ST. LOUIS — Vladimir Sobotka’s teammates feel for the injured St. Louis Blues center, who will miss the Winter Olympic Games in Russia after suffering a broken kneecap Friday.
"It’s awful," T.J. Oshie said. "I hit my knee in Edmonton a couple weeks ago and right when it happened I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to miss the Olympics.’ That’s the first thing that snaps through your mind. I was fortunate enough that nothing was serious. But it’s hard. Especially a hard-working guy like him where he didn’t make the team just based on his skill, he made the team based on his work ethic and based on being a team player. I think it’s going to be tough for the Czech team to lose him."
Sobotka is expected to be out of action for four weeks. Because of the Olympic break he may not miss much time for the Blues, but he will miss out on what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the Czech Republic Olympic team.
"It’s terrible," Oshie said. "It’s not something I’d wish on anyone."
Oshie, who will represent the U.S. in Sochi, is one of 10 Blues to be selected for the Olympics. All of the Blues feel for their teammate.
"It’s really hard," said goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who will represent Team Slovakia. "We’ve still got three more games. It could happen to any of us. Obviously, it’s really hard to see when your teammate goes down and suffers an injury and will be out for a long time. It’s really unfortunate for him that he’ll miss the Olympics, but I think his health is more important. I just wish he’ll get back as soon as possible."
Derek Roy said he felt bad seeing Sobotka after Saturday’s game against Nashville. It’s difficult to find words to comfort Sobotka.
"He’s a great player, but missing the Olympics is definitely tough for him," Roy said. "All you can do is give him a pat on the back and say you’re going to be better when you come back. There’s not much you can say there."
Sobotka’s absence from the Blues’ lineup has already been felt.
Coach Ken Hitchcock saw it on display in Saturday’s game against the Predators, which the Blues rallied to win 4-3 in a shootout after losing an early lead and falling behind in the third period.
"You can always replace skill, but you can’t replace what he does in winning hockey games," Hitchcock said. "It’s got to be divvied up. I thought it was really evident how much we missed him in the game against Nashville. We lost a lot of key faceoffs. We were making mistakes down low that we don’t normally make. …
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"All the little things that he has that are part of his fabric and part of his demeanor are going to be missed here. I think we caught a break because there’s a three-week window that he’s going to get healthy and hopefully be ready when we get back up and running. But we miss a lot of the details that he can put in place, and other guys are going to have to take on some of that. When you’re playing in every situation and you’re playing as many minutes as him, it’s got to get divvied up throughout the group."
BLUES RECALL JASKIN
St. Louis announced Monday morning that it had recalled forward Dmitrij Jaskin from Chicago, news that Jaskin actually broke on his Twitter account a day earlier.
"It’s always nice to be called up," Jaskin said after practice Monday at the St. Louis Ice Zone. "It’s always the same, just get ready for every game and give 100 percent in every game and just try to play hard."
It was the expected move following Sobotka going on the injured reserve list.
Jaskin, 20, has been on the yo-yo this season from the Wolves to the Blues. He has appeared in six games with St. Louis and scored his first NHL goal in a Dec. 28 win over the Blackhawks.
"I get used to it," he said. "It’s a little bit easier for me now."
Jaskin, who has 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 32 games with the Wolves this season, has impressed in his time with the Blues.
"He’s playing really well right now," Hitchcock said. "This is a great opportunity. I think every second that Jaskin plays up here, every time he can practice with us, every chance he gets to play is doing nothing but enhancing his career. He’s earned the right to be here. He’s been really strong down there and we have no issue in playing him in any situation here at all."
Hitchcock said Jaskin will get in the lineup this week, but the coach was not sure if the rookie would be in action Tuesday.
One side benefit to the young Russian’s call-up is that his father and brother are both visiting. Jaskin said they watched him play Friday in Chicago and will be in St. Louis for all three games this week.
HALAK CAPS OFF STRONG MONTH
Halak will be in net Tuesday and will be looking to continue his strong play over the past few weeks.
January ended up being the best month of the season for Halak, who had two shutouts and posted a .939 save percentage. That save percentage was second best in the NHL for the month behind New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (.942) for goalies with nine or more appearances, according to STATS LLC.
Halak had struggled in December with an .885 save percentage in eight appearances.
"I think the season overall, it’s been good so far," he said. "Obviously, I had some games that I’d like to play better at. But that’s part of the season, part of hockey, unfortunately, that you go through ups and downs. It’s obviously better when you go through less downs than ups."
Halak is 23-8-3 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season.
Hitchcock was among the record number of people who tuned in to FOX for the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
"I knew Denver was in trouble when Peyton (Manning) got happy feet in the pocket," Hitchcock said. "It’s not a good sign."
The veteran coach, who is always trying to find new ways to get better at his craft, had an interesting takeaway from something he heard Seahawks coach Pete Carroll say after the game.
"Everybody talks about defense winning championships," Hitchcock said. "I thought what was more intriguing was what the coach said after. Maybe that’s just because we’re all coaches. But he said they’d been moving forward for four years. So his feeling was it took four years to build to what they had, not one year.
"I thought that was interesting that their goal was to win in five, and they won in four and they kept moving the process forward. They kept adding pieces to get to where they got, but in their mind there was no doubt that they were going to win because they felt like it was kind of their time and their growth. I thought that his comments were really on the mark. And man, they were awesome."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.