I think we had some good movement and I think that was better than we've had in the past. In the past, we've kind of just made a couple passes and fumbled it and then it's gone down. Last night, we controlled the puck and I think that was more important."

However, Blues coach Mike Yeo is all about volume to the net, and in that situation, there wasn't nearly enough.

"We worked around, we got the real good shot opportunity from 'Petro' that got blocked, but certainly you look at most 6-on-5 goals, generally it's pucks to the net and scrambles around the net," Yeo said. "We'd like to see us create a few more of those.

"I don't believe we've scored a 6-on-5 goal all year and so first off, we'd like to be in that situation a little bit less. I think that's the bigger picture for me, but regardless, when you have a chance ... we had an opportunity where we had a good amount of zone time, we had good puck possession. Certainly there should be an opportunity to get a couple pucks to the net and you have to find different ways to score goals and to get goals through the course of the season and that was one of them."

* Why no call? -- Upon further review, the Blues saw the attempted stick-throwing incident by Chicago's Ryan Hartman late in that game and the Blackhawks holding a 3-2 lead.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the puck in the high slot in the closing seconds of regulation after cutting around a sliding Hartman, and what looked like in video was he tried to throw his stick into the direction of a potential Tarasenko shot or pass. Tarasenko passed to Alexander Steen in the right corner on the goal line, but it was evident the puck needed to be elevated over the stick.

NHL Rule 53.6 states the following:

53.6 Penalty Shot -- When any member of the defending team, including the Coach or any non-playing person, throws or shoots any part of a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at the puck or puck carrier in his defending zone, the Referee or Linesman shall allow the play to be completed and if a goal is not scored, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team. This shot shall be taken by the player designated by the Referee as the player fouled.

"Yeah, I do," Yeo said when asked if he felt like something should have been called. "You could have said it didn't disrupt the play because the pass was still completed, but what it did was it caused the puck to go up on end, so we couldn't handle the puck real clean. They got away with it; that stuff happens.

"It was one of those where you watch the video and you realize it. When you're watching the game, you're following the puck. It's a tough one, but what can you do?"

Added Shattenkirk: "Absolutely. That's clear as day. I didn't see it last night in the game. I was kind of caught on the other side. It was hard for me to see that, but that's a tough one to watch after the game."

Said center Paul Stastny: "I saw a video of it, but what are you going to do? I don't know how much time was left. I don't know if it affected the play that much, but we had our chances before and nothing went in."

* Stastny snake-bitten -- Stastny must have had nightmares about Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling, who easily robbed Stastny of a potential hat trick in Sunday's game, making a trio of saves.

One came in the first period and two more came in the third. The two in the third either kept the game tied 2-2 or protected Chicago's 3-2 lead.

"It happens," Stastny said. "Could have gone either way. We did a good job kind of battling back and we had a couple chances. Obviously 'Snake' made some good saves for us. That's a game where we've got to find a way to get it to overtime and go from there. It's an unfortunate loss. Probably three or our ... the one even there at the end kind of banked off behind the net and I had a tough angle and it would have gone in. Sometimes it goes like that, and that's fine. You stick with it and you keep kind of creating those chances and they're gonna go. We talked about this before, it's a long year and there's going to be nights where you don't get much and somehow you find a way to score and there's nights you get a bunch and nothing goes in. You build off that and you try to take the positives out of that."

On the one where Darling fully extended his 6-foot-6 eight leg early in the third that could have given the Blues a 3-2 lead, Stastny said it happened so fast.

"That was just me," Stastny said. "I was just trying to use my upper body instead of kind of coming to the puck because it was rolling, too. I tried going quick. With a rolling puck, I didn't get too much wood on it, but if I lean more on my right side just to get a little more power and stay down on it, I could get it up. You see that in your head sometimes where you want to do it as quick as you can and then there's times where maybe you should take that extra second and try to get it up because he's so big down low."

