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Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues' young defense tandem reaches special mark

ST. LOUIS -- It's not often one can be mentioned in the same breath as former Blues greats Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger.

But after picking up 3 assists Sunday night to go with fellow defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo both have eclipsed the 40-point plateau, becoming the team's first d-pairing to do so since MacInnis (46) and Pronger (47) in 2001-02.

Pietrangelo is third among defensemen with 48 points and now Shattenkirk is 16th with 41 points.

With Shattenkirk (23 years old) and Pietrangelo (22), it seems the Blues will have quite the duo for years to come.

"That's insane. For us, it's a huge honor," said Shattenkirk, who has 32 assists among his 41 points. "Whenever you're talked about with those two guys, it's special. You don't really believe it, but we still have some work to do, obviously. Both of us have stuck to our game. The coaches have just allowed us to play our game, and I think it paves the way for all the rest of the stuff."

Since both have been paired together on the power play, both players have accumulated a plethora of points.

"To have two guys where we are, it's pretty awesome," said Pietrangelo, who has 12 goals and 36 assists. "Whether it's him where I am or I am where he is, it's pretty good for both of us moving forward here, especially if we're going to be here for awhile. It's good to have that in the back end.

"A lot of it's come together lately, especially since we were put together on the power play. A lot of our points have been generated from that. We had two points each last game coming from each other on point shots, and my goal, he passed it over to me. That's been the biggest thing for us is we find each other on the power play. It's been the key."


Milestones are meant to be cherished when one's career is done. That's how Blues veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner is looking at career game No. 1,100 tonight when the Blues (47-20-9) host the Nashville Predators (44-24-8) tonight.

"Any time you hit round numbers, you kind of take a look back a little bit," said Langenbrunner, who has 660 points. "It's not something that's big on my radar, no.

"It's definitely something you do when you're done ... at least that's what I'm told. You look back at those sort of things. Right now, I'm in the now and the battle for what this game is and I'm excited for it."

Coincidentally, Langenbrunner's first game in the NHL came with the Dallas Stars ... right here at Scottrade Center in 1995.

"Yeah, it was in St. Louis ... in this building. Long time ago," Langenbrunner said. "I was playing junior with the (Peterborough) Petes (of the Ontario Hockey League) and we just got knocked out, got called up by Dallas to come here.

"I remember walking in the locker room and (the) junior hockey (mentality), dying your hair and stupid stuff like that. My hair was all bleached-blonde or streaked. I remember trying to find a barber shop to try to shave out as much of it as I could for that first game."


Allowing only 139 non-shootout goals through their first 76 games, the Blues broke an NHL record for goals allowed in a 76-game season. That mark was set by the 1968-69 Blues, who allowed 157. But the Blues have loftier goals in mind -- like the 82-game record set by the 2003-004 New Jersey Devils, who allowed 164 goals.

"I wasn't really aware of it actually until this past road trip," Shattenkirk said. "It's something that comes from the way we play, it comes from our team defense, our goaltending especially.

"Any time you have a special season like this in terms of goals-against, you have to look at the goaltending. They've probably been the reason why we've let in so few. It's just been a collective effort from everyone. If we were to achieve that, it would be great, but I think we just focus on what we've been doing well all year."

Coach Ken Hitchcock agreed. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been and are the story.

"The story of our season, no matter what anyone talks about, are our two goalies," Hitchcock said. "They're the story. They've been good all year, and at times taking turns being great. The biggest part of our success ... their save percentages are extraordinarily high. ... Not very often do you say, 'Man, the Blues dominated us, or they outplayed us.' There's stretches during the hockey game where your goalie has to come up big and between the two guys, they've come up big every time. We've benefited from two guys having, I don't want to say career years, but played to their potential every night. At times, Halak's been unbelievable and then Elliott's been unbelievable. It's been the small difference for us."

Elliott and Halak are 1-2 in the NHL in goals-against average (1.52, 1.90) and first and sixth, respectively in save percentage (.941 and .927) as well as first and fourth respectively in shutouts (eight and six).
Posted On Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Predators, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for a Central Division clash Tuesday night between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators from Scottrade Center.


David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Alex Steen - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Kent Huskins

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals against average (1.51) and save percentage (.941), is also tied Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick for shutouts with eight. Elliott has back-to-back shutouts and will take a shutout streak of 126:45 into this game.

The Blues' scratches include Andy McDonald (shoulder), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Roman Polak (knee), Ryan Reaves, B.J. Crombeen and Ian Cole.


