The St. Louis Blues may have good news to start the 2016-17 season. Given the way the start was trending, it comes at a perfect time.
The St. Louis Blues have been coy about the injury status of Jake Allen. Reading between the lines indicates they do not expect the injury to be serious and have even hinted he is still in a position to start Wednesday’s opener in Chicago. Fans can at least breathe a little now, if not full, calm breaths.
The key for Allen will be how his ankle/knee (whichever is the issue) holds up in a pre-practice skate and then a full practice. According to Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, that is the plan for the netminder.
Allen will skate before Tuesday’s practice with the training staff. If there are no setbacks, he will take part in practice.
While on 101 ESPN, Rutherford said he asked Hitchcock if a Wednesday start would require everything to go perfectly. Hitchcock responded that it may not have to be perfect for that to happen.
“… If everything just goes well, he’s going to play Wednesday,” said Hitchcock. “That’s kinda what we’re assuming. So it doesn’t have to go really well, it just has to go well. He’s doing fine.”
Now, the Blues have had players labeled as “fine” before and then they are held out game after game. So, the coach’s reassurances won’t have that affect on the fans until they see Allen suit up.
The Blues have confidence in Carter Hutton and the fans seem to as well. If he only had to fill in for a game or a handful, that’s no problem.
If Allen is at all iffy, it might even make sense to hold him out. Perhaps save him for the home opener against Minnesota or even until Saturday against the Rangers.
Whatever the team’s decision, it must take into account the entire year. One game is not worth losing your starting goaltender for any length of time.
* UPDATE: Allen practiced in full Tuesday morning. He is expected to start against Chicago in the opener.
Nail Yakupov Practices
The Blues’ newest acquisition, Nail Yakupov, practiced with the team for the first time on Monday. While nobody is questioning his shape, even Yakupov acknowledged some adjustments.
Rutherford said he could tell Yakupov was in his first practice and getting used to new teammates and a different approach by the team style. Even the player said making the switch was difficult but is excited by the future.
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“It was a little bit difficult for me,” Yakupov said. “It was something different that I had in my life. It’s good to be back on the ice with the boys, you know. I met the players a few days ago and yesterday we see each other. So it seems like it’s a pretty good group and I’m excited to be on the ice with this team.”
The Blues expect to start with Yakupov on a line with Patrik Berglund at center and Dmitrij Jaskin on the opposite wing. There is talk that David Perron would take the other wing spot on that line when Jaden Schwartz returns.
In terms of potential, that could be a dangerous line. However, with both Perron and Yakupov’s tendency to avoid defensive responsibility, it could be a liability as well.
Colton Parayko Emulates Al MacInnis
When he came into the league, there were rumblings about the power behind the shot of Colton Parayko. There were even comparisons to a former Blues great.
Those comparisons seemed premature. Add to that, Parayko being hesitant to bomb away last season and it seemed even less likely.
Throw all that away now. Parayko has joined Al MacInnis in the feared shot category.
Parayko unleashed a bomb against Chicago in their final preseason game. The Hawks are now without an extra defenseman.
In truth, nobody ever really questioned Parayko’s power. It was whether or not he would feed the beast or not.
As long as this injury does not quiet the soft spoken defender’s offense, it could be a good omen. The more the Blues are comfortable letting loose from the point, the better.
Add to the fact it was a Chicago player that got knocked out (for a month too) and it gets even better. From a comical standpoint, it has no comparison to MacInnis almost making a woman of a goaltender, but it’s up there.
While we wait for official news on who will be the goaltender, the Blues forward lines are all but set for the season opener.
Fabbri – Stastny – Steen
Perron – Lehtera – Tarasenko
Jaskin – Berglund – Yakupov
Upshall – Brodziak – Reaves
The defenders and their combinations are still a little bit up in the air, but as of right now every indication given is they are set. For all the talk of certain people playing on the left or right or different combos, it looks very familiar.
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Gunnarsson – Shattenkirk
Bortuzzo – Parayko
Now, bumps and bruises or a bad practice could throw a wrench in that. For now, expect that to be the lineup to face Chicago.
Also, it could be argued whether this is good or bad, but Ty Rattie is still in St. Louis. Perhaps the team knows the AHL has little to offer Rattie, but if he won’t play much here then that doesn’t help him either.
Regardless of who plays with who – we all have lines we wanted and did not get – at least it’s exciting that the season is almost here. A new season should always bring new hope, regardless of who steps on the ice.