ST. LOUIS -- When Alex Pietrangelo surprisingly skated onto the ice for Monday's morning practice prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, it was an early reminder that players will attempt to fight through any type of injury in the playoffs.
But as the St. Louis Blues prepare to face the Los Angeles Kings tonight in Game 2 down 1-0 in the series, everyone will have to wait a few more hours before it's determined if Pietrangelo (undisclosed injury) will be available.
"Right now, he's an injured player," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If he's in the warm-up before the game, he's a player. Right now … we're deciding. He feels good so far. We'll see if he makes it through the rest of the day, but we're not going to put him in the warm-up unless we're going to play him. If he's out there for the pre-game skate tonight, then he's definitely a player.
Hitchcock was playful with the media regarding the injury. When told he was the one that said upper body, he replied: "Oh, did I? Damn coaches, they lie all the time!"
But if Pietrangelo is available to play, it would be a huge boost for a Blues team that can ill-afford to lose arguably its most complete player against a Kings team gaining confidence by the second.
"It's great to see him out there," best friend and defensive partner Carlo Colaiacovo said. "He's a character guy that battles and plays hard. He means so much to our team. The thought of not playing with him was something that never crossed my mind or crossed the team's mind until that decision was made. Obviously it's great to see him out there; he's going to provide a big boost for us. As long as he's able to do the things that he's capable of doing, we should be in good shape."
If this were the regular season, it's likely Pietrangelo would be shelved.
"That's the bottom line. The only thing that needs to be said about it: it's the playoffs," Colaiacovo said. "At this time of the year, you've got to do everything you can to make sure that you're in the lineup … battle through everything, play through everything. At the end of the day, you're not playing for yourself, you're playing for your team."
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If Pietrangelo can't go, Ian Cole will step in and play with Colaiacovo. It would be Cole's career playoff debut.
"I feel like I am ready and ready to step in if that's what needs to be done," Cole said after Monday's skate. "That first NHL game, you're nervous and kind of unprepared for exactly what you're going to see, but I've had enough of an opportunity where I kind of know what's going on and I can see how it's ratcheted up from watching the past two series. It's going to be a great opportunity to step into that. It's definitely going to be more intense and more hitting, more everything."
Hitchcock said Sunday he's been impressed with Cole's practice and work habits and will go with 12 forwards and six defensemen one way or the other. The veteran coach indicated Sunday there was a chance of going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen if Pietrangelo is unavailable, which would have meant veteran Kent Huskins getting in the lineup.
"You can be as impressive as you want in practice, but if it doesn't translate into a game, it's all for naught," Cole said. "The practices are to get ready for the games, the practices aren't the games."
The Kings are prepared as if Pietrangelo will play.
"There's no secret that he's a good player, and we need to be hard on him," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "He's a key guy for them, he's a key target for us. We need to finish our checks on him and make sure we're back-checking and know where he is on the ice at all times.
"He didn't practice the last few days, but that's not going to make us back off of him. We'll play him just as hard."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said it's good for the game if Pietrangelo is in there.
"When it's all said and done, even though we're playing St. Louis, you want the best players playing, right," Sutter said. "He's a top player, so it's no different than us with Doughty. We want them guys playing. The game wants them playing and we want them playing."