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Blues May Fill Needs from Within

by Staff Writer / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS -- It's obvious St. Louis Blues fans are anxiously awaiting and anticipating General Manager Doug Armstrong to make a move as the Feb. 27 trade deadline rapidly approaches.

But as it looks for now, the Blues will be more spectators than bidders. If fans are looking for Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, Zach Parise or even someone like Tuomo Ruutu -- guys that have been rumored as potential targets for the Blues -- anytime soon, forget about it.


Because the Blues are more eager to add from within, meaning they'd rather see what the results are if and when they get injured players back.

The team is patiently awaiting the returns of both Andy McDonald and Alex Steen, who have been sidelined with concussions. Both would add instant stability to the top two lines and provide necessary offense. But it's not a guarantee when they will return. There are also recent injuries to Matt D'Agostini (concussion symptoms) and veteran Jason Arnott (shoulder).

"Our goal is to get healthy and see where we fit in," Armstrong said. "Obviously our team needs to play to the level that they're capable of playing. There are a number of players on our roster that aren't having the season that they had a year ago. But I think it's too easy for everyone involved to look for someone else to come in and fix the problem, when I think the answer is right down there (on the ice). And I'm very comfortable that they think the answer is right down there, too. We need players that we know can produce offense to produce offense."

The concerns for the Blues don't reside in goal or on defense. They've been among the top units in the NHL when it comes to goals against. But the Blues are struggling at times to score and are ranked 21st in the League at 2.47 goals per game.

"We started the year saying that we need to find out about these players," Armstrong said. "Well, there's no better time to find out about a player than a drive into the playoffs. To bring in other players and put guys we want to find out about in different roles, then we're just pushing off the process.

"The season is going to end the way it's going to end. There's no guarantee that you bring in a player, and all of a sudden you're going to become the high-scoring Detroit Red Wings. Those players aren't out there. We need to see what these players can do when the game is on the line."

The Blues have shown patience with forwards Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart, both of whom have struggled at times but scored in Thursday's 4-3 shootout victory in New Jersey. Some fans want them thrown into the mix as trade chips. But there will be none of that as far as the Blues are concerned and there won't be any knee-jerk reactions.

"These players are still young," Armstrong said. "I understand the patience necessary to go through it. You look around the League -- my belief is the worst trade you can make is on emotion and with a short-term outlook. The best part of these guys' careers is just beginning. We're going to have these guys for a long time and if we want to string them up every time they go through a bad stretch, then we're never going to be a good franchise."

"You're always looking to see if you can improve your team. But I like this group and I like the depth that we have here. We'll keep our ears open as we get closer to the deadline. But we're like two-thirds of the NHL, we work under a business framework and whatever deals we make have to fit into that plan."

The Blues are currently structured to win low-scoring, close games. They're No. 1 in the NHL with a 1.94 goals-against average and are also tops in the League in shots allowed at 26.4. The core group has an average age of 23.9.

"It was built to be a hard-working, competitive team that has to be comfortable playing in tight games," Armstrong said. "Some of the teams that are ahead of us in the standings are playing the majority of the games and winning in shootouts. Well, that equation leaves in the playoffs. Our shootout record hasn't been good, but if we're fortunate enough to make the playoffs, we don't have to worry about that. So I like the way we're set up."

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