CALGARY - A season-long six-game road trip to start the season isn't easy to begin with, but it’s even more difficult when you lose a top-six forward.
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock announced Monday that Robby Fabbri sustained a concussion in the first period Saturday against Minnesota. His absence will create an opportunity for forward Scottie Upshall, who will make his regular-season Blues debut tonight when the Blues meet the Calgary Flames (8 p.m. CT, FSMW, Y98 FM).
“You don’t want to say you’re not going to miss a beat, but we’re getting guys who know how to play the game and they’re going to enhance it,” Hitchcock said of Upshall and free agent signing Scott Gomez. “We’re going to miss Robby. We’re going to miss his spunk, but (Scottie Upshall and Scott Gomez) will be excellent replacements.”
Based on Monday's practice, Upshall figures to slot in on a line with David Backes and Dmitrij Jaskin.
“They’re two big hard players to play against who can score and work extremely hard,” Upshall said of his linemates. “I’m looking forward to that. I think I can add some speed to the line and play fast, play hard and hopefully chip in and be a big line for us.”
“We played (this line) a couple times in exhibition, and one of the games in exhibition we were forced to play it. I like what’s there,” Hitchcock said. “Upshall can play the left or right. He’s going to give good energy, give good speed, he’s hard on the forecheck and he’s real good on the wall, so he’s going to be a compatible player.”
For Upshall, playing in a game that counts has been a long-time coming. His last game was April 11 with Florida, who missed the postseason. The 12-year NHL veteran has 234 points (115 goals, 119 assists) in 553 regular-season games.
“The last couple of weeks has been pretty special for me to be here,” Upshall said. “I feel fortunate to be here with this group of guys. Now to have an opportunity to play here in Calgary, in an arena that I’m familiar with, I’m looking forward to the challenge and cherishing the opportunity for sure.”
The Blues have earned points in seven consecutive games against Calgary. Last year, the Blues swept the season series, outscoring the Flames 12-2.
Calgary improved to 1-1 on the season after a 3-2 overtime victory Saturday against the Canucks.
“(We need to) try to play road hockey: take the crowd out of it, play our style, get on teams early and try to stay on the gas pedal,” said Brian Elliott, who will start tonight for St. Louis. “This team always is a fast team and they can come at you in waves. I’m sure it hasn’t changed since last year… we’ve got to be prepared to handle their skill.”
STASTNY TORCHES FLAMES
Historically, Blues forward Paul Stastny has always been on fire against the Flames. In 43 games against Calgary, Stastny has recorded 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists).
It’s his highest point total against any opponent, and 16 points better than his second-most (35 points vs. Edmonton). But ask the Blues’ center about the stat and he’ll give you a pretty modest answer.
“Early in my career, I played them eight times a year, so there’s been a lot of games against these guys,” Stastny said. “When you play them that many times, you’re going to put up good numbers.”
Changes to the third defensive pairing will continue tonight as Hitchcock plans to bring Joel Edmundson back into the lineup.
Hitchcock said Colton Parayko, Robert Bortuzzo and Edmundson could rotate for the next handful of games.
“We’re going to continue to move guys in and out,” Hitchcock said. “We’re going to decide probably in (the next) 10 games before we solidify into a group of six.”
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Troy Brouwer
Dmitrij Jaskin - David Backes - Scottie Upshall
Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko - Joel Edmundson
The last time Elliott played at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, he turned aside 25 Flames’ shots en route to a franchise record 21st shutout as a Blue. Going even further back, Elliott has won five straight starts against Calgary, recording two shutouts with a 0.80 goals-against average and a .964 save-percentage.
Last season, the Blues finished with the third-best regular season road winning percentage in the League (.646), trailing only Anaheim (.659) and the New York Rangers (.707).
Rookie defenseman Colton Parayko played 19 minutes and 22 seconds Saturday in Minnesota. Through two games, he ranks fourth among rookie defensemen ice time with an 18:03 average.
Vladimir Tarasenko has points in five consecutive games against Calgary (three goals, three assists).