Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pietrangelo Works on Improvement; Defensemen Already Is in Town, Looks for Big Things from Blues; NHL

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pietrangelo Works on Improvement; Defensemen Already Is in Town, Looks for Big Things from Blues; NHL

Article excerpt

The injury that changed the complexion - but likely not the outcome - of the Blues' second-round playoff series against the LA Kings is fully healed.

Alex Pietrangelo's knee sprain was stable enough for him to return for Game 3 of the series, but following the Kings' four-game sweep of the Blues, the defenseman needed time to recuperate.

"It took about two or three weeks, staying off lateral stuff and all that," Pietrangelo said. "But to be honest with you, it felt strong the whole time as soon as I stopped skating. It feels fine now. I don't have any issues with it. I think it progressed better than I thought it would."

Pietrangelo was back in St. Louis last week, pumping the pedals on an exercise bike at the Blues' practice facility. There are still two months before players report for training camp, but several have been trickling into town to check in with the club. These visits are typical in the offseason, but Pietrangelo is like many of his teammates who recently have returned, saying he's motivated by "watching the Kings win the (Stanley) Cup and knowing that could have been us."

Despite having his career ahead of him, Pietrangelo, 22, isn't resting on a superb sophomore season, in which he netted 12 goals and 51 points. His 51 points were an eight-point increase from his rookie season and ranked fifth in the NHL among defensemen.

Observers agreed that Pietrangelo's campaign deserved Norris Trophy consideration as the league's top defenseman, but in the final vote, he finished fourth behind the finalists: Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, Nashville's Shea Weber and Boston's Zdeno Chara. Karlsson took home the award.

"It definitely feels good to know that you've accomplished that (recognition)," Pietrangelo said. "You've got to take that as a compliment and use that as motivation to maybe get into that top three next year or have a chance to win it.

"(But) I want to help this team win. ... That's my ultimate goal. Meaning, I've got to play better or take more of a load on my shoulders. That's what I'm going to do, keep working to get better, keep working to get stronger and try to influence games even more."

It would be difficult for the Blues to give Pietrangelo, who was the No. 4 overall pick in 2008, any more responsibility than he had last season. He led the club in ice time per game (24 minutes, 43 seconds), finishing first in even-strength ice time (18:38) and second in power-play time (2:52) and shorthanded time (3:12).

"He's an elite player," Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. "He was drafted in the area where you hope you get something special, and ... we have the potential to have a special player. Alex, he affects our team in so many ways now, touches all aspects, and he's also starting to emerge as a leader on our team, which is very important moving forward. We think the sky is the limit for him, and the great part about that is he controls his own destiny. …

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