Blues get good news on injury front; Lapierre nearing a return

News-DemocratOctober 28, 2013 

— The St. Louis Blues got some fairly good news on the injury front Monday as winger Chris Stewart returned to practice and Magnus Paajarvi's upper-body injury wasn't deemed serious.

Paajarvi was injured on a hit during the first period against Nashville on Saturday and will miss Tuesday's home game against Winnipeg.

"It was in the offensive zone. I'm not sure who it was that hit him, but he got hit into the boards," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "It's not that serious and hopefully he's back up and running here in a couple days."

Stewart was also hurt during the Nashville game, but was back on the ice at practice Monday.

"He's fine, no issues," Hitchcock said. "Ready to go."

Forward Adam Cracknell centered the team's fourth line at practice Monday with Paajarvi out and center Maxim Lapierre sitting out the final game of his five-game suspension.

Much has been said about the Blues' depth on forward and defense this season.

"I don't think you want to start absorbing a bunch of injuries just to test it out," Hitchcock said. "When you've got people that can play multiple positions that can fill in..a guy like Cracknell can come in and play anywhere in your lineup. He can play up or he can play down, it's a good thing for us.

"We know he's going to come in and help us. The game he played in Winnipeg...he was one of our better players."

Blues defenseman Barret Jackman also left practice early Monday.

"He blocked a shot (in the last game) and we wanted to get him up and running for a little bit," Hitchcock said. "He'll be good to go (Tuesday)."

Lapierre ready to return

Lapierre is anxious to return the lineup following a five-game suspension for his hit from behind on San Jose's Dan Boyle.

"I just can't wait to come back and be part of the group," Lapierre said. "We're still hoping that Dan's going to feel better soon. It's different practicing than playing, but I know I did 100 percent of everything I had to do off the ice through my suspension to be in great shape."

Will the suspension change Lapierre's physical style of play?

"I've got to come back and play the game I've played all my career," he said. "But I'm not going to lie, a hit like that always makes you think a lot. I've been a player that's talked all my career and says things on the ice, being an agitator.

"But I don't consider myself as a dirty player. I've been in the league maybe eight years; I've averaged 200 hits a year and two were bad. It's never fun to see an event happen like what happened with Dan Boyle, but if I look at that percentage I don't think I'm a dirty player."

Neither does Hitchcock.

"I think sometimes everybody gets wrapped up in the emotion of the game," Hitchcock said. "I have no doubt that he's going to come back and play well. He's not a player that's going to make his living playing carefully."

Hitchcock said Lapierre can't let this suspension take away from the aggressive play that has been his trademark.

"He plays a reckless style and we're hoping he keeps it up," Hitchcock said. "It's an unfortunate situation that happened; in our view that was a hockey play that went bad. We miss him, we miss his personality in the locker room. I'm really looking forward to getting him back."

Around the rink

*Hitchcock said wingers Stewart and Vladimir Tarasenko could find themselves swapping lines during games or even on a game-to-game basis depending on the matchups.

*The Blues have the top power-play in the NHL after a 2-for-5 night during Saturdays 6-1 win pushed their success rate to 30.3 percent. The Blues have at least one power-play goal in seven of nine games this season.

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

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