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8 St. Louis Blues Led by its veteran defensemen, a frustrated franchise hopes for an injury-free run

Oct. 13, 2003
Oct. 13, 2003

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Oct. 13, 2003

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8 St. Louis Blues Led by its veteran defensemen, a frustrated franchise hopes for an injury-free run

For three years Blues defenseman Chris Pronger competed against
the standard he set in 1999-2000, when he won the Hart and Norris
trophies. He scored 62 points that season but hasn't topped 47
since, struggling through a series of injuries. In 2002-03 an
arthritic left wrist and a torn right ACL forced him to miss all
but five regular-season games. Pronger, 29, is so focused on
returning to his MVP form that last month he relinquished his
team captaincy to 40-year-old fellow blueliner Al MacInnis. "I
need to work on being healthy," Pronger says.

This is an article from the Oct. 13, 2003 issue Original Layout

The Blues will be in capable hands with the seemingly ageless
MacInnis, who had worn the C in Pronger's absence. Last season
MacInnis ranked third in the league in average ice time and led
NHL defensemen in scoring (68 points). He also took
responsibility for tutoring rookie blueliner Barret Jackman,
whose steady play earned him the Calder Trophy. Last month's
signing of veteran defenseman Murray Baron gives the Blues plenty
of solid protection for goaltender Chris Osgood. "Detroit's added
Derian Hatcher," says MacInnis. "Colorado's got Rob Blake and
Adam Foote. To have [Pronger] back and with the addition of
Murray, it's got to help us."

Up front St. Louis is talented but thin. The first two lines are
led by elite centers Pavol Demitra and Doug Weight. However,
beyond rugged Keith Tkachuk, there are question marks at left
wing. Rookie Peter Sejna and veteran Dallas Drake, who will move
over from the right side, will try to provide the answers, as
will Sergei Varlamov, who scored 61 points in 72 games for
Worcester in the AHL last year.

Pronger's decision to give up the captaincy is indicative of a
mounting sense of urgency within the underachieving franchise,
which last reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1970. With the
potential for a salary cap looming over a club loaded with pricey
veterans, it will likely be the last season that this lineup will
make a run at the Cup together. --Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: ELSA/GETTY IMAGES PAVOL DEMITRA

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 4
DEFENSE 5
GOALTENDING 16
POWER PLAY 4
PENALTY KILLING 10
G.M. AND COACH 11

INSIDER

The attack is buoyed by defensemen--Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger,
Barret Jackman and Alexander Khavanov--who are outstanding
passers. They keep the Blues from being pinned on a forecheck....
Rookie C Peter Sejna, who led the NCAA in scoring last season,
has the tools to make an impact in the NHL.... Newly acquired
superpest Mike Danton will join Dallas Drake and Jamal Mayers to
form a ferocious line that will forecheck opponents
mercilessly.