Andrei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn
Alexander Radulov - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Colin Wilson
Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Kevin Klein - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

The Predators' scratches include Martin Erat (upper body), Jordin Tootoo (upper body), Craig Smith, Brian McGrattan, Jack Hillen, and Jack Maclellan.
Posted On Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 5:25 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Steen activated, will play against Coyotes

The St. Louis Blues received a big boost to their lineup, announcing that winger Alex Steen has been activated from injured reserve and will be in the lineup Sunday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Steen, who has missed the last 39 games due to a concussion, has not played since Dec. 27 at Detroit.
"Anytime you get a good player back in your lineup, it's a positive," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We want to be cautious when (Steen) comes back in and we understand that it's going to take time to get up to full speed. But with the (limited) number of games left in the season, it's good that he's in the lineup."

Steen had been in Southern California for the last month receiving treatment from a concussion/spinal specialist while also having the use of a hyperbaric chamber, something that teammate Andy McDonald used while he was sidelined with a concussion this season.

Steen, who has 13 goals and 24 points in 36 games this season to go with a plus-20 rating, is among one of the top all-around players for the Western Conference-leading Blues, who enter Sunday night's game with 101 points.

Steen was cleared for contact on Friday, along with teammate Matt D'Agostini.
"I always think it's necessary to leave those decisions to the players," Armstrong said. "Obviously they consult with the training staff and the doctors. He was skating and conditioning when he was in California (receiving treatment). He skated a couple of times with the team ... Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday... he's had time to get up and running."

In addition to Steen, defenseman Kris Russell will also return to the lineup Sunday night. Russell has been sidelined with a concussion since Feb. 23, missing the last 14 games.

Posted On Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 5:56 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues' McDonald returns to practice

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- With news of St. Louis Blues winger Andy McDonald returning to the ice just three days after crashing heavily into the boards as a result of a shove, it could be taken as a sigh of relief that it wasn't any worse.

The result was a shoulder contusion after first being slashed, then shoved from behind by Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu during Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Hurricanes.

Or in the words of McDonald: "I guess it could have been worse. That's always a positive, but obviously I could still be playing if (Ruutu) doesn't trip me and push me into the boards. I'm disappointed."

McDonald joins a plethora of injured players, including Alex Steen (concussion), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Kris Russell (concussion), Jason Arnott (bumps and bruises) and now David Backes (toe/foot) ailing because of injury for a team that became the first in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth Saturday and reach the 100-point mark (46-19-8).

McDonald, who arguably was the Blues' best player after returning following a 51-game absence due to a concussion, pitched in with 18 points in 17 games and gave the Blues a dynamic that had been missing since both he and perhaps Steen were playing at the same time.

"When you've got players like him on the ice, you have the puck all the time," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of McDonald. "The best defense is to have the puck all the time. That's what was so good with him is we had the puck all the time. Every time he was out there, he was making plays, we had possession with the puck, we were creating scoring chances. It changes. When you're missing him, Steen, even Arnott to a certain extent, obviously when Backes went down (Saturday), we're a little bit different also.

"You just don't have the puck very much, so you've still got to win the game even though you don't have the puck. When you get it, you've got to make a direct play. When you don't have it, you better check like crazy. When Backes went down, we didn't have the puck very much and we still had to win the hockey game."

Half of McDonald's points had come in the last seven games and he was hoping to use the final stretch to get himself in even better position to be at his best, which was becoming quite evident out there.

"The play-making part of it, I thought that for me, I was getting frustrated early because there were a lot of times where I had chances to make plays to guys that were open and I seemed slow at times," McDonald said. "Around the net, I've had some bounces and stuff and I was able to score, so that helped out a lot. I felt like my last two games, I thought I was moving the puck, getting back to that form where I was being a play-maker. That's always the strong part of my game. That part of it was coming around, so that's hard because my play was coming around and now I have to go back out again. Obviously it's different this time. I'll be able to get back and not have much of a drop-off."

The team held an optional skate Sunday following a four-game trip in which the Blues were 2-1-1, McDonald was a full participant in drills and skating.

"It felt pretty good today," McDonald said. "I was able to do a lot of things. I guess it feels better than I thought it would at this point. I was happy to be able to skate and get out and do a lot of the drills."
Initially, the Blues said McDonald would be week-to-week.
"I don't think he's that far away from playing," Hitchcock said of McDonald. "I don't know when, but they're all going to go on the trip, including D'Agostini. Arnott's going to be on the trip, Backes on the trip, Mac's on the trip ... everybody's on the trip. We'll pick up Steen when we arrive. Hopefully Alex will skate with us on Tuesday or Wednesday and we'll just see where everybody's at."

