ST. LOUIS — As the old adage goes…when it rains, it pours.
The Blues have been rattled by injuries up and down the roster during the 2015-2016 campaign, and only 3 players have managed to steer free of injured reserve.
Goaltender Brian Elliott, who was arguably the team’s best player over the last 17 games, suffered a lower-body injury during the first period of Monday night’s game against San Jose. That left Jake Allen, who had been recovering from his own injury since Jan. 8 and fresh off of injured reserve, to step into action much more quickly than he’d anticipated. Now it will be Allen getting the nod as Elliott spends time recovering on IR. The Blues have called up Pheonix Copley to back Allen until Elliott returns, which likely won’t be for the rest of the regular season. The Blues front office may consider options at the deadline for experience in net, which would make sense if this team reaches postseason and tries to make a deep run for the Stanley Cup. That way, if Elliott is still injured and Allen is the only net minder with experience under playoff pressure, then the Blues will have a guy that can step in if needed.
Every injury for St. Louis has been accompanied by others, causing the IR list to grow quickly, sometimes by two or three players at a time. Elliott’s injury is coupled with the recent loss of Alexander Steen to IR for a fractured arm. Over the past few weeks, Jake Allen and Jaden Schwartz have been spending time on IR. Alex Pietrangelo and Steve Ott are still recovering from lower body injuries. The Blues haven’t had a single game all season in which all 20 players on the bench were fully rested and healthy.
But numbers aren’t the only problem.
Attempting to keep pace in the Central Division is daunting, and with each injury, the task becomes more difficult. Hitchcock struggles to get the consistent line combinations that he wants on the ice, and knows the importance of operating more smoothly under the intense pressure down the stretch and in the playoffs.
The Blues must once again handle the unpredictability of injury. Ultimately, getting the entire team healthy, and keeping them healthy, is extremely important. There may be a need at the trade deadline to address the current holes, but it is also possible that Armstrong turns to the talent already present in the Blues’ farm system.