Return to lineup as early as Sunday a strong possibility
for McDonald; Arnott to IR; Steen, D'Agostini out for weekend
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The way Andy McDonald was flying around the ice Friday at St. Louis Mills is nothing new. This has been a common occurrence for the past couple weeks.
What makes his impending return from a season-long concussion intriguing is the choice of words the 34-year-old used after the team's workout on Friday.
"I felt really good today and probably I feel like I'm ready to play," said McDonald, who's missed all but three games this season. "... I feel really good. I've been clear on the ice for a while now. I'm real close.
"Today it felt really good. I got to do some more line situations and it felt good. I'm looking forward to getting back in ... whenever that is."
"Whenever that is" is the question of the day that everyone would like to know. It's doubtful that McDonald returns Saturday when the Blues entertain the Colorado Avalanche. To bring McDonald back from a lengthy injury and play him in back-to-back sets is not very wise.
However, it is very likely that McDonald returns to the lineup Sunday night against the Sharks. If he is, McDonald wasn't saying after practice.
"I honestly don't know," McDonald said. "Obviously that's a decision to be made with the training staff, the doctors and obviously the coaching staff will have a say with that. I feel I'm real close. That's all I'm going to say.
"It's certainly not one person's call. Obviously they're listening to me and they want to make a decision that's going to be safe for me and my health. I'm in the same position. I don't want to put myself in a dangerous position. Everyone's going to kind of have a say, find out what's best for me and also what's best for the team. We'll see what it is."
McDonald took four days off after the team came back from the all-star break and departed for a three-game trip before beginning prepping towards what could very likely be a possible return this weekend.
"I took four days off for rest and some treatment and tried to get little bit recovered because I had been skating and working out real hard," McDonald said. "Just get the body a break and then I got back on the ice Tuesday, skated for three days to get some drills and stuff. Today was the first day back on the ice for the team."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's called McDonald "the best player in practice" on a number of occasions, continues to wait on that knock on his office door.
"It's really up to Andy now," Hitchcock said. "When he's comfortable, I'm sure he's going to come knocking on our door and say, 'I'm ready to go,' but we haven't had that knock yet so he's a fifth-line player.
"With all the guys that were out today, we decided to put him with a line and just have him practice. I wouldn't read anything into it yet. I hope he's feeling good. We haven't really talked to him much. We'll see how he goes in the next few days."
McDonald was skating on the second line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart Friday.
"Adding Andy McDonald to your lineup's going to definitely boost your team," Stewart said. "He's a great player offensively, he's one of our big-time leaders. We've definitely been missing him and we can't wait for him to come back.
"You take Andy McDonald and Alex Steen and add them to our lineup and it's better than any trade or acquisition we can make. They're two great players and when they come back in our lineup, we'll be rolling on all cylinders and we'll be scary."
As for other injured players, the Blues will be without Alex Steen, who continues to battle through his concussion symptoms. He did skate along with Jason Arnott, who's missed three games with an injured left shoulder, prior to Friday's practice. Neither will be available for this weekend's games. The team placed Arnott on injured reserve Friday. Also, Matt D'Agostini (concussion symptoms) will not play this weekend after being injured Tuesday in Ottawa.
Defenseman Kris Russell (flu) did not practice Friday. Hitchcock said if Russell is unable to play against Colorado, Ian Cole would get the recall from Peoria, as Kent Huskins (ankle) isn't quite ready to return to the lineup.
* Stewart/Berglund contribute -- Seeing both Stewart and Patrik Berglund score in Thursday's 4-3 shootout win at New Jersey was a sight for sore eyes as far as the Blues and their fans are concerned.
If the Blues can get both consistently on the scoresheet consistently over the final 29 games of the season, it will bode well for a team that's tops in the NHL in goals-against.
"That's definitely got to be part of our game these last 30, start contributing offensively consistently," Stewart said. "I think last night was a good start. We're just going to take it one game at a time. I think this time of year, you can't really worry about padding your stats. We're into putting two points in the win column and making the playoffs."
Regarding Berglund, Hitchcock said: "For him to score more, he has to fight through things more. He's going to get lots of those chances. To get more chances, you have to fight through more checking and I think what he's starting to figure out -- in my eyes -- in a good way is that the harder he fights through people, the more scoring opportunities he gets, which is a real good sign for us."
* No clash of the titans -- Ryan Reaves and Cam Janssen were friends and teammates. Today, they're still friends but adversaries. So when the opportunity presented itself for Reaves and Janssen to engage in a fight Thursday night, there was ... well ... nothing.
"No opportunities," Reaves said. "We didn't play a lot of shifts against each other and when we did, no big clashes.
"I said, 'What's up buddy?' He said, 'Nothing, just trying to grind through it.' That was about it. I talked to him after (the game) and that was about it."
Janssen, a Eureka, Mo. native, moved on and signed a one-year deal to play with the Devils this season and was supplanted in a way by Reaves, whom Janssen mentored while here.
"He showed me the ropes," Reaves said of Janssen. "He was kind of the first guy that I was drawn to because we were in the same role here. He showed me the ropes down here. I'm not going to go out and fight him because he plays against me now. I think it was just blown a little bit out of proportion."
* Goalie carousel -- After Brian Elliott relieved Jaroslav Halak midway through Thursday's shootout win, it had already been predetermined that Elliott would get the start when the Blues face the Avalanche here Saturday night.
Barring an Elliott shutout, Hitchcock said Halak would get the start Sunday against the Sharks after allowing three goals on 12 shots before being yanked midway through the second period Thursday.
Hitchcock and Blues players admitted that they were not a very good team in front of Halak Thursday night. But it was good to see the team respond accordingly after Elliott came in. He stopped all 15 shots faced.
"We left Jaro out to dry there," Stewart said. "We take that personally, especially for a guy like Jaro and Ells, who are the reason we are where we are this year. They've stood on their head countless nights.
"Ells came in and we got the win. It was a good team win. ... Sometimes, you just need that change."