Monday, January 11, 2010

Kariya set to return tonight against Columbus

Tkachuk questionable, McDonald doubtful as Blues begin three-game homestand

ST. LOUIS -- After taking what he said was a deliberate elbow to his head that led to the first concussion in 12 years, Paul Kariya is set to rejoin the Blues lineup tonight.

The veteran winger has not played since the ladder stages of the first period on Dec. 27 when the Blues faced the Buffalo Sabres.

Kariya, 35, was hit hard along the right boards from an elbow by Patrick Kaleta. But after working with the team during its recent three-game west coast trip and following a hard skate at Monday's practice, Kariya deemed himself fit to go when the Blues open a three-game homestand against Columbus at 7 p.m. today (KMOX 1120-AM and FSN).

"I feel good, ready to go," Kariya said Monday following practice at Scottrade Center. "About halfway through the trip, I started to feel good on the ice. I physically felt good and mentally felt sharp."

Also on the ice today was veteran Keith Tkachuk, who needless to say has had a rough week after that gruesome shot he took to the mouth Jan. 2 against Chicago that saw Tkachuk lose four teeth and damage to his upper lip.

However, Tkachuk, who did skate on his own this past week after not accompanying the team out west, is still up in the air if he will return to the lineup tonight.

"I just have to see how it goes. It's been a tough week, but it's feeling better," Tkachuk said. "I've got to go to the dentist again, and we'll see how it goes."

Tkachuk, who wore a mouthpiece and said he always has, was hit in the mouth after a slap shot from teammate T.J. Oshie. The goal was Tkachuk's 535th career marker and moved him past Frank Mahovlich into 30th place on the all-time list.

It was the first of his career that he got an assist from his choppers.

"They can have the goal back," Tkachuk said with a wry grin.

Blues coach Davis Payne said afterwards both were close to a return.

"I think we're getting close in both those situations," he said. "I haven't sat down with either of them or (head trainer) Ray (Barile) so there's some assessment to go through."

Also, veteran Andy McDonald did not skate Monday and is doubtful tonight after sitting out the third period of Saturday's 4-3 win in Los Angeles with what Payne described as a "mid-body injury."

Payne said McDonald, who leads the Blues with 14 goals, was injured on a play that Payne said was "something along the wall where he made a wrong turn the wrong way.

"We've got to go through the process," Payne added. "He was a little stiff today. One of those things that's got to heal and we'll reassess daily."

Kariya, who has 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 38 games this season, had to go through the protocol of tests before getting back on the ice.

"Neurologically and then physically," he said when asked what are the biggest obstacles. "I guess the physical (part) took a little longer, but I feel good now and am looking forward to playing Columbus (tonight).

"It was day-to-day throughout. Sometimes they take longer, sometimes they don't."

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