Pietrangelo's holdout not seen as a distraction by the Blues

News-DemocratSeptember 12, 2013 

The St. Louis Blues on Thursday opened their training camp. Here's a view from the ice.

NORM SANDERS/BND

— While the contract holdout of star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo continued Thursday, so did training camp for the St. Louis Blues.

And the Blues are determined not to let the absence of a crucial building block to their success get in the way of taking care of business on the ice in the three weeks they have to prepare for another NHL season.

"Obviously we're going to have to pick up the slack, but that's something we're prepared to do," veteran Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We have some depth that we're able to do that."

But the longer Pietrangelo sits out, couldn't it potentially damage the chemistry of a team hoping to make a deep playoff run?

"That's the business part of the game right now that we can't focus on," Jackman said. "Obviously Petro's a huge part of our team, he's a great character guy and one of our best players.

"But right now you've got to focus on what's on the ice and things we can control."

As a result, the Blues on Thursday simply moved defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk into Pietrangelo's old slot on the top defense pairing with Jay Bouwmeester.

Defenseman Ian Cole also earned praise from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney also began his bid to make the club as a pro tryout.

"We have a great group in the room that has dealt with different things throughout their careers and this is just another distraction that our team's equipped to handle," Jackman said. "It's between Petro and management and it really doesn't affect us right now."

Jackman has remained in close contact with Pietrangelo.

"I've talked to him throughout the summer and stuff, but there's nothing that I could say or do that will get him in," Jackman said. "I told him you've got to stick to your morals and eventually things will work out."

The Blues' management and players have been trying to compare Pietrangelo's absence to that of an injured player. But while that "injury" may be a simple one now, they'd rather not see it flare up into something requiring emergency aid.

"You can't control it, you've just got to go out there and play," Jackman said. "There's going to be different guys out of the lineup for different reasons throughout the season and adversity is what you have to overcome. That's what we're going to do."

One thing Jackman can't overcome is being one of the oldest players in training camp. Now 32, he broke in with the Blues back in 2002 and is the team's longest-tenured player.

Only 33-year-old defenseman Jordan Leopold is older than Jackman on the Blues' roster, but he just came aboard late last season.

"I was looking at it and there's guys that are 13 years younger than me in camp," Jackman said with a smile. "I'm definitely getting older, but still only 32 and Leo's a little bit older than me so I'm still not the oldest guy on the team."

While the Blues are still being referred to as a relatively young squad, many of their players --still in their mid 20s --have a lot of NHL experience.

That could be a critical factor for a club some feel is on the rise.

"(Captain David) Backes, he's a guy that's matured and now he's a leader of this hockey team and Alex Steen is the same age," Jackman said, noting that at 29 Backes and Steen are just three years younger than him. "There's guys in between 23 and 27 that are seasoned vets that have leadership and have a lot of character on this team."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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