Blues happy to have Pietrangelo back; Whitney being given a shot

News-DemocratSeptember 14, 2013 

— What seemed like another average day of training camp for the St. Louis Blues on Friday quickly turned into a sigh of relief.

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's holdout ended when he signed a seven-year deal worth $45.5 million.

"I think with training camp and exhibition games, he's going to get up to speed," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He hasn't missed much. We kept him up to date until we couldn't speak to him anymore.

"Just missing the first two ice sessions isn't a big deal. He'll catch up to speed right away."

Hitchcock now presides over one of the NHL's deepest defense units with Pietrangelo and veteran Jay Bouwmeester on the top pairing. Veterans Kevin Shattenkirk, Jordan Leopold, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Ian Cole round out the group, with veteran Ryan Whitney also in camp on a tryout.

"For (Alex), for the team, for where we want to go to the next level, all those things, I think it's important," Hitchcock said. "It's not a distraction now. Our team's in place. Now it's just who can do what during training camp."

Blues players also were happy to put the Pietrangelo holdout questions to rest.

"He's a big part of the team and it's obviously good news for the team today," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "It's done now, there's no reason for speculating what if it hadn't gone down. Petro's a big part of it, not just on the ice but in the room. I'll be glad to see him whenever he gets here."

So will Blues captain David Backes.

"He's a guy that makes us better," Backes said. "He's a top defenseman in this league, no question. To know that he's with us, we can knock that distraction off the list, (the) kind of peripheral noise. We know that we've got our guys together and can build."

Backes was asked how Pietrangelo must have felt, sitting at home while his teammates were cranking things up in training camp.

"The moral of the story is it was very short-lived, and I think it shows on both sides that Petro wanted to be here long term and the Blues wanted him here long term," Backes said. "It's a great relationship that's going to be great for this organization for the long term."

The Whitney equation

When the Blues signed the 30-year-old Whitney to a pro tryout contract earlier this summer, it seemed like solid defense insurance against the holdout of Pietrangelo or injury.

Do things change now that Pietrangelo is back with a seven-year deal?

"He's going to get a full go here," Hitchcock said. "This guy is a good player and we need a full evaluation on him. If he beats somebody out, he beats somebody out. That's just the way it is. He came here to try out for a hockey club and we're going to give him every go to make the team."

Given the Blues' history of injuries on defense, it may not be a bad idea to give Whitney long look. The former fifth overall pick has 50 goals and 259 points in 474 NHL games and has played the past four seasons with Edmonton.

"For sure," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "He made a commitment to our team. He's going to get some exhibition games. He's a big, strong player (and) you can never have too many good players.

"We'll see how the rest of the players perform in training camp. But we're in the winning business."

Around the rink

Day 2 of training camp included another strong showing by the line of Patrik Berglund centering Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Hitchcock specifically named Paajarvi and two more newcomers, center Maxim Lapierre and Whitney on defense, as having solid practice sessions.

"I thought the new guys looked a little bit tight or nervous yesterday and today they were going," Hitchcock said. "They're not just good players, they've got great speed; especially the forwards, and that really adds a lot to the mix for us.

"They're able to create separation that maybe last year we couldn't create."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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