ST. LOUIS — Ryan Reaves was having himself quite a first period Saturday night, but the good news turned into bad news not long after for the big Blues forward.
Reaves left Scottrade Center with his broken right hand taped up and his arm in a sling. He was set to undergo surgery Monday after breaking his hand in a fight with the Stars’ Brenden Dillon. He will be placed on injured reserve and will be re-evaluated in six weeks.
“Yeah, he hit that fella quite hard,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “A couple times.”
Reaves had a memorable sequence 12 minutes into the first period, with St. Louis leading 2-1, when he dumped Dallas winger Valeri Nichushkin over the boards and into the Blues’ bench.
“That’s a big hit,” St. Louis forward T.J. Oshie said. “I’m not sure who took the brunt of it, our guys on the bench or their guy. You get a lot out of character guys like Reavo. He stepped up quite a bit for us in the past, and he did tonight again. It’s great to have him.”
The hit on Nichushkin set the stage for a heavyweight battle between the 224-pound Reaves and the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Dillon, a fight that followed a Vladimir Sobotka-Rich Peverley tussle only seconds earlier and served to energize the home crowd as well as Reaves’ teammates.
“It’s fun to watch,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Reavo is obviously good at what he does. He’s been playing good hockey all year and then to see him contribute on that side, too, it’s been fun to watch. At that point in the game, especially coming home after a long road trip, you want to get some energy and it got the fans into it. Obviously, the fight speaks for itself.”
Reaves left the game with a five-minute major penalty for fighting and did not return. The Blues announced during the game he had sustained an upper-body injury.
“I know he only played five shifts before he got hurt, but he had five really good shifts,” Hitchcock said. “We’re going to miss him, but other guys are going to step up for us.”
The coach said the Blues will take a look at Magnus Paajarvi and Adam Cracknell on a full-time basis. Both have experience at right wing, Hitchcock said.
Paajarvi, a 2009 first-round draft pick from Sweden acquired in an off-season trade with the Oilers for David Perron, has one goal (against Buffalo) in seven games this season. He recently returned to the lineup after suffering an upper-body injury late last month against the Predators.
Paajarvi had 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 80 games as a rookie in 2010-11, but had eight points (two goals, six assists) in 41 games the following season and 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 42 games last year.
Cracknell has played in five games but has not recorded a point. He had six points (two goals, four assists) in 20 games with the Blues last season.
Reaves was on his way to his best season in his four years in St. Louis.
After producing four points in each of his first two seasons and accounting for six in 43 games a year ago, Reaves had recorded two goals and two assists and was plus-five in 22 games this season. He also had established himself as a player who could contribute something every night.
Reaves had been in a team-high seven fights this season, which ties him with Derek Dorsett of the New York Rangers and Luke Gazdic of the Oilers as the league leaders, according to hockeyfights.com.
The Blues player with the most fights after Reaves is Chris Stewart, who has three.
“We’ve got guys like Stewart and (David) Backes and Lappy (Maxim Lapierre) that do more than take care of themselves,” Hitchcock said. “So I don’t think this is going to be something we can’t overcome. We’re going to miss his presence, especially in the locker room, and his physical nature, but every team goes through this stuff. We’ll find a way to move on.”
The Blues will begin that process Monday night when they host the Wild at Scottrade Center, but they no doubt will be counting the days until their big enforcer is back in uniform.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.