This is unexpected: the Blues lose a fourth liner, and they replace him with someone who has offensive potential. Instead of going with Adam Cracknell to replace Maxim Lapierre, who is out pending a hearing with the Department of Player Safety, Ken Hitchcock is getting Magnus Paajarvi into the lineup.
Paajarvi, who the Blues acquired in a salary dump-ish trade with the Oilers for David Perron, has shown scoring skill in the past. There were just too many young first rounders in Edmonton, and he was the odd man out. In St. Louis, there are just too many gritty older forwards who play a puck-protecting game, so he's been out here, too.
He's getting his chance to go tonight. Said Umlaut to Jeremy Rutherford:
"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."
Very much so. Even a positive attitude hasn't been enough for Paajarvi to crack the line-up. Why? Senority:
"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."
You can't pout, even when the coach says stuff like this:
"I don’t know what the plan is (with Paajarvi)," Hitchcock said. "All I know is he’s getting better every day. I think you give him time with us and he’s going to be a real good player. That’s how I look at it."
"He’s played opposite of what we thought, and today at practice was the first time we saw the player that we traded for," Hitchcock said. "What I mean by that is his ability to make plays on the rush, his abilities to make plays on the cycle, his offensive instincts were way better than what we thought they were.
"What we saw in the last 20 games in Edmonton was a high level of tenacity and something you can build on. He hasn’t shown that here. He’s shown at times like he’s overwhelmed, but he’s showing more offensive ability than we thought — ever."
If you're playing Chicago, icing a player with some "offensive instincts" is pretty helpful. Sometimes the Blackhawks can throw the Blues off of their game by being overwhelming with the scoring. Having a player who can step in and try to set things up against them is beneficial.
Of course, if MP is on the fourth line, I'm not sure how much he'll help.