April 29, 2012
Pietrangelo injury has Blues hurting
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY
ST. LOUIS - You know you're in a tough spot when losing the opening game of a playoff series is only your second-biggest problem.
The St. Louis Blues can deal with being down 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings. It's the fear of losing Alex Pietrangelo that haunts their dressing room right now.
The Blues' best defenceman didn't practice Sunday and is doubtful for Game 2 Monday after being hit from behind by L.A.'s Dwight King in the opener. The Blues aren't saying anything about Pietrangelo's condition (suspected concussion symptoms) or prognosis, but his teammates are bracing for the worst.
"It's tough, he's not only one of our best defencemen, he's probably one of our best players," said Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk after Sunday's practice. "We lose a great player."
Pietrangelo is Mr. Everything for the Blues -- he kills penalties, works the power play and logs more key minutes than anyone on the team -- so if he's out, dropping one game might be the least of their concerns.
"He means a lot to our team, he plays a lot of minutes, a lot of situations, and he's a guy who can be a game changer," said St. Louis's Carlo Colaiacovo. "But if he's out, we can't just fold up the tent and say it's over. We'll miss him but we have to find ways to fill the void."
The Blues are not at all happy with the second-period incident, nor with how the on-ice officials dealt with it at the time. A two-minute minor for a hit from behind that drew blood and resulted in a possible concussion seems rather light to them.
"It's tough to watch," said Shattenkirk. "As a player there, you have to hold up when he's that far off the boards. (King) sees his back the whole way. You have to be able to put the brakes on there and not follow through."
The Blues were even wondering out loud if L.A. had a bulls-eye on the on 22-year-old Pietrangelo.
"You're hoping there's no ill-intent there but when there's a third-line guy finishing our best defenceman..." said David Backes, not finishing the thought. "He sees nothing but numbers and all of a sudden there's two guys piling on, it looks like there may be a little extra-curricular.
"I hope none of the guys in this league try and hurt guys... we'll see what happens."
The Kings, not surprisingly, don't think the incident merited more than a minor.
"It's a tough game," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who believes Pietrangelo's own momentum was as much to blame as anything. "You guys want to take hitting right out and we'll see how exciting it is."
With or without the star blueliner, the show must go on, and there's no time for the Blues to feel sorry for themselves. They'll probably have all summer to do that if they lose Game 2 at home.
"It's a wake up-call," said Backes. "We had a week off where maybe we had too much time to listen to people tell us how good we are. It was a reality check. This team is not going to lie down and roll over for us. They're going to compete until the bitter end."
Indeed. While St. Louis lost the first game against San Jose before storming back to win in five, they are well aware that the Kings are not the Sharks.
"We're facing a different beast here," said Shattenkirk. "This team is hard to push out of games, they're hard to stay on top of for a full 60 minutes. It's going to take that much more commitment."