Winger still has no timetable for return to lineup, continues to progress
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- What had been a regular sight lately at Blues practices turned out a surprising move at an optional skate Friday.
David Perron, who had been wearing nothing but the red no-contact jersey since taking the ice in late October, has shed the red for a gold jersey for the first time since being allowed to take the ice and resume his career.
David Perron (57) got clearance Friday to become a regular participant
in practice and engage in full contact.
Perron on Friday received clearance from team doctors to be a regular participant in practice, allowing him to engage in full contact.
Perron, who has not played in an NHL game since Nov. 4, 2010, will not stick out like a sore thumb anymore with a red jersey.
It's the next step to the recovery process for Perron, who suffered a concussion when San Jose's Joe Thornton delivered a blow to Perron's head near center ice in a game last season.
Perron, 23, missed the final 72 games last season and 18 more this season. Although there is no timetable for a return to the lineup, taking another step means he's that much closer to gaining entry into a lineup for a hot Blues team, which is 4-0-1 since Ken Hitchcock took over and is 10-7-1 overall.
"I feel good. I feel that it was time to take that step," Perron said Friday morning. "It's just another step obviously. I'm just going to keep moving forward, which I've been doing. There's still more steps to go obviously. It's kind of like getting my conditioning up with the guys and being just a player instead of being the guy you can't do anything with.
"I'm a long ways from where I was when I started skating. There's still a ways to go, but we move forward."
Perron got clearance by a concussion specialist in Boston to begin light drills back in late September. He began skating regularly with his teammates almost a month later and has taken himself to this point without any setbacks.
"There's no restrictions on him," Hitchcock said of Perron. "He's good to go to practice with the team. He's to be treated at practice as a normal player but not cleared for games.
"It's the next step, and then obviously, the final step is cleared to play. But we're not there yet though."
When asked when, Hitchcock said: "I don't know. It's just the next step. You can't tell. Now your evaluation is in conditioning, how he feels after the ice sessions. He's been cleared to be a full participant at practice, which is nice news for him, nice news for the team."
Perron had five goals and seven points in 10 games last season when his season ended. The fact he hasn't had any setbacks since resuming skating leads one to believe that it won't be too long before he's back in the Blues' lineup.
"Even in the practices with my red jersey, I was kind of getting in there," Perron said. "Obviously guys were being cautious and being smart when I was around. ... If you notice in practice, there's not much contact anyway. We'll see how that goes. In talking with the coaches, I'll get into some extra drills after practices to get it tested and get my conditioning level up and keep on feeling good basically.
"It's day to day. ... I feel pretty good out there. Get some bumps and see how I react to that. We'll keep moving."
The Sherbrooke, Quebec native has 53 goals and 131 points in 235 career games, and when Perron is able to return, Hitchcock said there will be no easing him into the lineup.
"To me, it's not so much working him in," Hitchcock said. "It's like any other player coming back from injury. When you're cleared, you're cleared and you just play.
"We're not there yet. We're not cleared to play yet. If a player's cleared to play, then you evaluate later on as to how much you play him. I find that in this league, easing into things ... the only restrictions you have when you do start to play is how many minutes you play based on your energy. You can't worry about the other stuff. You've just got to play."