Stewart taking advantage of his size to beef up scoring totals

News-DemocratDecember 20, 2013 

— Moving St. Louis Blues winger Chris Stewart out of the slot or trying to dislodge him from in front of the net is no easy task.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound forward planted himself firmly in the slot Thursday against Montreal and took a perfect feed from behind the net from Brenden Morrow before scoring his 10th goal this season.

Heating up after not scoring a goal in his first 10 games, Stewart now has 10 goals and 17 points in 34 games. Getting himself into the scoring areas, something he's been trying to do more while being encouraged by the coaching staff, is paying off.

"It was kind of prototypical of our line, getting in on the forecheck and causing a turnover," Stewart said following the Blues' 5-1 victory over the Canadiens. "I think we're starting to find an identity. Any time you get a chance like that in the slot you're going to try to bear down and put 'er home."

With the Blues looking for production sources outside the red-hot No. 1 line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie, Stewart and winger Jaden Schwartz have been delivering.

Stewart has five goals and six points in his last five games while Schwartz, who played alongside Steen and Oshie on Thursday, has six goals and 13 points in his last 13 contests.

"I'm starting to get some bounces now," said Stewart, the Blues' top scorer last season with 18 goals and 36 points in 48 games. "I'm just trying to get to the net and get open."

Stewart was pleased to see Steen, who had two more goals Thursday to tie his previous career high of 24, get rewarded for his multi-level work with the Blues.

"When the news broke that he re-signed, everybody was fired up," Stewart said. "He's probably our biggest leader on the team and he plays with his heart on his sleeve every night, so it's good to see him get rewarded."

Steen is immensely popular among his teammates.

"He's been great since he's been here and the year he's having speaks for itself," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "It's the stuff behind the scenes, the way he leads in the weight room and off the ice and carries himself as a professional day-in and day-out.

"He's a great person to learn from, I know I'm learning from him. He deserves everything he's getting."

* The Blues reported Friday that Backes, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, will travel with the team for a two-game road trip to Edmonton and Calgary. Backes also practiced with the team on Friday.

Not making the road trip was injured forward Vladimir Sobotka (upper body), who on Friday was placed on injured reserve. That move likely was made to allow the Blues to recall another forward from the minors.

Sobotka has missed the last three games.

* Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong went to watch some of the team's top prospects with the Chicago Wolves earlier this week and got to see a two-goal game by winger Ty Rattie.

"He looked really good," Armstrong said. "He got the first three goals, one for them and two for us. I hadn't seen that in a long time, it was a delayed penalty and he was the guy coming off the bench.

"They went him to pass him the hit his skate and went into our empty net. We were down, but then he made amends and scored two quick ones."

The second-round pick in 2011 is the team's second-leading scorer with 11 goals and 18 points in 27 games. Another top prospect, forward Dmitrij Jaskin, has eight goals and 16 points in 19 games.

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

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