After seeing his ice-time dwindle in recent weeks, Nail Yakupov now finds himself riding the pine.
After a hot start with the St. Louis Blues, Yakupov finds himself the odd man out, as coach Ken Hitchcock will bench him during Wednesday’s home game against Chicago. Yakupov’s play has trailed off as Hitchcock has given him limited opportunities, as the 22-year-old has seen 10+ minutes of ice time just twice in the last six games.
Yakupov expressed frustration at getting scratched.
“It’s not my decision I’m not playing,” Yakupov told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Tuesday’s practice, his first words since being taken out of the lineup. “Obviously I couldn’t be happy about it. So, it’s a coach’s decision and nothing I can do about it.”
Hitchcock admitted Yakupov hasn’t been playing poorly, but that he’s simply rolling with his current lines. He suggested Yakupov needs be ready for when he’s called into action.
“He doesn’t need to do anything,” Hitchcock said. “He just needs to be ready when it’s his turn. Easy thing for a coach to say that we’re a team of 14 forwards. There has been no injuries in our top eight forwards, so once a spot was leveled off and the team started to win, like any coach, you’re afraid to change at times. He does not have to change anything. Just get ready, and when it’s his turn, take advantage of it. That’s just competition within the group.
Thankfully for Blues fan, the situation doesn’t seem dire. Yakupov isn’t happy about getting bunched but understands Hitchcock’s decision. Hitchcock wants to try something different and Yakupov just so happened to be the roster casualty. I wouldn’t expect Yakupov getting scratched to become a regular occurrence this season.