* Paajarvi elevated -- After another strong performance with a fourth goal in 10 games since being recalled, Magnus Paajarvi took a twirl in practice with Stastny and Alexander Steen on the right wing of the top line, as Yeo reunited the "STL Line" back together at practice.

Paajarvi looks like a changed player, one playing with a ton of confidence and one that looks poised to remain with the big club this go-round.

"My confidence is way higher," said Paajarvi, who scored in the first period Sunday. "I believe in what I do and I want to attack. That's the biggest change. 

"Obviously goals helps. Obviously a little opportunity helps, but you've got to capitalize on them, too and I have so far and I've got to keep doing that. When things fall into place, the confidence is even better and better. Right now it's in a good place."

Yeo said Paajarvi deserves the look.

"He's earned it, and it wasn't just a matter of last night," Yeo said. "last night he was involved in four quality scoring chances, a big goal. He's played a responsible game. I like his speed, I like his energy that he brings right now. That's what you want to have. You want to have guys when they get an opportunity, when they're playing well and they deserve an opportunity that you reward them for it. He's certainly one of those."

Stastny said Paajarvi has been good.

"I think he's been everything you could ask for," Stastny said. "I think when he's at his best, he's moving. He's got so much speed, it opens up space when you have the puck and at the same time, I think whether it's on the forecheck or whether it's in the offensive zone, you know where he's going to be. To me, the easiest players are the guys that you know where they're going to be. In a game like this, I think you need all five guys on the same page."

The Blues (31-25-5) host Edmonton on Tuesday, and Paajarvi would love a chance with two top-line players

"That would be awesome," Paajarvi said. "They're obviously big stars in the league and it would be cool to play with them. Hopefully I play with them tomorrow, but we'll see. ... If I get the chance, I'm not going to change. 

"I haven't tried to change at all. I try to stay within me and do my things. Really no changes. Don't try to adapt to any line. Just kind of do your own thing and control myself and it's been big."

* Reaves misses practice, Barbashev update -- Blues right wing Ryan Reaves was the lone notable to miss practice on Monday.

Yeo said Reaves blocked a shot Sunday night and was getting his foot checked out, and his status for Tuesday is not known.

"'Reavo' was just getting his foot looked at," Yeo said. "He blocked a shot last night. I haven't got word yet on how he's going to be. He's getting an X-ray we'll find out shortly on how he is."

As for center Ivan Barbashev, Yeo said nothing's changed other than, "He's coming along; that's all I know. He skated yesterday and so he's getting closer."

* Conklin in town -- Blues developmental goalie coach Ty Conklin was on the ice working with Allen and Carter Hutton, something assistant general manager Marty Brodeur has exclusively done since the Blues replaced Jim Corsi as goalie coach on Feb. 1 after firing head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Conklin has been working with the Blues' goalies from the AHL on down and was at United Center last night for the Blues-Blackhawks game.

"He's been doing a great job with our goalies down in Chicago and he's obviously got a good relationship with the guys here," Yeo said of Conklin. "I guess for Marty, the coaching is too tiring for him. He needed a day off today. He actually might have some other responsibilities today, but it's nice to have Ty come in and he's got a lot of familiarity. I know him and Marty have been talking all year long. They're very much on the same page, so you don't have any concerns about mixed messages, so it was nice for the goalies."

With the NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 2 p.m. (CT), Brodeur has his time wrapped up with management as they approach what they will do in and around the deadline.

* Blues in frustrating 0-3-0 slide -- The Blues' three-game losing streak has certainly come at a bad time, but what's more frustrating is that in each games, they were in position to grab points and came away with nothing.

"For me, I've looked at the last three games and there are some positives," Yeo said. "I would say you look at all those games and I think that you point to any of them and you say that we could have won that game. Last night it's 2-2 and we've got a couple good opportunities to maybe grab the lead. The Florida game, we're four seconds away from at least securing a point. In Buffalo, we had a lot of zone time, a lot of shots, but the difference for me is the last few games, we've left it up to chance. It could have gone either way, but obviously it didn't. I think that our execution and probably more so our details haven't been quite the same. A couple of the goals that we've given up, those are very much in our control, things that we were a little bit sharper, areas we were a little bit sharper two week ago. We've gotten just a little bit softer and when you do that, you leave things up to chance.

