Oshie absence from practice deemed unexcused;
Steen, Jackman skate, Sobotka set to return tonight
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues forward T.J. Oshie was noticeably absent from practice on Monday, and then it was learned that Oshie's absence was "an unexcused absence," according to the team.
The Blues were on the ice Monday at their practice facility at St. Louis Mills but Oshie was not and it was not known if he was even in the building at any given point. He is not expected to play tonight when the Blues host the Minnesota Wild.
The Blues would not address the situation on Monday other than Payne saying he would discuss the matter with general manager Doug Armstrong regarding proper punishment and that the details would be handled internally.
Armstrong will address the situation at some point this morning.
Oshie, in the final year of a contract that pays him $850,000 ($1.275 million cap hit), missed 31 games earlier this season with a broken ankle.
The Blues' Patrik Berglund was suspended one game last season for missing a practice because he overslept.
* Steen, Jackman take ice -- Alex Steen and Barret Jackman, who both were injured in a 4-3 overtime victory at Columbus on March 9, were on the ice with the Blues Monday morning.
Jackman, who suffered a broken index finger on his right hand, skated throughout the entire practice, while Steen, who suffered a high ankle sprain, took the ice for about 10 minutes after donning a protective boot for the first time Sunday.
"I went out there without any expectations to see how much I trust (the ankle), how much it's healed in those two (plus) weeks.
"I'm surprised it felt as good as it did, that I was even able to go out there. I'm happy, but there's still a long way to go."
Both players were initially expected to miss 4-6 weeks but could return before the end of the regular season, which has seven games remaining.
"He'd be the biggest question mark," Blues coach Davis Payne said regarding Steen. "I think Jacks at some point will be able to do enough things with the puck for him to be able to get back in there. There's no certainly on that, but I'd place the probability on that one."
* Sobotka to return tonight -- Forward Vladimir Sobotka, who's missed the last 12 games with a broken foot, will make his return tonight against the Wild.
Sobotka was injured Feb. 27 in Calgary while blocking a Jarome Iginla shot.
"I'm really excited to play again," said Sobotka, who has 24 points in 58 games this season. "I knew when it happened that it would be a little earlier than six weeks. I just did everything that I had to do and I'm glad to be back.
"My foot has healed up. I can't feel anything. It was about some practicing and most of the time was about conditioning."
With Sobotka returning, that means forward Adam Cracknell, recalled under emergency conditions, will remain in Peoria unless needed further. The Blues, who reassigned both Cracknell and defenseman Ian Cole Sunday, did bring Cole back Monday to play tonight against Minnesota.
"With Sobe coming back and the emergency conditions, that affects Cracknell in that way," Payne said.
* Cracknell impressive -- Although Cracknell was sent back to Peoria, he made a lasting impression in the NHL and got high marks from Payne.
"I thought be was excellent," Payne said of Cracknell. "I thought he was a guy who worked, he executed structure, detail. He's an intelligent hockey player."
Cracknell collected three goals and three assists in 22 games with the Blues, including tallying goals in each of the previous two games.
"His first time up, the pace he was at early didn't seem to fall off," Payne said. "I thought he maintained pace and was effective from start to finish. We used him on the wing, we used him at center, got in some penalty killing minutes, blocked some big shots for us. He did everything he needed to do."
* Rematch with Wild -- The Blues (34-32-9) will look to duplicate the effort they received against the Wild (35-32-8) when they doubled up Minnesota 6-3 Saturday in St. Paul.
The Blues outshot the Wild 47-16 in that contest and got goals from six different players
"It was a good team effort," winger Chris Porter said. "Everybody was ready to play. Everybody played the way we're supposed to play, it was a good team effort. I think we would have hung around with anybody that night.
"If we can replicate that the last seven games, we'll win more than we'll lose."
Turmoil seems to be residing in Minnesota, who are 0-7-1 in their previous eight games, but not so in St. Louis, where the Blues have played good hockey without always getting the end result with a younger lineup.
"They understand that success now isn't a lost cause," Payne said of his team. "It's about setting yourself up for next year, it's about habits and details and making sure that there's an imprint there that we carry forward."