Steen has been out of the lineup since Dec. 27 (37 games) and has spent the better part of the last two weeks in California with a concussion/spinal specialist while getting treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. He will meet up with the team when they get to Anaheim Tuesday for the start of a three-game swing on the west coast that also takes the Blues to Los Angeles and Phoenix. There's the possibility Steen could skate Tuesday or Wednesday to gauge his progress.

"I don't know where Alex is at," Hitchcock said. "He says he feels great. We'll just see when we get out.
"I don't know what the formula is. I just know he's going to meet us in Anaheim on Tuesday and we'll just see from there."

Backes, who's played in 185 consecutive games dating back to the 2009-10 season, blocked a shot on his left toe/foot late in Saturday's 3-1 win at Tampa Bay. He did not return but Hitchcock did say there were no broken bones and he is questionable for Wednesday.

"It's day-to-day, week-to-week," Hitchcock said. "It's all based on pain tolerance. These things hopefully heal real quick. It's not a big deal, but it isn't like it's a long-term injury."

D'Agostini, who did not accompany the team this past week, has been sidelined since Feb. 7 (21 games). He and Russell, out since Feb. 23 (12 games), were on the same path as far as potential returns but have not given Hitchcock that knock on the door yet. Both were on the ice Sunday.

"I don't know. He's not ready yet," Hitchcock said of Russell. "... He's close, but the player has to be convinced. There's no point in me having a conversation with him every day. Just tell me when you're ready."

Arnott missed the last two games, and it was by design that Hitchcock decided to sit the 37-year-old veteran to heal up from some bumps and bruises suffered down the stretch. He is also questionable for the start of the trip but skated without any issues Sunday.

Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues hope rest did them some good

CHICAGO -- The Blues (45-18-7) will look to improve upon a season-best five-game winning streak Tuesday when they play the Chicago Blackhawks. But they'd rather not do it the same way they won Sunday, where goalie Jaroslav Halak basically stole two points for the team in a 33-save effort against the Blue Jackets.

The Blues went through a similar situation a couple of weeks ago in Winnipeg, where they were flat and Halak stole a 3-2 shootout win. They then went into Calgary two nights later and played one of their best road games of the season.

They're looking for similar magic Tuesday after the coaches gave the players a full day off Monday. Tonight's game will be the Blues' sixth in 11 days.

"We've had a pretty hectic schedule here with travel and games compacted together," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "I think yesterday was a well (deserved) off-day away from the rink to give a lot of guys a chance to refresh, clear their minds a bit. It's a grind at this time of year. Sometimes, you need those days off to refresh your whole state of mind and your whole body to get ready for a heated game like tonight.

"... The coaching staff gave us a well-deserved day off yesterday to catch our breath and get our rest and make sure we're full of energy tonight against a team that's going to want to take it to us after the last game we played against them (a 5-1 Blues win March 6). It's always a heated game when we play these guys."

Coach Ken Hitchcock said it was best for everyone to go their separate way for a day and to recharge.

"We were a little better today," Hitchcock said of the morning skate. "This has been a tough schedule for us, so we're a little bit better today. We've got more energy, more jump, a little more enthusiasm. I think getting away from the coach is really important, and I think the coach getting away from them is really important. They stayed away from me. I stayed away from them. That full day off was probably good energy-wise for both groups."
Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 3:22 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Schwartz to make Blues debut soon -- but not Tuesday

CHICAGO -- Jaden Schwartz, signed to an entry-level contract Monday, will not make his Blues debut Tuesday in Chicago.

It's not a surprise that Schwartz, 19, is sitting out. The coaching staff wants to get him acclimated to the NHL game and process all the information necessary before throwing him into the fire.

"I don't think it will take him long to get used to things," Hitchcock said of Schwartz, the 14th pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. "At some point on this road trip we're going to want to get him into the lineup and see how he looks and get him a good go. First of all, we just need to get him grounded a little bit.

"He's a pretty confident guy. I don't think nervousness ... I guess when it's his turn to play he's going to be a little bit nervous. I think the one thing is he's comfortable around the guys. He knows the guys. It's not like he's walking in new here. He's been around the organization a little bit in various levels. He knows management, he knows some of the players. I think he's comfortable there."

