The St. Louis Blues wrapped up preseason action Saturday afternoon against the Dallas Stars. Though the game itself proved unsuccessful, the implications of on-ice activity will shape the first few months of the Blues’ season.
Saturday’s game served as a showcase for the few skaters fighting for roster spots. As the end of the preseason loomed, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter, and Evgeny Grachev remained in the running for the final two forward spots. Given the different styles of the players, comparing the three was relatively difficult. Ultimately, the Blues’ coaching staff would be forced to pick players that filled the line needs of the team rather than picking the most dynamic or talented.
However, late in the third period of the Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Dallas, St. Louis right winger B.J. Crombeen fell into the boards, sustaining a broken left shoulder blade. Crombeen is expected to miss six to eight weeks, though the team website lists him as “out indefinitely.” With the expected absence of Crombeen, the Blues elected to keep Porter, Reaves, and Grachev with the NHL club, and rotate them through the lineup depending on the opponent.
Additionally, the Blues resolved their goaltending battle. Throughout the preseason, Ben Bishop and Brian Elliot were fighting for the opportunity to back up Jaroslav Halak throughout the regular season. Ultimately, the team elected to send Bishop to Peoria and retain Elliot. Blues GM Doug Armstrong maintained that Bishop did not disappoint in camp, but the team elected to go with “experience.” Given Halak’s less than stellar preseason showing, the team may need that experience if they want to be successful this season. In three games, Halak went 1-2 with a 2.68 GAA and a .869 SV %. Though the preseason is not entirely representative of the regular season, Halak must put up better numbers than that to keep his starting position behind one of the West’s up-and-coming teams.
On a lighter note, preseason bumps were encountered for Carlo Colaiacovo and Jason Arnott, but both are expected to be ready and 100% for the season opener. Colaiacovo sustained a minor chest injury in last Thursday’s matchup with Colorado and Arnott underwent minor surgery to remove cataracts in his right eye.
As the preseason closes, teams define their rosters and strategies. For the Blues, that means defining a forward core, choosing a backup goaltender, and experimenting with line chemistry. Given the new depth added this offseason and the emergence of their young core, they are looking to return to the playoffs next April. Only once the season opens will the Blues be able to determine if they have what it takes to succeed.