COLUMBUS - When Ian Cole stepped out of a cab and into Nassau Coliseum last week, Kevin Shattenkirk had a smile on his face.
Shattenkirk knew very few players on the Blues' roster when he arrived from Colorado in the trade for Erik Johnson. But Shattenkirk was familiar with Cole, after playing two seasons with him on the U.S. National Development Under-18 Program in 2005-06 and '06-07 and on the U.S. World Jr. team.
"When he arrived, I was so excited to see him because it was another familiar face in the locker room," Shattenkirk said. "Just knowing someone before you play with them (in the NHL), it allows you to feel comfortable out there. We've watched each other play a lot and know each other's tendencies, so it helps a lot."
Perhaps with that in mind, the Blues paired the two 22-year-olds together on defense on Long Island, which was Cole's first game back after another stint in Peoria. Cole joked that he didn't like the assignment and took it up with the coaching staff.
"I went to the coaches and asked for a new 'D' partner," Cole said, laughing. "There's no way I could play with him. But no, I was pumped. I didn't tell him that, but I was pumped. He's a highly skilled player and we can support each other."
Shattenkirk and Cole have played two games together and despite nine goals from the opposition in those two games, they are a combined minus-1. Shattenkirk has been on the ice for two of the goals and has one assist. Cole hasn't been on the ice for any of the goals and has no points.
"The last game (against Columbus) was very good (for Cole and Shattenkirk)," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Shattenkirk probably played one of his best games since coming over in the trade, and Ian Cole made the statement of, 'Hey, I'm going to play my game, make the reads and be physical.'"
Shattenkirk had three shots on goal and had one assist in Monday's 5-4 shootout win over Columbus. He leads all NHL rookie defensemen with 30 points (7 goals, 23 assists). But Payne said it was his play in his own zone that impressed the coaches.
"We all know that he's going to make plays with the puck and he's got those (offensive) skills," Payne said. "But for us, we get excited when we see the type of defensive mindset and his ability to read the play and get into the right space ahead of time ... that's a real positive."
Said Shattenkirk: "Just that whole game, I got involved in the rush early in the game, and whenever that happens, I just get going. Defensively, playing hard and being physical, that gets me involved in the game early and keeps me alert. I felt very alert of where I was in the defensive zone."
Asked jokingly if he has to cover up for a lot of Cole's mistakes, Shattenkirk said with Cole sitting nearby: "Haha, nah ... we've been playing well together the past few games. I think he's obviously come in and done a great job defensively and that makes it easy for me."
The Blues have called up forward Dave Scatchard on an emergency basis for tonight's game. T.J. Hensick and Patrik Berglund are both questionable with lower-body injuries, so if either can't play, Scatchard will be in.
Andy McDonald-David Backes-Matt D'Agostini
Chris Porter-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Alex Steen-T.J. Oshie-T.J. Hensick
Ryan Reaves-Adam Cracknell-Cam Janssen
Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo-Nikita Nikitin
HALAK IS BACK
After missing 11 games with a cracked bone in his right hand, Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak will be back between the pipes tonight against Columbus.
Payne believes that Halak's presence will give his undermanned squad a boost.
"I think so," Payne said. "He's our No. 1 guy. He's been out for a while and should be fresh and ready to go. He had to deal with the hand injury ... that's all healed up and behind him and now it's about stopping pucks."
Halak will have sat out 23 consecutive days before playing tonight, but he said he feels like he's in good shape.
"As far as conditioning, I feel good," he said. "It's one thing to practice. It's a second thing to play the games. The sooner I get in a game, the better I'll feel. It's a little sore but nothing like before. Right now, I can comfortably focus on hockey."
POWER PLAY TRENDING UP
The Blues were 2-for-2 on the power play Monday against Columbus, making them 6-for-11 against the Jackets this season.
The 2-for-2 performance on Monday continued another trend for the Blues. In the second half of the season, the club has the best power-play conversion rate in the NHL.
1. BLUES (24.4)
2. Anaheim (23.5)
3. Calgary (23.5)
4. Vancouver (21.7)
5. Montreal (21.5)
The Blues' second-half success has raised their season ranking with the man advantage to No. 12 overall (18.1).
ODDS & ENDS
- Blues center Andy McDonald has eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) in his last five games against Columbus.
- Blues center David Backes had a roughing minor in Monday's win, giving him 494 penalty minutes as a Blues. That put Backes 24th all-time on the franchise list, surpassing Todd Ewen.
- Mathieu Garon is expected to start in goal for Columbus tonight instead of Steve Mason.
- Looking ahead to Thursday, the speculation is that Montreal plans to start backup goaltender Alex Auld against the Blues and not Carey Price.