Petteri Lindbohm

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Scary thought: The Blues are starting to get healthy

As one bad headache begins to relieve itself for St. Louis Blues head coach Mike Yeo, a new, good one is starting to begin.

By most estimations, Yeo’s St. Louis Blues simply weren’t supposed to be doing this well this early. Or even at all.

Decimated by injuries before one puck had been dropped in the NHL’s 2017-18 regular season, the Blues were forced to rely on depth players to carry some of the load.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch summed it up like this in late September:

In Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), Robby Fabbri (knee), Petteri Lindbohm (shoulder), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Alexander Steen (hand) the Blues currently have 310 games, 53 goals and 81 assists from the 2016-17 regular season on the sidelines.

That’s a lot to replace and expect to still rattle off the wins.

Berglund’s offseason injury to his shoulder required surgery and a four-to-six-month timeline to heal – a tough pill to swallow on a team hoping for swift recoveries from Fabbri and Lindbohm, who also went under the knife.

And then training camp came and things got much, much worse.

Fabbri’s season was over as it was just beginning after he tore his ACL in his left knee on Sept. 24, the same ACL that was surgically repaired just months before in February. Seven days earlier, 15-year veteran defenseman Bouwmeester fractured his ankle and two days before Bouwmeester’s injury, winger Sanford dislocated his left shoulder, rendering him out for five-to-six months.

Yet, instead of crumbling, the Blues somehow managed to excel.

The Blues went 10-3-1 in October and two-thirds of the way through November, St. Louis is the top dog in the Central Division, the Western Conference, and the second place team in the whole of the NHL.

Not too shabby from the Band-Aid brigade. The depth general manager Doug Armstrong has managed to put together is impressive.

His offseason acquisition in Brayden Schenn has thrived in his new threads, with eight goals and 26 points and a current seven-game point streak. Schenn, the fourth-best point producer in the NHL thus far this season, is tied for the team lead in points with Jaden Schwartz, whose early season trends have him on pace for a career year, already having amassed 10 goals and 16 helpers.

The type of headache that doesn’t require an Advil begins for Yeo on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, a game that will be live on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET.

Bouwmeester will play his first game of the season on Tuesday as he’s been deemed fit to return to the lineup.

The 34-year-old is expected to resume commanding big minutes, as he has done throughout his 15-year career. Blues fans will be hoping he can help out their 23rd-ranked penalty kill. He’s been pretty good in that area.

His return leaves the Blues with eight healthy defensemen, leaving Yeo with what he called a “good problem to have” on Monday.

Yeo has played rookie Vince Dunn in all 21 games this season and the 2015 second-round pick has done more than just earn his keep in the Blues rearguard, averaging 16:38 per night. Yeo said Monday that Dunn needs to be playing. It’s expected that Carl Gunnarsson makes way for Bouwmeester.

Meanwhile, Lou Korac of NHL.com reported that Berglund could be ready come early December, if not earlier.

Berglund practiced in Monday’s full-contact skate and has been working with the team on-ice for a while now.

It appears more good problems are in Yeo’s future.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

On eve of playoffs, Blues 100 percent healthy for ‘first time all year’

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Blues captain David Backes was back at practice today.

So too was Troy Brouwer, Jake Allen and Steve Ott.

What did that mean? Well, something quite remarkable, per the Post-Dispatch:

[It] meant that every Blue was in uniform and accounted for Tuesday. That’s a total of 26 players, including 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. That borders on a miracle for a roster that has lost 288 man games to injury this season.

“It was good, first time all year,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Nice to see, got some choices now. See how it goes tomorrow.”

Asked if every player was available for Game 1, Hitchcock replied: “Yeah, 100 percent, we’re to go … so let’s play. Thanks.”

To say the Blues have been besieged by injuries this season is an understatement. Only one player — Brouwer — appeared in all 82 contests while key contributors like Ott, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz each played in 50 or fewer.

With all these healthy bodies, Hitchcock does have some legitimate lineup decisions to make. One of the byproducts of St. Louis’ health issues is that several depth players saw quality minutes and playing time this year.

For example, Robert Bortuzzo and Petteri Lindbohm were the extra defensemen at Tuesday’s practice. The two combined to play 50 games this year.

Up front, there’s a surplus of experience as well. Ott, who suffered a major hamstrings injury and then diagnosed with colitis, hasn’t appeared in a game since December but has 46 career playoff contests on his resume. Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin, played 48 and 65 games this season, respectively.

The Blues will open their playoff campaign against Chicago tomorrow night.

Blues send down four; keep young d-men Edmundson and Parayko

The St. Louis Blues have assigned two forwards, Magnus Paajarvi and Ty Rattie, and two defensemen, Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm, to AHL Chicago.

The moves mean that the Blues will have two young d-men, Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko, on the opening-day roster, after both impressed in camp.

From the Post-Dispatch:

Lindbohm and Butler looked to be the sixth and seventh defensemen, in that order, at the start of camp, but the play of Edmundson and Parayko won them spots. Parayko had six assists in the preseason, putting him among the NHL leaders. 

Forward Robby Fabbri will also be on the opening-day roster. The 19-year-old is not eligible for the AHL; he can only be returned to junior.

Earlier today, the Blues announced the signing of forward Scottie Upshall.

Major roster decisions looming in St. Louis

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The Blues have 29 players on their active roster heading into the final preseason stretch, meaning there’s just six cuts left before finalizing the 23-man roster.

Those final six decision don’t expect to be easy.

On defense, rookies Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko, both 22, have played their way into consideration for spots on an already strong blueline. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said their emergence was the preseason’s “biggest story,” while assistant coach Brad Shaw acknowledged what the ramification would be.

“We’re going to have to send down someone who’s a real good hockey player,” Shaw said, per the Post-Dispatch. “That’s great for our depth, tough for the guy that’s not playing here. Whoever is going down has a chance to play a ton of minutes down there and I’m sure they’ll be back there anyway.”

The big three of Alex Pierangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk are locked in for the start of the year. Injuries to Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo paved the way for Edmundson and Parayko to make their marks. Finnish blueliner Petteri Lindbohm is still fully in the mix and veteran Chris Butler cleared waivers today, meaning he’s still an option.

At forward, big decisions also loom.

Two of the club’s prized young prospects, Ty Rattie and Robby Fabbri, are pushing for roster spot, while veterans Scottie Upshall and Scott Gomez  continue to stick around on their PTOs (“they’ve earned the right to go right to the end,” Hitchcock said recently.)

This week, more developments — on TSN’s Insider Trading panel, Darren Dreger suggested the Blues were in the market for a top-nine forward.

It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if GM Doug Armstrong had one shakeup — or perhaps a couple shakeups — left in store. He already made some major alternations following April’s playoff disappointment; Barret Jackman was allowed to walk in free agency, T.J. Oshie was traded to Washington, Vladimir Tarasenko was given a massive contract extension and, with it, signaled a changing of the guard.

Armstrong called the Russian sniper a “great building block” that could “help lead us now,” suggesting the Blues might be ready to embrace youth more than they have in the past.