ST. LOUIS - With injuries to some of the Blues’ top forwards, the club has invited veterans Dainius Zubrus and Martin Havlat to St. Louis on professional tryouts.
Both players will practice with the organization for 10 days as Blues management debates whether signing one (or both) would be beneficial in the absence of Paul Stastny (broken foot), Jaden Schwartz (broken ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder).
Both Zubrus and Havlat participated in their first practice with the Blues on Wednesday at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall.
“I was excited, very excited,” said Zubrus, who has played in 18 NHL seasons with Philadelphia, Montreal, Washington, Buffalo and most recently, New Jersey. “I’ve been waiting for a call like this for a couple months and it never happened. I was hoping it did. I was very happy to have a chance and an opportunity, that’s all I can ask for.”
Zubrus, who spent last season with the Devils, has been living in New Jersey with his family and working out to remain in shape. At 37, the Elektrenai, Lithuania native said he feels like his conditioning is great.
“I just have to skate more,” Zubrus said after practice Wednesday. “There’s nothing like skating with NHL players and I haven’t had that. (I just need to) skate as much as I can and hopefully do enough to stay here a week from now.”
Zubrus has 584 points (225 goals, 359 assists) and 771 penalty minutes in 1,243 career regular season games, as well as 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) and 72 penalty minutes in 92 career postseason appearances.
Halvat joined the Florida Panthers for training camp last month on a professional tryout and by all accounts, had a great camp.
“I still love the game,” Havlat said. “I like to play and I’m happy I got the chance to come here and skate with the boys today. It was fun.”
In 14 NHL seasons, Havlat has played with Ottawa, Chicago, Minnesota, San Jose and New Jersey. A 2006-07 All-Star, he has 788 career NHL games and has registered 593 points (241 goals, 352 assists).
“I’m comfortable with our group right now, (but) it’s planning for the best and hoping there are no more injuries,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said of adding Zubrus and Havlat. “We want to make sure we’re expending all of our resources to make sure we have enough depth. On short-term injuries, you’re comfortable with the depth in your American League system and your own organization, but having (Jaden) Schwartz and (Patrik) Berglund out until likely the All-Star Game or later and (Paul) Stastny not back until December, it made it a potentially low-risk, high-return move. We’d been looking at a few different players and these were a few guys we’d focused in on.”
“Both guys come from really good structured programs. They know how to work, they know how to play the game the right way,” added Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. “If they look like they’ve got the enthusiasm and the energy, just based on their own playing ability, they would help any team.”