"I don't know what's going to happen, but I'll do whatever they ask of me," Schwartz said Monday. "When they think I'm ready, I'll do what I can to contribute."

With the availability of Alexander Steen and Matt D'Agostini unknown because of concussions, Hitchcock said Schwartz can become an important element.

"You can't have enough good players at this time," he said. "I think with the style of game he has, being such a confident 200-foot player, you never know. You're going to be using these guys.

"If we don't get Steen and D'Agostini back, he's going to be a necessary add come playoff time."

Schwartz signed with the Blues following the end of his second season at Colorado College, where he had up 15 goals and 41 points in 30 games this season. He also had 5 points in six games while serving as team captain and helping Canada win the silver medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship.
Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 3:09 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues' Stewart earned top-line promotion

CHICAGO -- With his play in recent games dictating what his ice time will be like moving forward, the St. Louis Blues have elevated Chris Stewart back to a familiar role.

A scoring role.

Stewart, relegated to the third line and sometimes taking shifts on the fourth line, will move up and play on the Blues' top line Tuesday, with David Backes and T.J. Oshie, against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Although his offensive production doesn't jump out at you, looking at Stewart's game-by-game totals recently, he's become more noticeable and coach Ken Hitchcock said he feels Stewart is ready to go back where he belongs -- at least for now.

"Yeah, a lot," Hitchcock said when asked if he's noticed Stewart more often on the ice. "We've worked hard on his conditioning, he's worked hard on his conditioning. He's quicker, he's quicker to pucks, he's more engaged, he's got his speed back. I think he went through a phase where he didn't have his speed, so he was kind of late going to the net, but he's got his speed back. He's a very attractive player now because of the way he's been playing. It's been good for us."

Stewart, who's averaged 12-14 minutes per game in the last 16 games played (he only played 9:22 Sunday at Columbus because the Blues spent a lot of time killing penalties), he's become more aggressive and his play around the net is earning attention.

"You don't really read too much into that," Stewart said when asked about his ice time. "You just have to accept your role. If I'm going to be on the third line that night, I'm going to play hard, and if I'm going to be on the first line, I'm going to have to bring that offensive production and I'm going to try to contribute that way, too. That's the good thing about this team. We have guys who can fluctuate to those roles to win hockey games. We find a way.

"I've only been only playing 13 minutes or so the last 5-10 games, but I've had some quality opportunities. I got on the power play the last game, too, and got some good looks. I feel good about my game right now."

Stewart played earlier in the season with Backes and Oshie; Hitchcock used him there earlier in the season with the thought that they could get Stewart going.

"We're just going to be the line that pushes the tempo and the physical play," Stewart said. "When we're on our game, we're going to control the puck. We're going to get it down low, have strong cycles and really make it hard on guys like (Duncan) Keith and (Brent) Seabrook, who are going to play their big minutes. We want to give them a lot to handle.

"When you play with guys like that (Backes), you don't want to over-think. You just want to simplify. That's what's going to come easy. We're not going to be a line out there that's going to try to make seam passes and tic-tac-toe plays. Not to say that we can't if an opportunity presents itself, but we're really going to grind down teams and make their big bodies play tough minutes."
Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Probable lineup for Blues

CHICAGO -- Here is the projected lineup for the St. Louis Blues, who will face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the United Center:

T.J. Oshie - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak will start in goal, with Brian Elliott the backup. Halak will try to extend a personal-best streak of eight straight wins. He has a 1.45 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in this 8-0-0 run.

Blues scratches include newcomer Jaden Schwartz and defensemen Kent Huskins (bruised hand). Defenseman Kris Russell (concussion) and forwards Alex Steen (concussion) and Matt D'Agostini (concussion) remain on injured reserve. Steen and D'Agostini are not on the trip with the team.

In case you missed it earlier, here's the lineup the Blackhawks likely will counter with.

Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues sign Schwartz to entry-level contract

CHICAGO -- There will be no seasoning in the American Hockey League for Jaden Schwartz.

The Blues announced the signing of their first-round pick (No. 14) from 2010, who left Colorado College after his sophomore season, to a three-year, entry-level contract on Monday. Schwartz joined the Blues in Chicago on Monday and will be available to play against the Blackhawks at the United Center on Tuesday night.