"Even last night, there were large chunks of the game that looked good. There's just too many pieces in between those chunks that aren't good enough and so we looked at some video today, we looked at some areas that we need to get better. I thought practice was good, so we'll be ready for another good test tomorrow."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Blues open post-bye schedule with 4-2 loss to Blackhawks

Third straight loss similar to previous two, allowing 
points in the balance to slip; Anisimov goal late seals fate

CHICAGO -- Early on, it looked like the bye week for the Blues.

The Chicago Blackhawks pounced on a team that hadn't seen a live game puck in six days and a blowout appeared imminent. 

The Blues rebounded, but for a third straight game, with points in the balance, the Blues come away empty-handed after Artem Anisimov scored late and the Blackhawks turned back the Blues 4-2 on Sunday night before 21,961 at United Center.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) moves the puck up ice as goalie
Jake Allen watches the play Sunday night in Chicago.

The loss was the third straight for the Blues (31-25-5) and comes at a bad time as both Nashville (71 points) and Calgary (70 points) are now four and three points, respectively, clear of the Blues, who are three ahead of Los Angeles for the second and final wildcard in the Western Conference. Oh by the way, the Kings solidified their goaltending by acquiring native St. Louisan Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning to tandem with Jonathan Quick, who returned Saturday after a season-long groin injury.

"What we have to see is that we're close and we've been close in those games, but we're not good enough," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "There are some areas that we have to address and we have to do that quickly."

In a 2-2 game, Anisimov took Artemi Panarin's seam pass and patiently outwaited Jake Allen, who made 38 saves, before beating the Blues' goalie short side with 5 minutes, 20 seconds remaining to put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2 before Tanner Kero iced it with an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining after the Blues had ample sustained zone time playing 6-on-5.

"Patience. If he one-times that, I had it right there," Allen said of Anisimov's shot. "That's a really great play by him.

"Their top guys did what their top guys do. They made us pay. We've got to find ways to shut those guys down."

The Blues' loss means teams coming off the bye week are not 7-15-4, and Chicago knew it, and they threw the kitchen sink at Allen and the Blues in the first period.

The Blues looked like the team coming off the bye week and surrendered 20 shots in the first period and were probably fortunate to only be down 2-1.

Jonathan Toews continued his torrid streak by putting the Blackhawks up 1-0 4 minutes, 18 seconds into the game off a transition play in which Patrik Berglund didn't back-check his guy (Toews) and the d-pairing of Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson gave a big gap in allowing Toews to get behind them, and Nick Schmaltz threaded a pass before Toews outwaited Allen and roofed the shot.

Parayko initially tried to jump in the play, then got caught in no-man's land. Edmundson gave Schmaltz too much room to maneuver with.

Chicago went ahead 2-0 on a Kane goal, on the power play, off a give-and-go with Toews, a shot from the left circle that Allen may have wanted back after beating him short side at 11:44.

But the Blues found some momentum when Magnus Paajarvi scored after Jori Lehtera forced Trevor van Riemsdyk into a turnover before Paajarvi snapped a shot five-hole on Darling at 16:54 to make it 2-1 in a period the Blues were outshot 20-10.

"We knew we were going to have to take a few minutes to get our legs going," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored the tying goal on the power play in the second. "They've been playing. We've had five days off, six days off. I thought we got our legs going there pretty good. It's just frustrating again. It's two games in a row where we lose in the last couple minutes in the game."

Darling made the save of the game in that first on Paul Stastny, robbing the Blues' center on the doorstep with a sprawling arm/glove save with 6:39 remaining. It was one of three saves Darling made on Stastny on the doorstep. He did it again on a Stastny backhand in tight with 15:49 remaining and again with 1:34 remaining.

