But when they realized they'd be losing valuable veteran leader Jamie Langenbrunner for a minimum of four weeks after suffering a broken left foot during Sunday's loss at Chicago, it puts a bit of a crimp into a lineup that's been plugging gaps most of the season.
Right Wing - STL
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 21
SOG: 104 | +/-: 9
SOG: 104 | +/-: 9
"It's the nature of the beast with the season. When you're in this thing, it seems every team goes through stuff like this. We've got depth here, we've got depth in Peoria, we've used guys in Peoria. If we have to, we can get down into (Evgeny) Grachev there, who's more than a comparable player. We've got (Adam) Cracknell, who's played great for us up here. … We've got some flexibility. It's not like it's career-ending or it's not like it's season-ending or anything. He's probably four weeks maximum. We'll evaluate him in a couple weeks and see how he's doing."
Langenbrunner, 36, in his first season with the Blues and 17th overall, has 4 goals and 21 points in 57 games this season. He's been one of the more versatile players for a relatively younger team, playing on each of the four lines at one point or another, and that flexibility will be a sore spot until his return.
The Blues say Langenbrunner will be re-evaluated in four weeks' time.
"He probably doesn't get all the accolades he deserves," veteran center Scott Nichol said of Langenbrunner. "He does all the little things that makes a team win and why he's been successful his whole career. It's a voice in the locker room and it's the way he carries himself professionally. We're really going to miss that."
T.J. Oshie is one of the younger players who has really taken a liking to Langenbrunner. And why wouldn't he? After all, here's a guy who's won two Stanley Cups, been captain in the NHL, captain for Team USA's Winter Olympic squad and has over 1,000 games played in the League.
"It makes you look forward to hopefully where we're going to be one day," Oshie said of Langenbrunner. "If that's where we want to get to, we've got to learn from this guy. We've got to watch him, we've got to see what he does when no one else is watching.
"He's always ready to go, he's always ready to play. Even on nights when he knows he's not going to have his best game, he's still out there and doing the little things right. That's one thing that can be hard for us … for myself or Perry (David Perron), when things are not going the right way, I think we get down on ourselves and we try to do too much. He always just stays with his game, stays even-keeled and that's what we've got to learn."
Blues captain David Backes, Langenbrunner's teammate for Team USA in 2010, has felt his influence as well.
"He's been instrumental in the success we've had here and my growth as a leader and as a captain," Backes said. "He's been great to have.
"He's not gone (for the season). A broken bone, I don't know whether it's four weeks or whatever, maybe they can get it back faster. He finished the game with it. He's a guy that we need in the lineup and he's been great to have around."
Langenbrunner, who just a couple seasons ago was playing on the New Jersey Devils' top line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, has accepted whatever role the Blues have used him in -- and has persevered.
"I have kind of bounced up and down before," Langenbrunner said before his injury Sunday. "I went through a stretch there in Jersey where I had a defined role. But before then when I was with Hitch (in Dallas), I bounced up and down lines. I think that's fine with me. I feel comfortable playing in many different situations. We've obviously had lots of injuries, and as guys come back, our roles are going to get a little more defined when we get a full lineup. I think it's good. It puts competition within the group. I think all of us are pushing each other to be better in a good way. I've been fortunate to play in a lot of those roles. I feel comfortable in it."
Now it's up to the Blues, who are currently playing without wingers Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini (concussions), to replace a leader both on and off the ice.
"Lags' play has meant everything. He's done a great job," Hitchcock said. "The power play was doing well sequence-wise because he was a guy that calmed it down back there, he's done a great job killing penalties all year, he's been good for whoever he plays with. If we need the line to either increase its competitiveness or increase its composure, we put him there. So he's been a guy that's played up and down from the fourth all the way to the first, so we're going to miss that. But I think we've got other guys whose games have stepped up and we'll be alright.
"He's a solid guy. He's a pro. I don't think you can have enough of those guys this time of the year."
Oshie agreed, saying, "The biggest part is the leadership. It's not only just his presence in the locker room, but also the way he plays the game, the way he doesn't take shifts off, he doesn't complain about shifts, he doesn't get down on himself. When things go bad, he's always looking at the positive and looking forward to the next shift. I think with our young group, that's going to be the thing that's going to be the most missed. He's a tough guy. I'm sure he's not going to be out for too long."