SAN JOSE, CALIF. • Ryan Reaves admitted during training camp that it was a "make or break" season for himself. A fifth-round draft pick of the Blues in 2005, Reaves had played 164 games with the club's American Hockey League affiliate before this year but had never cracked the NHL.
Reaves earned his chance with a call-up to the Blues last week and he was in the lineup for the third straight game Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. He could say he's making the most out of his opportunity, but even Reaves, who will turn 24 this week, didn't know he'd deliver what he has so far.
Despite AHL credentials that include 434 penalty minutes and just 20 goals, Reaves has scored two goals in three games since joining the Blues. So, did the club finally find the goal scorer it was desperately seeking?
"I'm never going to take that claim," Reaves said, laughing.
There's no silver lining with the Blues' injury situation, as coach Davis Payne insisted Saturday morning, but the vacant lineup spots have given chances to players such as Reaves, Philip McRae, Chris Porter and Ian Cole, who was called up Friday for his third stint with the team this season.
"The bottom line is, we need guys to come in and contribute," Payne said. "That's part of the depth of your organization and why it's so critical. These guys have been through training camps, they've had chances to contribute and now here's a chance to come up and stake your claim in the National Hockey League."
Reaves was called up earlier this season by the Blues, but played only two games before being shipped back to Peoria. He has four goals, nine points and 91 penalty minutes with the Rivermen this season.
"You never know how short-lived it can be," Reaves said. "This time, it's been three (games) so far. Hopefully, I can stay up here for a bit, but I've just got to show everybody why I should be staying. It's just a really big season to show that I deserve to be here."
Reaves scored a late goal in the Blues' 7-4 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, he netted what turned out to be the game winner in a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles.
"A huge goal for us," Blues forward David Backes said. "It's the way we've talked about scoring goals for a while, going to the net and finding a rebound."
Cole was watching the game with his Peoria teammates when Reaves scored against the Kings.
"We finished our game, and with the Blues on the West Coast, they had just started their game," Cole said. "We were riding the bike, and we're all watching the game, and he scores. Everyone was like 'That's awesome' ... we were pumped for him.
"It's a weird dynamic because everyone down there is trying to get up here, so there's competition. But when a guy gets called up, you're really happy for your teammate to be doing well."
Reaves has company in that department.
McRae assisted on one of Reaves' goals, and he has won nine of the 10 face-offs he has taken. That's a bonus for a club that ranks 25th in the NHL in face-off winning percentage (48.4 percent).
"McRae has done a great job on face-offs and that line has played well," Payne said. "They've created some zone time, executed some structure, created some scoring chances, so we feel that (McRae) has done his job."