"We had chances all game," Pietrangelo said. "(Darling) made some pretty big saves. He had some big ones on Paul there. Sometimes it's how it goes. You get the looks you want and it doesn't go in. Still got to find a way to close that out."

The Blues got it back together in the second, applied pressure and eventually got the equalizer from Pietrangelo on the power play after David Perron found him coming down the slot as the trailing defenseman. Pietrangelo sniped a wrister short side top shelf at 12:33 to tie the game 2-2.

Berglund, after a reverse hit near center ice and drove the net to give Pietrangelo a chance, picked up the secondary assist, his first in 25 games; he also passed Bob Plager and now is alone in seventh place for most games played in franchise history with No. 616.

"(Paajarvi's goal) was huge, and you obviously get the equalizer in the second period and we almost grabbed the lead," Yeo said. "That would have been a changer if 'Vladi' would have ... we hit that pipe. We still had a great opportunity. We had a couple chances, but we gave up too many tonight."

Vladimir Tarasenko almost gave the Blues the lead late in the period, but his wrister from the top of the circle clanked off the corner bar with 2:01 remaining.

Allen did his part in the game and kept it tied with a glove save on Richard Panik with 7:45 remaining.

"I felt like I played well, gave us a chance," Allen said. "I'm happy with it."

The Blues pulled Allen with 1:36 to play, had ample opportunities to score with the sixth attacker but attempted few shots at Darling. 

Pietrangelo had one of the best when his shot was blocked by Ryan Hartman without a stick, and Hartman was without his stick because moments earlier, he attempted to try and throw it towards Tarasenko's shot attempt from the high slot, and was missed by officials, in the waning seconds.

Here is the rule:

53.6 Penalty Shot -- When any member of the defending team, including the Coach or any non-playing person, throws or shoots any part of a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at the puck or puck carrier in his defending zone, the Referee or Linesman shall allow the play to be completed and if a goal is not scored, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team. This shot shall be taken by the player designated by the Referee as the player fouled.

"We want to get good looks like that. I've got to find a way to get that through," said Pietrangelo, who received stitches to his right ear after an errant puck hit him on the bench. "It's a good block, but I still got to find a way to score. It's just me against him. There's only one guy in the way there and he was on the ground."

As for Pietrangelo's ear, "Not too good. A little sore," he said. "All those shots that I block, I get hit on the bench. It's funny how it works."

It all started in Buffalo in a 3-2 loss on Feb. 18 when the Blues had a chance to win that game with 39 shots and several Grade-A scoring chances and again before the break a week ago Monday when they lost 2-1 to Florida with 4.6 seconds to play, and now this.

"We were right there," Allen said. "We fought our way back into the game. Tough one to swallow again. We've got to find a way to get even a point out of these games right now. They're so crucial. Monday was a heart-breaker and so was tonight, especially against an opponent we're trying to chase.

"We've still got work to do. We made strides as the game went on. We didn't expect our best. It's tough after six days off, no one did, but we still had a chance to get a point and we let it slip."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen makes one of 38 saves during a 4-2 loss to the 
Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night.

"That was disappointing," Yeo said. "It felt like after two periods, that should have been a game that we should have been able to grab. Simple approach for us us we come back to work tomorrow and we get better.

"I thought we started OK, but you could tell there were a couple times where we weren't sharp mentally and a couple of those breakdowns obviously led to some big chances against. It's too bad because Jake did everything he could to keep us in that game. ... We had some looks at the doorstep and he made some great saves, but Jake made some great saves, too. It is what it is. We've got to find a way. They recognized that we were off for five days and we expected them to get in on the forecheck, to get to the offensive zone, throw as many pucks at the net. That's quite simply what they did."

(2-26-17) Blues-Blackhawks Gameday Lineup

CHICAGO -- The record speaks volumes, but each team feels like it should stand on its own merit.

For the Blues (31-24-5), who return from their bye week today when they play the rival Chicago Blackhawks (38-18-5) at 6:30 p.m. (NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM), they try and go against the grain and improve on the record of teams coming off a bye week, which was 7-14-4 coming into Sunday.

