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Blues dodge bullet on D'Agostini hit

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS -- Matt D'Agostini was back at practice Wednesday after leaving Saturday's 1-0 win over San Jose, a game in which the winger left the game after a blue-line hit from the Sharks' Jamie McGinn.

D'Agostini, who called it a good, clean hit, skated for about 30 minutes on the team's off-day Tuesday, resumed working with them Wednesday and will play tonight against the Rangers after taking part in the morning skate.

With the rash of concussions to players in recent weeks, the Blues feel like they may have dodged a bullet.

"I felt very symptom-free the last couple days," D'Agostini said. "They take a lot of precautions nowadays with the way the head injuries have been. Understandably so, but I've been feeling good and felt good out at practice today.

"It just kind of gave me a little whiplash kind of effect, kind of a stiff neck and everything, but the head was fine. They just wanted to make sure nothing more came of it."


Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Vladimir Sobotka, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, was feeling a lot better Wednesday after injuring his left ankle at Monday's practice when he blocked a shot from teammate Alex Steen during a drill. The Blues have said they will re-evaluate Sobotka in two weeks.

Sobotka was still in a walking boot and walking with crutches Wednesday, and Hitchcock said he'll remain in the boot until at least the swelling subsides so the team can have a better idea of what they're dealing with.

"Sobe feels a lot better today, so that's good news," Hitchcock said. "When you get that type of injury, if he's showing the improvement he is, that's a good sign. He was a lot better today than he was even yesterday. I don't think we're going to be much further than the two-week window if he keeps improving."


Evgeny Grachev, recalled from Peoria on Tuesday to replace Sobotka on the active roster, is expected to get into the lineup in at least one of the next three games, according to Hitchcock. The Blues coach liked the role Grachev, who was acquired at the NHL Entry Draft from the Rangers for a third-round pick, played during his three games with the Rivermen.

"One of the things intriguing to me about Grachev is he went down and played a different role down there," Hitchcock said of Grachev, who was pointless in three games with Peoria while picking up 2 assists in 17 games with the Blues earlier this season. "Probably the role he's going to end up playing in the NHL. He got into the 5-on-5, PK, playing against the top lines roll down there, and he was very successful. I think it gives us more of an indication that we might be able to get our hands on a good third-line player over time rather than a scoring forward."


The Blues will go with red-hot Brian Elliott (12-2 with an NHL-best 1.45 goals-against average and .947 save percentage and tied with LA's Jonathan Quick with four shutouts) against the Rangers. But Hitchcock said Jaroslav Halak, who is has a 1.66 GAA and .936 save percentage over his last nine starts, will go for the Blues on Saturday in Nashville as well as Sunday against Columbus.


Both Hitchcock and Rangers coach John Tortorella dissected the game and offered that much will not be conceded tonight between the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the NHL as far as goals-against per game average.

The Blues, who come in second at No. 2, know the challenge that they face.

"They're hard on the puck. They compete every shift," Hitchcock said of the Rangers. "They don't take a shift off. They don't take a puck battle off. I told our players today they're arguably the best 3-on-3 team in both zones that we're going to play against. They close on you fast. They hang onto it in the offensive zone. That's a challenge."

Tortorella, whose team is coming off a 1-0 loss to Dallas Tuesday, sees a similar type of opponent tonight.

"Dallas was very structured and the same thing tonight, St. Louis is going to be a very structured, defensive-oriented team," Tortorella said. "We just have to stay within ourselves and not make a big mistake and where it's in our net."

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