ST. LOUIS --
What seems like an ever-lasting time zone in which St. Louis Blues
coach Ken Hitchcock is trying to light a candle under underachieving power forward Chris Stewart
was on full display Wednesday at practice.
Stewart, a top-six forward by nature, was skating on the Blues' fourth line with Scott Nichol
, Chris Porter
and Ryan Reaves
, in an effort to find that spark plug that has mysteriously been hidden from a player coming off back-to-back 28-goal seasons.
"It's a working foundation," Hitchcock said. "You couldn't get a better worker than Scott Nichol
. Before you can think about scoring goals, you've got to start to work. So we need a working foundation so we can get to the next end. Whether it's for one period, one shift, one game, 10 games ... who knows. We need the working foundation here.
"We need a working foundation. When the work is there, the reward will be there.
Is this something Hitchcock has considered for a while?
"Yes," he quickly replied.
Stewart, who has 11 goals and 22 points in 53 games this season, was one of the Blues' best skaters and performers in a full-scale practice Wednesday following a bad 2-1 loss at NHL-worst Columbus on Tuesday night.
"It's obviously a message ... message loud and clear," Stewart said. "I've been in this position before ... just got to get back to work. Obviously not contributing offensively and something had to be done. They feel like that's the right approach and I'll just go from there.
"It is what it is. I can't really do anything about it now. Come out tomorrow and put together a good first period and hopefully get back up there. Just take it one game at a time."
There have been rumblings as to whether Hitchcock would consider sitting Stewart a game or two to get the message across.
"No, but we need to see more," Hitchcock said. "We need to see more work, more second and third effort so his skill can take over.
"He's got elite skill. We just need to see more. Your skill can't come out until the work foundation's in place."
Stewart said it's not from a lack of trying.
"Yeah. I mean, I'm obviously out there trying, giving it my all every night," he said. "But at the end of the day, if they don't feel that's good enough, then I've got to show more. It's up to them to give me the job description and up to me to do it. The good thing about this game is we've got another game tomorrow, come out and give it my best."