Blues continue to work on getting injured players back; Perron fine after hits
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The good news for the Blues is that all their injured players were once again on the ice Sunday morning. The unsettling news is that it's still up in the air when all or any will return.
The laundry list includes forwards Andy McDonald (concussion) and Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) as well as defensemen Kris Russell (groin) and Kent Huskins (ankle).
The closest on the radar to return are Steen and Russell. Both have not played since suffering their injuries, respectively, on Dec. 27 at Detroit.
The Blues (26-12-6) will play host to the Dallas Stars (24-18-1), another injury-riddled team hat just recently lost two of their top scorers in Jamie Benn (appendectomy) and Mike Ribeiro (MCL).
Steen, who said he's still up in the air when he will return, will skate again Monday morning and then determine if he's good to go.
"He's skating hard, practicing, looks good two-on-two," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Sunday of Steen. "We'll see tomorrow. Same with Russell. Russell looks good, so we'll see in the morning skate, build it up from there."
Russell is more of the two that are doubtful. But there is an outside chance he could give it a go against the Stars. If not, Thursday's home date against Edmonton is a safe bet.
"Hopefully this week. I don't know about tomorrow. I've got to talk to the trainers and stuff," Russell said. "It's going well. ... I'm trying to get back as quick as I can, but this is an injury you can't come back from too early or else it'll happen again. I have to be careful and smart about it.
"I'm still not quite 100 percent on my skating. That's a big part of my game. I'll get in the lineup as soon as possible. Right now I'm taking it a day at a time."
McDonald, out since the third game of the season (Oct. 13), continues to skate with the red no-contact jersey. It's only a matter of time before he's cleared for full contact practices and then it will be another couple weeks to get him into game form.
As for Huskins, who broke a bone in his left ankle blocking a shot at Calgary on Oct. 28, he's still at least a few weeks away before he's cleared to play.
* Perron fine -- After David Perron took a hard hit in the game's opening minute and then a pretty good pop into the goal area in the second period in Saturday night's 3-2 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild, there was some concern as to if he was vulnerable to another head shot.
But rest assured, Hitchcock said that Perron, who scored his first goal in 14 games, was OK after first getting hit by defenseman Justin Falk, which led to David Backes accruing 19 minutes in penalties. Then Perron was drilled into the Wild goal by defenseman Clayton Stoner.
The team held an optional skate Sunday morning, and Perron was not one of the skaters but Hitchcock said he was good.
"No, we haven't heard anything. I'm sure we would have heard by now," Hitchcock said. "... He feels good, so unless something happens tomorrow, he's coming to play."
With the increased number of concussions this season, including those that have prior experience with them, there's talk that Perron might be susceptible.
"No. He's beyond that now," Hitchcock said. "I find with those guys -- the second concussion guys -- they either go out right away, come back, go out after two or three games or they go forever. (Boston's Patrice) Bergeron, same thing. He comes back, gets rocked, goes out. Now he's back forever.
(Perron's) gotten knocked down every game. I don't think we worry about David right now anymore. We were nervous the first three or four games bacause you don't want to see a guy get knocked down and have it happen again. We're beyond that now."
* Halak starts against depleted Stars -- Jaroslav Halak, 8-0-3 in his last 11 starts, who hasn't lost in regulation since a 3-2 defeat to Los Angeles on Nov. 22, goes for the Blues again after snapping a personal nine-game shootout streak with Saturday's win in which the Blues won the shootout 1-0.
Halak, who's last shootout win came Nov. 6, 2010, is 11-7-5 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .915 save percentage on the season. He's 1-1 against the Stars this season, beating them 5-3 in the teams' most recent meeting Dec. 26.