"I think the break is good for every team. I think it's going to be good for us," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "This is the challenge of it is the first game back. I think when we look later down this eek, that's when we're going to start to see how the break pays off. The aspect of getting thrown into a tough environment like this against a team that's really playing very well right now. That's the challenge and I think we're going to have to make sure that we're not trying to overextend ourselves, we're not trying to do anything that's not in our DNA. If we get caught up in that game, that's where we fall into trouble. We have to play hard. It's going to be a game that it's not going to be a blowout. We have to make sure that we know that and we have to make sure that the small things are what's going to help us win this game tonight.

"It feels like the beginning of the season almost. We always seem to have to bring our 'A' game against these guys, and especially in this building. It feels like we have that anticipation and that anxiousness again."

Not the most idea of opponents for the Blues to return against, since Chicago has won eight of nine and scored four or more goals in each of those eight victories. But it is what it is, which is as cliche as it comes, but the Blues can't do anything about it but go and play.

"Coming out of the break, we try and get ourselves in as many game-like situations as possible at practice," coach Mike Yeo said. "A lot more 5-on-5 situational scrimmage type of stuff compared to a regular practice for us to try and get the timing back, to try and get the execution and the battle back. It's not something that you can replicate, it's not something that you can just draw up for the players and all of the sudden, it's back. I don't expect things to be perfect off the hop and I expect a team like Chicago, they're smart enough to know that, to sniff that out and they're going to look to get after us quickly. We're going to have to be ready for that."

The break may have been good for players from both a physical and mental standpoint, there's that helpless feeling of sitting idly and not being able to do anything about helping one's own cause in the standings. 

The Blues went from being three points in front of Nashville for third place in the Central Division to two points back, and the Predators could make it four with a win this afternoon, when the puck drops tonight.

"That's a weird feeling seeing the scores come in every night, seeing other teams in our division winning and winning and winning," Shattenkirk said. "That's tough. We're used to that in our division. It seems like the past few years whenever a team has a day off, the other teams in our division seem to take advantage of that and get themselves back in the race. In a way, it's all going to help us tonight and make us focus."

"We knew that that was going to happen," Yeo said. "That could work for you and that could work against you. My advice is take what's very short and what's very in front of us. If you look at too big of a picture and start looking at what other teams are doing in the standings, then you start to lose a little focus on yourself. For me, it's more about where we're at today and that was our focus yesterday. We wanted to have a good practice, we wanted to get back to work. Today, we come in, we start preparing. We start watching some video and obviously we get back on the horse here, we get back into the grind."

That's why the Blues will try to get locked in quickly when the puck drops.

"We know what the other records are, but we don't care about that," right wing David Perron said. "We're going to play our game and we know they're on a good streak. It's just a bigger challenge for us. I think we'll be ready to go."

- - -

If you haven't seen the video, go check it out. 

Chicago Wolves defenseman Vince Dunn, the Blues' second-round pick in 2015, was involved in quite the frackas on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild farm team, the Iowa Wild.

It all started when Dunn took a stick to the face from Iowa ruffian Kurtis Gabriel in the final moments of the third period. Dunn and Gabriel fought, along with Chicago's Scooter Vaughn and Iowa's Nick Seeler

All players were given fighting majors and their walking papers for the rest of the night, but as Dunn and Gabriel exited the ice, they did so in the same runway, and things escalated quickly again as Gabriel continued to confront Dunn, who was obviously trying to lay it to rest. 

But Gabriel grabbed Dunn and gave him a jab, and that's when the Blues' prospect, at 6-foot and 185 pounds, lined the 6-4, 211-pound Ganriel with one punch and knocked him to the ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTfQ-37wpgQ.

Blues forward Magnus Paajarvi, who was recalled Saturday night from the Wolves, has been a teammate of Dunn's a lot this season and applauded the Blues' prospect.

