Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stastny Is Coming into His Own in St. Louis; NHL: BLUES

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stastny Is Coming into His Own in St. Louis; NHL: BLUES

Article excerpt

After scoring a goal on opening night and netting three assists in his second game as a Blue, Paul Stastny seemed to be on his way to proving that the franchise made a wise investment bringing the St. Louisan back home with a four-year, $28 million free-agent contract.

A tough-luck moment less than a minute into the Blues' game at Arizona on Oct. 18, however, put Stastny's season on hold. A hit by the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal led to a separated shoulder, forcing him to sit out two weeks and miss eight games.

"That's part of the game, it happens," Stastny said. "But it's tough when you're a new guy to a new team your first year. You're excited and then all the sudden it sets you back. You're starting from zero all over again."

Stastny returned to the Blues' lineup in early November, but in his first eight games back scored just one goal, albeit a game- winner against Nashville. He admitted after the fact that he had been overly protective of his shoulder.

"I thought until he got hurt, he was starting to really come on," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought when he got hurt, he took a while to get back up to speed."

"That injury ... that's tough," Blues teammate T.J. Oshie said. "You're coming in off of a summer where you're working hard, your body is in the condition that you want it to be in and you hurt your shoulder and then you've got to sit out.

"Then jumping right into it, and with the pressure from the media and the fans that he's going to come in and dominate, when we're very team-oriented in how we get our wins."

As Stastny gets set tonight to face his former team, the Colorado Avalanche, for whom he spent the first eight seasons of his career, he seems to be rolling again. He carried a four-game point-streak into tonight's game against the Avs, with four of his seven goals on the season coming in the last three games and five of his 12 points in the past four games.

But Stastny's production could be less about the health of his left shoulder as it his continuing adaptation to Hitchcock's system, a philosophy that the center admits is less "risk-reward" than in Colorado and one that despite his recent scoring spree will take more time to match comfort levels.

"I wouldn't say it's hard to adjust," Stastny said. "With the amount of skill we have, I think we could be doing other things to create more chances. But that's the way our system is. Sometimes you've just got to keep sticking to it. So far, it's paying off and I think we're playing well this year."

It's not as if Stastny didn't know what he was signing up for, and a check of the standings shows the Blues are tied for second- place in the Central Division, 14 points ahead of last year's division-winning Avalanche. …

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