http://www.stltoday.com/sports/hockey/p ... 5a739.html
Put yourself in Magnus Paajarvi’s shoes, or skates. It hasn’t been easy.
The 22-year-old Swede came to St. Louis in a high-profile trade during the summer, a deal that sent forward David Perron to Edmonton.
Paajarvi was genuinely excited to join the Blues, eager to reward their faith, anxious to make the transaction look right. And when the Blues play their first road game in Chicago tonight — their sixth game of the season — Paajarvi finally will get his chance.
Perron had a goal and five assists in his first seven games for the Oilers. Paajarvi has wrinkled trousers and empty pretzels bowls to show for his first few days with the Blues.
“The team is going very well,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be on the team. I want to be a part of it and, obviously, I want a bigger part. I want to play every game. Of course it’s tough mentally, because I’ve never been in this situation.
“But I’m going to just be patient, keep working. A positive attitude is critical I think.”
Paajarvi has been a victim of circumstances, to some extent. The Blues made a move late into training camp to sign free agent winger Brenden Morrow. The team earlier had signed another veteran, center Derek Roy.
Morrow and Roy are elders, with well established NHL resumes. Moreover, both have played for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock in the past. They know the playbook, so to speak. They know the “200-foot” manifesto. They know what “HitchHockey” is all about.
“It was very easy for Derek and Brenden to fit it,” Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock insists Paajarvi had a “terrific” training camp and has done nothing to warrant a press box pass. But when the season started, something had to give on a deep roster. For Hitchcock, the decision was a matter of seniority.
“You don’t want to leave veteran players on the sidelines, so it’s simple,” Hitchcock said. “I’ve always been a believer in giving the benefit of the doubt to the veteran, as long as they’re working hard and competing.
“There’s no issue with Magnus. He’s been a good player. Part of development is desperation. So younger players are sometimes discouraged because they’ve been with other programs. But here, this organization gives first benefit of doubt to veteran players.”
That said, Hitchcock said Paajarvi will be in the lineup tonight against Chicago. For one, the team will be without center Maxim Lapierre, who has been suspended for a hit on Dan Boyle Tuesday night. Additionally, Morrow did not practice Wednesday after crashing into the boards on Tuesday night.
Where Paajarvi fits in will depend on Morrow’s availability and depend on Chicago’s lineup. But Hitchcock added: “Knowing the way he is from a practice standpoint, once he gets in he’s going to be hard to take out.”
Hitchcock said he will use either Vlad Sobotka or Adam Cracknell in Lapierre’s center spot on the fourth line. He acknowledged Morrow was “banged up” but suggested he could be available for Chicago.
“We gave him the day off today,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll see what Chicago brings to the table. For sure Paajarvi is playing, and we’ll see whether Brenden needs another day off or not.”
For those who wonder, the league looked at the Brent Burns collision that sent Morrow slamming into the boards on Tuesday. Burns received a two-minute boarding penalty on the play, but it has been determined the incident does not warrant further discipline.
A video on NHL.com, under “Player Safety Education,” explains why. In a nutshell, there is no supplemental discipline involved when a player initiates contact but loses the physical battle. Presumably, that’s how the league interpreted the contact between Burns and Morrow.