"I probably wouldn't have guessed he'd fight in the hallway, but at least from the video, Gabriel came to him," Paajarvi said. "He defended himself. Good for him."

The two teams were to face off again this afternoon at 3 p.m., and it's been reported Gabriel has been suspended until further investigation into the incident. There was no word as of early this afternoon whether there would be any discipline for Dunn.

- - -

Paajarvi will be in the lineup after being assigned to the Wolves after Monday's game against the Florida Panthers. Paajarvi played one game on Wednesday in Chicago and continued to skate. He did not play in Saturday night's game.

"He's done a good job," Yeo said of Paajarvi. "He deserves to be in the lineup tonight. He deserves to continue to play. For me, it's just a matter of making sure that he keeps that hunger that he came up with. If he does that, then I don't see a reason why he can't continue to play at a high level."

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Paajarvi, who has three goals and one assist in 10 games with the Blues this season, would be back up, but ...

"You never count on anything," Paajarvi said. "I've been around long enough now, but I stayed ready and they told me yesterday. Go downtown and check in at the hotel with the team and be ready for (tonight)."

And he certainly didn't need to benefit from a bye week.

"I was out six weeks down there (due to injury)," Paajarvi said. "That's a long bye week for me. It didn't bother me at all. We've got 22 games left. I've got lots of energy. Skating is good right now."

- - -

The persistent flip-flop between Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo continues tonight.

Gunnarsson is back in with Shattenkirk and Bortuzzo will be a healthy scratch, the eighth straight game the two have alternated games.

It's not the most ideal of situations, but it's one the two of them will have to live with until the coaches decide who will play on a regular basis.

"I don't think either 'Borts' or I want that, but that's the situation we're in," Gunnarsson said. "There's not much else to do but make the best out of it. Obviously you'd like to play every game, but if the coaches decide that we're going to be in and out like that, we'll try to kind of outplay each other because we're the two guys going in and out. Both of us have been playing well at the end and want to make it a tough decision for the coaches.

"It is more mentally getting prepared for games and stuff. Now we've been doing it for a bit, so I mean we're getting a little used to it. At the start, it was tough. You have a good game and hopefully you're in the next one, then you're out, you're in. It's a little weird, but we've been doing it for a little bit. We've kind of got the hang of it, I guess."

And that decision hasn't been made as of yet.

"I'm not sure yet, to be honest with you," Yeo said. "We had a plan and now we'll just keep re-evaluating. Every day is just going to be a new day, whether it's based on the opponent, whether it's based on previous games and how they played, obviously we're going to make the decisions that we need to make for the group right now."

- - -

Dmitrij Jaskin will mark his return to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 11 against Montreal and just the third time in the past 12 games.

Jaskin is in the lineup most likely due to Ivan Barbashev (upper body) being day to day after hurting his neck/head with the Wolves on Wednesday.

Jaskin has just one goal and 10 points in 41 games this season, but this gives him a chance to make an impression.

"The easy thing to do is to look at the stat sheet and say we need goals, we need assists and all that kind of stuff," Yeo said. "For me, those things will come when his game gets consistent. I refer to the identity of a player a lot for a young player. He needs a role and he needs an identity. I believe that he can have that. You look at his strengths and what they are, and obviously size, puck protection, the ability get to the net, hands around the net, these are things that should be the foundation of his game, but he needs to find a way to get there. It's a matter of how you execute from your zone and how you defend without the puck to make sure you give yourself the chance to get to that game and when you do get there, you're real strong in it."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

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

Nail Yakupov and Robert Bortuzzo will be healthy scratches. Robby Fabbri (ACL) is out for the season.

- - -

The Blackhawks' projected lineup:

Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Tomas Jurco-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins

Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Michal Rozsival

Scott Darling will start in goal; Lars Johansson is expected to be the backup, but the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate Rockford is on the west coast and could have trouble getting Johansson here.

