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Injury to Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk could mean bigger role for rookie defensemen

Jared Clinton
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Kevin Shattenkirk (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Injury to Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk could mean bigger role for rookie defensemen

Jared Clinton
By:

The St. Louis Blues lost Kevin Shattenkirk to a lower-body injury in the second period of Tuesday’s game against Calgary. If Shattenkirk is out for an extended period of time, rookies Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson may be called upon to take on bigger minutes.

There are a handful of players the St. Louis Blues could ill-afford to be without this season and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was high on that list. But in Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames, Shattenkirk left the game in the second period and did not return.

Shattenkirk suffered what the team called a lower-body injury, but it’s uncertain when or how exactly the 26-year-old blueliner fell injured. That said, judging by Shattenkirk’s ice time in Tuesday’s game, it appears the injury happened around the six-minute mark of the second period.

Early in Shattenkirk’s shift, he turned to recover a puck that had been sent into the Blues’ zone and was hit solidly by Calgary’s Sam Bennett and it appeared Shattenkirk’s knee took the brunt of the impact. Later in the play, Bennett and Shattenkirk engaged behind the net, with Bennett pinning Shattenkirk. The puck would leave St. Louis’ zone briefly before Calgary broke back towards the Blues goal. Flames winger Mason Raymond made a cross-ice pass to Jiri Hudler, who took a shot that hit the inside of Shattenkirk’s leg and left the defenseman kneeling on the ice:

Following Shattenkirk’s blocked shot, he skated only four more shifts. His first lasted 19 seconds, followed by shifts of 18, 56 and 72 seconds. After his final shift, which ended with more than four minutes remaining in the second period, Shattenkirk heading to the dressing room and did not return.

Post-game, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Shattenkirk left the game for precautionary reasons and would be evaluated Wednesday, but there’s still no certainty about what exactly forced Shattenkirk out of the game.

Since his first full season with the Blues in 2011-12, only two players, defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, have averaged more ice time per game than Shattenkirk. Not only that, but Shattenkirk has been the power play quarterback for the Blues, averaging more than three minutes per contest with the man advantage since 2011. Hitchcock has also used Shattenkirk as a penalty killer and, with veteran Barret Jackman now in Nashville, Shattenkirk has slid into a second-unit role when the Blues are down a man. Suffice to say, losing Shattenkirk for an extended period of time could hurt St. Louis in a big way.

That said Shattenkirk missing time could give young defenseman Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson even more room to stretch their legs. Already, Parayko has been impressing and has earned the trust of Hitchcock. Through three games, he has skated more time at 5-on-5 than Shattenkirk and Parayko has a spot on the second power play unit through the Blues’ first three games, averaging 1:33 with the man advantage in his first three NHL tilts. In Tuesday’s game, Parayko also notched the first two goals of his NHL career, one of which came on the power play.

The question mark, however, will be what Hitchcock decides to do with Edmundson and his pairings should Shattenkirk be out for long. Edmundson has been a sixth defenseman when in the lineup, but he has been getting the nod over veteran Robert Bortuzzo. If Shattenkirk is out, Hitchcock likely doesn’t want to pair Bortuzzo and Edmundson together, so the likely course of action would see rookie Petteri Lindbohm called up.

In 2014-15, Lindbohm skated 23 games with the Blues and averaged more than 15 minutes per game. At 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, he has good size and could allow the Blues to spread out their veteran defenseman. Instead of loading up the top two pairings, Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson can play alongside the rookies while the Blues wait for Shattenkirk to return. It’s not ideal, but likely a better course of action than relying on rookie-heavy pairings.

Of course, Hitchcock could also choose to just load up his top two pairings and ride them hard until Shattenkirk’s return. Whatever the solution, though, the Blues are hoping Shattenkirk won’t be gone for long.

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Injury to Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk could mean bigger role for rookie defensemen