Friday, December 30, 2011

(12-30-11) Predators-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The word concussion has been bandied around the league for some time now, but for the Blues, he's become like a black plague.

From David Perron to Andy McDonald to Carlo Colaiacovo all dealing with it in the last year and making recoveries, McDonald is in the process of dealing with yet another one. Matt D'Agostini escaped one within the last few weeks.

It's not fully been determined yet but now add Alex Steen's name to the list.

Steen will not play tonight when the Blues (21-11-4) host the Nashville Predators (19-14-1) because of what coach Ken Hitchcock called "concussion-like symptoms" believed to have been suffered Monday when the Blues hosted Dallas.

Steen, who is tied for the team lead in points (with David Backes) with 24, played Tuesday in Detroit and skated Thursday at practice, but Hitchcock said he didn't feel right and the team is holding him out tonight and likely tomorrow night in Detroit before giving a further update.

"Looks like in the Dallas game, there was a hit in the Dallas game," Hitchcock said. "He didn't feel right after practice yesterday. We'll just hold him out ... it's day to day or what it is. Right now, he can't play today."

It would be the first concussion suffered in Steen's career if in fact results come back and clearly identifies it as one.

"We'll let you know in a couple days on Steener how things are going there," Hitchcock said. "... We'll give you an update in a day or two.

"We're erring on the side of caution and we'll see in a day or two. It might be nothing and away we go, but you want to be safe."

- - -

While the Blues will suddenly be subtracting Steen from the lineup, they will be adding T.J. Oshie (wrist), Jamie Langenbrunner (flu) and Vladimir Sobotka (ankle) back into the lineup tonight.

All three skated this morning and were deemed fit to go by Hitchcock, although Langenbrunner was declared fit Thursday after missing two games.

Oshie also missed two games after injuring his left wrist a week ago in Phoenix, while Sobotka has missed seven games after taking a puck off his ankle during a practice Dec. 12.

"Both guys are in, good to go," Hitchcock said of Oshie and Sobotka. "Both feel good enough to play. Both guys felt a lot better today after yesterday's practice. That's a good sign.

"Lags is back to normal. Three guys in and one guy down, so that's good."

Although Hitchcock was unsure of tonight's lineup, it's likely that Adam Cracknell will be the one that goes to the press box as a healthy scratch.

Cracknell was recalled in time for Monday's game against Dallas.

"With those three guys in, that adds to our roster up front for sure," Hitchcock said. "We'll have to get somebody to replace Steen on that big line. I'm not 100 percent sure which way we're going to go yet."

- - -

Speaking of McDonald, he took part in the morning skate today with his teammates for the first time since making his first appearance on the ice (Dec. 23).

McDonald continues to recover from the concussion suffered in the third game of the season at Dallas Oct. 13.

"I'm feeling really good and happy to be back on the ice," said McDonald, who is wearing a red no-contact jersey. "I was feeling good off the ice doing the workouts (and) riding the bike. Just in general, I was feeling good and feeling motivated. This is the next step to be able to get on the ice, to be able to function in practice and do all the things you have to be able to do on the ice. It's one thing to be able to get on the bike and do a workout in the gym, but to be able to perform on the ice is the next step that I have to get to."

This concussion for McDonald, the sixth one suffered during his playing career, nearly put him out of the game for good.

"Probably the first week or two I was out, I thought that I was probably done for good," McDonald said. "With the way I felt, there was just no way that I would ... with my history and with the way I felt at the time, there would be no way that I would come back. But I've had a pretty good turnaround and I'm feeling really good, but also I'm still not 100 percent. That'll be the key. I've had so many of them that I want to be 100 percent when I come back. I just can't put myself at risk for another one and certainly not being 100 percent, I'm going to rely on myself for that."

McDonald said he's at 90-95 percent as far as his health is concerned but has placed no timetable on a return. He's been headache-free but still feels a bit foggy at times.

"There's some certain things and certain levels that I need to get to," McDonald said. "I passed the neuro-psyche (testing), so it's cleared from that regard. I've done the bike and stuff like that. I felt pretty good, so the next level's to get into a regular practice to get this red practice jersey off.

"This one has been different symptoms. I've reacted in a different way. There doesn't seem to be a pattern. I don't really know why that it is, but they're all different."

Hitchcock said he's finally caught up to his veteran winger but is irrelevant until he changes colors of his jersey.

"It's kind of like two ships passing: hello, how are you, fine, I'll see you when you get out of the red sweater," Hitchcock said. "That's the way we're dealing with it.

"There's no point in even having an update. When the color of the sweater changes, boy we can really get into it. But it's not a lot different than David Perron or even B.J. Crombeen. When the sweater's red, there's no point in even having a meeting about it until the color changes. ... It's nice to see him around, nice to see him being a part of it. But as long as you're in a red sweater, you're kind of a non-subject matter with everybody."

- - -

The Predators, who have won both meetings against the Blues this season, are also dealing with the concussion issue with top d-man Shea Weber, who will miss his third straight game tonight with a concussion suffered Dec. 23 at Dallas.

Weber who is among the NHL leaders in ice time per game at 26:20 and the Predators are making due with what they have, trying to patch up Weber's production and not necessarily replace it.

"You can't replace those elite players," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "You just have to do it as a group. Sometimes, one of the best things that can happen from a team coming together is the fact that top guys are out. It's not that I want Shea out at all.

"Everybody's going to have to pitch in. You can't replace the quality 28, 29 minutes he plays a night."

Guys like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and even Jack Hillen hope to fill some of gaps Weber, who has 29 points in 35 games, leaves.

"It's not a cliche ... you just don't go out there and replace a Shea Weber," Hillen said. "Each one of us does something individually and we have to fill that void as a group.

"If I try to be Shea Weber, I might look like an idiot. We just have to stay within ourselves."

- - -

With the uncertainty of the Blues' lineup, here is what tonight's matchup could look like against Nashville:

David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Evgeny Grachev-Jason Arnott-Matt D'Agostini

Jamie Langenbrunner-Scott Nichol-B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Roman Polak

Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jaroslav Halak will get the call in goal looking for his third consecutive win; Brian Elliott serves as the backup.

The Blues are without Steen, McDonald, defensemen Kent Huskins (ankle) and Kris Russell (groin), along with winger Ryan Reaves (hip). The scratches for tonight are Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter.

- - -

The Predators, coming off a 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota Wednesday, will not change their lineup:

Martin Erat-David Legwand-Craig Smith

Sergei Kostitsyn-Mike Fisher-Patric Hornqvist

Colin WIlson-Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo

Gabriel Bourque-Jerred Smithson-Matt Halischuk

Ryan Suter-Roman Josi

Francis Bouillon-Jonathon Blum

Jack Hillen-Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne gets the start in goal; Anders Lindback is the backup.

Defenseman Kevin Klein (flu) will miss tonight's game. They will scratch winger Brian McGratton.

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