Josh Leivo, Jake Neighbours strengthen their cases for roster spots with the Blues

Life goes beautiful smartly for Josh Leivo at the second.

His spouse and two younger boys have joined him in St. Louis, making their circle of relatives complete once more. He’s feeling nice on the ice and his hockey enjoying has been robust sufficient that he simply may well be incomes himself a roster spot with the Blues.

“We’ve been away for a couple of weeks now,” he mentioned, “so it’s always good to see the kids and her and get back to being normal again. I was happy for that and I’m feeling good again.”

Leivo had two assists in the Blues’ 4-2 win over Minnesota as they advanced their preseason to 5-1. He wasn’t on my own in bolstering his roster probabilities; Jake Neighbours had a purpose in his bid for one in all the few to be had spots on the 23-man roster, or even Klim Kostin, who’s had a quiet camp at a time when he can’t manage to pay for that, was once noticeable with a battle and a purpose. Nathan Walker additionally scored, regardless that he seems to have moved previous the fighting-for-a-roster-spot level.

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It’s Leivo who’s made the boldest observation. He has two targets and 3 assists in 4 playoff video games, and figures to proceed to get appears to be like as the Blues wrap up their preseason. The 29-year-old veteran who has bounced round the league – the Blues are his 5th membership in 5 seasons – will have discovered a spot to stay.

“He’s got a lot of good details to his game,” mentioned Blues trainer Craig Berube. “Strong on pucks. He makes little subtle plays with the puck, whether it’s coming out of our end or in the offensive zone. And he’s got a good nose for the net, and he finds open ice very well in the offensive zone.”

It didn’t harm that in opposition to Minnesota on Tuesday he stepped right into a line with Pavel Buchnevich and Robert Thomas whilst Vladimir Tarasenko recovers from an sickness and in addition stepped into the chronic play. (“I’m getting good opportunities playing with some phenomenal players,” he mentioned. “I’m not used to that. I’m usually one of the lower guys when I’m up.”) But Leivo made the highest of that scenario.

But he thinks he will have benefitted maximum from remaining season, even if he spent nearly it all in the AHL. Playing for the Chicago Wolves, the associate of the Carolina Hurricanes, he had 22 targets and 24 assists in 54 video games after which, most significantly to him, he had 15 targets and 14 assists as the Wolves received the Calder Cup as the AHL champ and he was once venerated as the postseason’s MVP.

“I think last year gave me a lot of confidence,” he mentioned. “Going deep, you learn how to win and learn how to play every day. Can’t take any days off in the playoffs and I think I figured that out. I just wanted to translate it to the new year with the Blues.”

The different good thing about that lengthy postseason run was once in the Calder ultimate, Chicago confronted Springfield, the Blues’ AHL associate. The Blues entrance place of business were given an excellent take a look at what Leivo may be offering, which definitely ended in him signing with the Blues as a unfastened agent.

“I played against them in the final, so you know they’re watching you,” he mentioned, “but I think I heard that my whole career. When you’re in juniors: there’s always someone out there but I think I’ve kind of figured it out now.”

Leivo got here up in the Toronto device however it was once in a sport with Vancouver, his 2nd prevent, in December of 2019 that he suffered a fractured knee cap which, alongside with a time table rearranged via COVID, saved him out of video games for a yr. He signed with Calgary as a unfastened agent, performed one season, then signed with Carolina, which performed him in handiest seven video games as he spent the remainder of the season in Chicago regardless of having a one-way contract that can pay him an NHL wage even in the AHL. (The Blues additionally gave him a one-way contract.)

“That was a tough injury,” he mentioned. “Full year of rehab, and I went to a new team. It worked out, but I wasn’t in the mix a lot. So it’s been a rollercoaster, but I’ve kept my mindset going forward and I think it’s helped me learn a lot.”

Neighbours additionally were given spotted, with his power-play purpose in the first era, 5 photographs general and a gentle presence round the internet. Neighbours is struggling with a quite other fight than Leivo is. While the Blues can be nice with Leivo as an additional ahead or a fourth liner, for Neighbours it’s much more likely best 3 strains or bust. If he’s now not amongst the best 9 forwards, the Blues will most probably ship him to Springfield to get extra enjoying time than hanging him on the ice for 10 mins an evening.

“I think when you’re in my position every game is (big),” he mentioned. “I don’t take any game lightly. Obviously I’m trying to make the team here. I thought tonight was a good showing by the team and myself. So try to continue that in the last two (games). I’m trying not to leave any regrets out there.

“Wherever I am, I gotta play hockey at the highest level I can play it, so whether that’s in Springfield with those guys, which is going to be a really good team this year, or up here, I’m going to try and play the same way and bring the same intangibles night in and night out.

Neighbours said he’d be fine with playing on the fourth line if it came to that; he’s been on that line playing in juniors. “I think I have the capabilities to play a fourth line role and kind of grind it out and be around the net, be hard to play against, be physical.”

Neighbours additionally benefitted from being on a line with Brayden Schenn, whose area he has stayed in ahead of however who’s in a resort for camp, and he’s quietly campaigning for extra time in that function.

“I think playing with him the last couple of games,” he mentioned, “you only get more familiar and create more chances and things like that.”

As for Kostin, who had a purpose and a battle, Berube preferred what he noticed however nonetheless desires to peer extra.

“He was physical and that’s what he’s gotta do,” Berube mentioned. “He’s a big guy, he’s gotta play physical and hard hockey. He’s scored a goal; he has the ability to score some goals. He’s got good skill. But it’s more for me, it’s consistency. That’s a big thing. As a coach, you want to know what you’re getting when the guy goes over the boards every time in his situation.”

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