Dennis Rasmussen is a healthy scratch. Corey Crawford was scheduled to start but is out due to illness. Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) is out and Jordin Tootoo (sick) is out.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Bye week over, Blues back on the grind; what happens 
between now and Wednesday; Paajarvi recalled, Barbashev day to day

CHICAGO -- The Blues were back at it Saturday afternoon preparing for the final grind of the regular season.

The Blues haven't done anything since that gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday in which the Panthers scored with 4.6 ticks left on the clock.

It wasn't the most ideal way for the Blues (31-24-5) to sit on the past five days, but as the Blues open the post-bye schedule with a Sunday night showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (6:30 p.m. on NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM), they have to turn their attentions to accumulating as many points as possible and remain in the top eight of the Western Conference playoff chase.

"It was nice, a nice few days to recharge and give the mind and body a little bit of a rest," left wing Alexander Steen said. "But it's nice to get back to work, in the rhythm of things again.

"... We go through this all the time, where you have injuries that keep you off the ice for three or four days and you come back on. We know what to expect, (and) it gives guys with little tweaks and bumps a chance to heal. And for other guys that don't really have things going on, it's a chance to take a mental break."

Perhaps a return to the grind against the Blackhawks, who have won eight of nine and have scored four or more goals in each win, wasn't the best-case scenario, but the schedule is what it is.

"We can't sit here and say it's a good thing, they're on fire right now," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of the Blackhawks. "I guess the only good part about it is that we know we have to be ready to go.

"I would say practice was about what we would expect it to be, guys having a tough time getting going at first. But we designed practice with that in mind, making sure that we had an opportunity for things to build through the practice, in particular the battle level and the execution."

Depending on Nashville's outcome with Edmonton on Sunday afternoon, the Blues could find themselves anywhere from 2-4 points in back of the Predators for third place in the Central Division with two games in hand.

"Yeah, going into Chicago, in that building and that atmosphere, it's going to be a fun game to get back into things," Steen said.

Teams haven't fared well coming off the bye. Heading into Saturday, they were 5-12-4 in those games.

"I haven't followed that until this morning and someone brought it up," said center Patrik Berglund, fresh off signing a new five-year, $19.25 extension on Friday. "It's just another challenge for us. Got to go out and play our game and fight for those two points. What happened to those other teams is nothing that bothers us.

"(The break) felt pretty good. It was good for everybody to get away for a little bit. Everyone came back happy had a little better tan on their bodies. We're excited to get going again."

* D-day approaching -- With the NHL Trade Deadline rapidly approaching on March 1, team general managers are busy working phones, sending scouts all across North America at one of the 30 fine arenas fielding NHL teams in search of information regarding trades as teams must decide whether they are buyers or sellers.

For the Blues, who are on that borderline of playoff reality, general manager Doug Armstrong made it clear that the next two games (Sunday at Chicago and Tuesday at home against Edmonton) won't affect the Blues in any way, shape or form.

"Even after our game Tuesday night, we're going to be in a playoff spot, so these next games aren't going to have a big affect on ... if you were four points back or six points out or four or five games under .500 or over .500 to that playoff spot and you won two or lost two would have an affect, right now, we're seven over and ninth place is two over," Armstrong said. "There's a cushion there. The next two games aren't going to have an affect on our standings. Obviously our goal is to finish as high as we can in the standings and make the playoffs. That's our short-term goal. Our longer-term goal is like everybody else, and that's to make the playoffs and then advance four rounds and win your last game.

"The conversations between managers are now at a more consistent pace. I think everyone's looking at the same thing. You look at your team and you're trying to improve your team, whether it's short-term, long-term. Obviously in the Western Conference, it looks like you have nine teams fighting for eight spots and we're comfortably into that group of nine. What I like how you check the standings total, it's no the points, it's games over .500. I think we're seven games over .500 and Nashville's seven over .500. Calgary is six over .500 and that's six, seven and eight and I think you have LA at two games over. There's a little bit of a gap between Los Angeles and the next three teams and our goal is to try and stay in that grouping of eight and climb obviously as high as we can."