Schwartz, 19, completed his second season with the Tigers, picking up 15 goals and adding 26 assists in 30 games after a 17-goal, 47-point season with Colorado College his freshman year, where the left wing led the nation among freshmen in scoring average at 1.56 points per game.

Turning pro was a whirlwind experience for Schwartz and a decision that came rather quickly.

"This opportunity popped up and you can't turn down an opportunity like this," Schwartz said after he arrived at the team hotel. "It's a tough decision. Our season (at Colorado College) ended pretty unexpectedly and this opportunity popped up pretty quick. I didn't have too much time to think about it, but I wanted to turn pro if the opportunity came. For me, it did and I feel very fortunate."

For a family that has struggled with the tragic loss of Mandi Schwartz, Jaden's sister, in the past year, it was welcomed news for Jaden's parents Rick and Carol Schwartz.

"They're super-excited," Schwartz said of his parents. "That's an understatement to say the least. They sacrificed a lot for our family. Hockey's a big part of our lives. We've been through some hard times lately. This is something that definitely makes them smile and I know they're extremely excited for this."

Schwartz was picked to return to Team Canada for the 2012 World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Calgary, being named the team captain, after getting an invitation in 2011 but having that tournament cut short because of a broken left ankle.

He had 2 goals and 5 points in six games, including one goal against Russia in the semifinals when he was named Canada's Player of the Game.

"A tournament like that playing for Canada, there's so many good players to pick across from Canada," Schwartz said. "When you make a team like that and you play an important role, it's going to give you confidence."

The Blues had a decision to make once Schwartz announced his intentions to turn pro -- send him to Peoria and play in the AHL or immediately bring him to St. Louis.

After consideration and consultation with the teams scouts and personnel surrounding the Wilcox, Saskatchewan native while he played at the collegiate level, the Blues decided this is where he belonged.

"We looked at all the options," said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "When Jaden said he was ready to turn pro, we could have either sent him to Peoria for the rest of the year, or bring him right to the NHL and we had to make a decision. We just felt with his skill-set and our injuries, we thought it was worth signing him and bringing him into St. Louis and keeping him with our team the rest of the year."

How much of that is also based on the concussion injuries to Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini? Armstrong wouldn't say, only stating that the Blues have been consistent with the concussion protocol and that the players haven't told the team they're ready to come back.

Steen has not played since Dec. 27 (34 games), while D'Agostini has been out since Feb. 7 (18 games).

"Obviously with the injuries to D'Agostini and Steen maybe expedited this process," Armstrong said. "If they were healthy, we may not have gone this route. You have to deal with the cards you're playing with and right now, we think that Jaden has a chance to come in and prove to his teammates and the coaches he can help us now."

The Blues did take a gamble in signing Schwartz so late in the season, taking one of three years off his NHL entry-level status (if in Peoria, it would have began next year). But it was a gamble they felt like was worth it.

It also may be telling in that the Blues didn't feel comfortable bringing someone up from the Rivermen to fill a void, if necessary.

"We've had our scouts monitor him closely," Armstrong said of Schwartz. "We've talked to the contacts in his league and talked to all of our scouting staff, and we just felt that where he's at in his career, where he's at in his game and where we're at in our season and with our personnel, it was worth the risk to bring him onto our team."

Then Armstrong caught himself and added: "I don't believe it's a risk because he's going to have a leg up on what to expect in the NHL nest year."

It'll ultimately be up to coach Ken Hitchcock whether Schwartz plays, perhaps as soon as Tuesday against the Blackhawks, but from the sounds of it, the Blues plan to bring him in without throwing Schwartz in the fire.

"We'll want to make him comfortable in the environment before we throw him in," Armstrong said. "Ultimately that will be Ken's decision on when he believes he's ready to play an NHL game. We don't want to put him in a situation that we don't think he can succeed in."

"I was prepared for anything, whether it was the (AHL) or here," Schwartz said. "... It's been a busy couple days, but it's been very exciting.

"It's a dream come true to be in this spot. I'm very thankful to join a team like this that's doing so well and is such a great organization. It's pretty special."

Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 4:25 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues activate Langenbrunner off IR

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The St. Louis Blues announced that they have activated winger Jamie Langenbrunner off injured reserve and he will return tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Langenbrunner suffered a broken left foot blocking a shot on Feb. 19 in a 3-1 loss at Chicago. Langenbrunner has 21 points on four goals and 17 assists in 57 games.

Langenbrunner was originally supposed to be reevaluated in four weeks but will return ahead of schedule after practicing with the team in recent days.
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