With Leopold out for two months, Ian Cole gets his shot
NOV 11, 2013 4:41p ET
The opportunity comes courtesy of Jordan Leopold, who could miss two months with a ligament injury in his hand that will require surgery. The injury, which occurred last Thursday in the third period against Calgary, is on his right hand, or the top hand that controls his stick. If it were the bottom hand, he might be able to play through it. The surgery is expected to take place this week in St. Louis.
Which leads us to Cole, who has played just three games this year, spending most of the season as a healthy scratch. He is, however, coming off one of his best games as a pro Saturday in a 2-1 win against Pittsburgh.
Now comes his opportunity to show he belongs on the ice. His coach and teammates say they believe he'll be quite effective -- as long as he does one thing.
"Keeps it simple," coach Ken Hitchcock says.
Sometimes a player's hardest adjustment to the NHL is to change his on-ice mentality. Cole, a 2007 first-round pick by the Blues, plays a completely different game in the American Hockey League. Down there he plays a ton of minutes in all situations, including the power play.
The thing is, the Blues don't need him to be that guy.
"I had to adjust my thinking," Cole says. "The thought process in the minors is to skate, but that isn't my mindset here."
His partner, Roman Polak, agrees.
"Ian can skate, he's strong, and is good in the corners." Polak says. "As long as he keeps it simple, he can be really good."
Cole has played with several partners, including Alex Pietrangelo to begin last season. That might have been asking too much of Cole, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., and a former All-American at Notre Dame.
To say Cole has been used sparingly during his time in the NHL would be an understatement. He played 26 games in the 2010-11 season, another 26 games the season after that, and then just 15 games last season, when he didn't see the ice in the final 20 regular-season games. He sat out 12 of the Blues' first 15 games this year.
Cole has the necessary tools to play at this level, and getting an opportunity to play a string of games in a row will allow him to get into a rhythm. It also should help him stay mentally sharp -- the top concern when not playing every night.
"Staying in shape and maintaining my legs are never an issue," Cole says. "Keeping in tune mentally is the bigger challenge."
He'll get that chance, at least for a while. The Blues are expected to stay with six defensemen for the next three games.
Brenden Morrow Ready
Forward Brenden Morrow is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday vs. Phoenix. He has been out since Oct. 29 with an upper-body injury.
Morrow is slated to play with Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves. He could see some power-play time as well.
Chris Porter has been reassigned to Chicago in the AHL. Porter appeared in two games during his brief call-up.
You can follow Andy Strickland on Twitter at @andystrickland or email him at email@example.com. He also writes about the Blues and the NHL at truehockey.com.
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