For the Blues, all the focus is on what will they do with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who is an impending unrestricted free agent and arguably the biggest trade deadline target on the market, and Armstrong was close to the vest regarding who's talking to who, what is being offered and what the Blues will do.

Do they trade him? Do they keep him and make a run knowing they could lose Shattenkirk for nothing when July 1 comes around? Are they somehow able to keep him long-term? The latter appears to be the least possibility, but any direction that Armstrong goes with this makes for a dicey situation.

Armstrong would not comment on Saturday the discussions regarding Shattenkirk, nor was he willing to disclose if teams inquired about Berglund before the Blues signed the center iceman to a five-year, $19.25 extension on Friday.

Shattenkirk, who teams crave for his offensive-defenseman specialties, was on the ice Saturday.

"Obviously it's a challenge for him," Yeo said. "He's getting asked the questions every day. Unless he's living in a cave right now, then I'm sure he's hearing an awful lot about it. 

"Again, for me, I'm not treating him any different than any other player on our team. He's a player on our team and we need him to go out tomorrow and be ready to play and play at a high level. That's our focus as a staff, just to make sure that we get him there."

The Blues don't appear to be sellers by any stretch, but they aren't likely to be big-time buyers either.

"I think getting Patrik signed has solidified our forward group right now," Armstrong said. "We're just going to take a look and see what we have. I don't see us moving a top pick or moving a top prospect for a rental player. There's always different moves, whether it's a depth move, which you don't see a lot of this time of the year as hockey trades but you never know when one of those might pop up, too."

Armstrong could always try and accumulate picks, but that would require selling off assets on the current roster.

"This draft, it doesn't have the 'wow' factor at the top end that the (Connor) McDavid draft had or last year's draft (with Auston Matthews), but I think it has some depth to it of equal level players. There's going to be NHL players come out of this year's entry draft; there always is, and it's up to our scouting staff's job to do their homework and find a guy, no matter where we're picking. There are going to be players to play and we have to grind away and give ourselves the best opportunity to find one."

The trade deadline is 2 p.m. (CT), so stay tuned. There will be plenty of chatter between now and then. How much execution there will be is yet to be seen.

* Paajarvi recalled, Barbashev day to day -- The Blues recalled winger Magnus Paajarvi from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves on Saturday night, meaning Paajarvi didn't have far to go to meet back up with the Blues; he was reassigned after Monday's game to play this past Wednesday, the same day center Ivan Barbashev sustained an upper-body injury.

He practiced yesterday and again today and he's going to get a good skate in with the Wolves tomorrow to get a better indication, but it doesn't look like anything long-term or serious. 

"I think getting Patrik signed has solidified our forward group right now. We're just going to take a look and see what we have. I don't see us moving a top pick or moving a top prospect for a rental player. There's always different moves, whether it's a depth move, which you don't see a lot of this time of the year as hockey trades but you never know when one of those might pop up, too.

This draft, it doesn't have the 'wow' factor at the top end that the McDavid draft had or last year's draft, but I think it has some depth to it of equal level players. There's going to be NHL players come out of this year's entry draft; there always is, and it's up to our scouting staff's job to do their homework and find a guy, no matter where we're picking. There are going to be players to play and we have to grind away and give ourselves the best opportunity to find one.

He practiced yesterday and again today and he's going to get a good skate in with the Wolves tomorrow to get a better indication, but it doesn't look like anything long-term or serious. 

"He practiced yesterday and again today and he's going to get a good skate in with the Wolves tomorrow to get a better indication, but it doesn't look like anything long-term or serious," Armstrong said of Barbashev.

Barbashev, the Blues' 2014 second-round pick, had two goals and one assist in 12 games with the Blues before he was assigned during the bye week to get a game in with the Wolves.

"Yeah, all those guys, that's the point," Yeo said regarding playing in the AHL. "It's a different season when you're here all year, but I've always been a big believer that young players have to play and I think we saw the benefit of that with them coming up here and the confidence that they had and the energy that they had ... so yeah, I think it'll be a good thing."