Perron getting close; Sobotka to return, Pietrangelo questionable against Avs
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The clock is ticking, and the time is getting closer that David Perron returns to the Blues' lineup.
Perron, who hasn't played a game since Nov. 4, 2010, continues to progress well, even taking part in all drills (he was put onto the second power play unit at Thursday's practice).
Perron did not travel with the team for Friday's game at Colorado, unusual since he's traveled with the team for the past month. It continues to lead to speculation whether Perron could conceivably play Saturday night when the Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, nothing has been determined yet. It's all up to Perron.
"He looks great on the ice, but it's his call now," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.
"I've been going hard over the last week and a half," Perron said. "I think that it's been going pretty good.
"I'm getting my feet wet. We got a lot of guys that can play on the power play, but hopefully when I do come back, I'll have a chance. ... Whenever it happens, I'm just going to try and come back and blend in with those guys and try to be a positive factor even though we have pretty much most of the guys playing well."
The Blues, who are 8-1-2 since Hitchcock took over Nov. 6, will sit back and wait for Perron and team doctors and possibly even neurologists to determine when he's mentally and physically ready to go.
"I think when he jumps in, there's going to be no reservations," Hitchcock said. "He's 100 percent or he's exactly like Sid (Crosby) was. Sid had no reservations. It was his time, he was ready and he just did it. That injury is the wrong place to go even if you've got one ounce of reservation.
"If he gives us the OK, there's no working him back in. You're in, you play. No different than Crosby or any of these other guys. He's obviously not going to kill penalties. He's not going to be a 20-minute player right off the hop, but when you look this good at practice under these types of circumstances. We've put him in every situation possible, with a lot of traffic and a lot of heat ... he's more than responded. When he gives us the OK, we just turn him loose and let him play."
One area Perron will jump right into?
"I know one thing, if it's a 5-on-3, when he comes back, everything's flowing through him because every time he touched the puck on the 5-on-3 (at practice), it went in the net," Hitchcock said. "When we get to a 5-on-3 and he's in the lineup, trust me, it's going to flow right through him."
* Sobotka probable, Pietrangelo questionable -- The Blues welcome one injured player back today and hope to get another player back as well.
Forward Vladimir Sobotka, who has been sidelined with a broken bone in his mouth after being hit with a puck against Calgary Nov. 25 and missed two games, was back on the ice Thursday wearing a protective cage and shield. He will be in the lineup when the Blues face the Avalanche today (8 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
"We're just figuring out the right mask," Hitchcock joked, talking about Sobotka's new head gear. "We've got four choices. One he can't breathe in. Looked like he was under water, and the other two, we'll make a decision, but he's playing for sure. ... I don't know what contraption he's coming out with. One, he looked like furnace face in there. That was not working."
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who sat out of Tuesday's 2-1 win at Washington with a bout of the flu, did not skate Thursday but was on the flight to Denver.
"We're going to skate (Friday morning) and then see how he feels," Hitchcock said Thursday of Pietrangelo. "He exercised in a good way today and felt OK. We'll skate him and see how he feels."
* Halak gets the start; line combinations -- Hitchcock also said Thursday that Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 18 shots in Tuesday's win at Washington, will start in goal against the Avalanche and that Brian Elliott will get Saturday's game at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blues went with these line combos at practice at the Mills:
Alex Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Chris Stewart-Patrik Berglund-Matt D'Agostini
Vladimir Sobotka-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner
Chris Porter-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Kris Russell-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Cade Fairchild/Alex Pietrangelo
Jaroslav Halak-Brian Elliott
That means Brett Sterling would be the odd-man out against the Avalanche and if Pietrangelo returns, Fairchild would be scratched as well. Also, it was different not seeing Jackman with Shattenkirk and Polak with Russell, considering how well the D-pairings have gelled, so we'll see if they stick as listed above.