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Wednesday Night Rivalry

Kevin Shattenkirk stays focused for Blues

Defenseman able to 'deal with' trade rumors, help St. Louis win four straight games

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- With his name circulating in trade rumors, St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk knows he can't avoid the subject.

That was certainly the base last week when the Blues played at the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens and the 28-year-old faced plenty of questions from the Canadian media about his future. But Shattenkirk, who leads the Blues with 28 assists and has 11 goals in 56 games, seems to be taking it all in stride.

"I think last week was probably the toughest week just as far as media and the attention being in Canada," Shattenkirk said Tuesday. "I want to say in a way, I have a luxury of playing in St. Louis because it's not really at the forefront, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it's something that I'm prepared for and I'm ready to take it day by day and see [what] comes and goes. It's been present all year, so I think that helped me deal with it."

As one of the top targets with the NHL Trade Deadline approaching March 1, Shattenkirk, in the final year of a four-year, $17 million contract and due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is expected to be in the lineup for the Blues (29-22-5) when they face the Detroit Red Wings (22-24-10) in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV) - unless, of course, he is traded.

Because Shattenkirk is a pending free agent and St. Louis lost veterans David Backes and Troy Brouwer last summer to free agency, general manager Doug Armstrong may feel he has no choice but to trade him, even though the Blues are in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoff race. St. Louis, which has a four-game winning streak, tied for its season high, is in third place in the Central Division.

Coach Mike Yeo said Shattenkirk has handled the situation "unbelievably well, and we've had a couple of conversations about this. I've been around to see some similar situations where it really affects a player's play. I haven't seen that from him at all, and I really credit the reason for that is he has been all in to our group and I give him so much credit for that. He could be focused on himself and his own situation, but he's trying to help us win. He's trying to buy in and to dig into the game that we're trying to play. I'm happy that he's getting rewarded for that as well.

Video: STL@WPG: Shattenkirk, Stastny combine for nifty PPG

"If something happens, then it happens, but until then, he's on this team and he's a real important player for us and he's proven that."

Shattenkirk, who has 66 goals and 215 assists in 466 regular-season games over parts of seven seasons with the Blues, said St. Louis' recent run, his teammates' support and developments within the organization -- namely Yeo's replacing the fired Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1 -- have helped keep his status from being a distraction.

"The coaching change was something that helped me in a way and then focusing on turning this thing around here," said Shattenkirk, who has four points in the past four games. "That's my first priority, is not to worry about what's happening with me, it's what's happening with this team and I care a lot about these guys in the locker room. I don't want to show in any way shape or form that I'm not committed to what's going on here and make them think I'm not present in this locker room every game."

That approach is one reason Shattenkirk is a locker-room favorite.

"We've all heard the rumors or whatever, but he's been nothing but professional," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I'm especially impressed with the way he's handled everything. It never comes up, he never brings it up. It's a tough situation to be in when starting the summer and the way you view these things. … Look at the way he's playing. He's always a fantastic person away from the rink and in the locker room."

Shattenkirk has always maintained his love for St. Louis and the Blues, but when asked if he'd prefer to stay with them, Shattenkirk said he is focusing on the present.

"It's tough," Shattenkirk said. "You don't know what the situation's going to be. It's hard for me. … I think right now, what I'm trying to focus on is right here and now, and it's tough for me to think about that. That's something that you have to think about once you're done playing for the season, and we'll cross that bridge when it comes. There's obviously other situations that are presenting themselves now and that's one that you kind of forget about sometimes."

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