Saturday, December 28, 2013

(12-28-13) Blackhawks-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues went relatively unscathed on the injury front in the early part of the season. It helped to have a healthy lineup that's vaulted them to the second-best start in franchise history through Christmas.

But they have been hit by the injury bug in recent weeks ... none bigger than the recent news regarding forward Alexander Steen, their leading scorer.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made it official Saturday that Steen was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 21 with a concussion, the second of his career with the Blues.

Steen, who leads the Blues with 24 goals and 38 points, missed the game against the Calgary Flames on Monday and is out indefinitely.

"I say indefinitely because it could be day to day or week to week with a concussion," Armstrong said during the Blues' morning skate Saturday prior to facing the Chicago Blackhawks. "There's no set timetable.

"He's not going to be going on this road trip coming up (Sunday against the Dallas Stars and Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild), but he is exercising and we hope he has a speedy recovery. (With) concussions, I don't feel comfortable putting a timetable on (them)."

The Blues believe the root of Steen's concussion symptoms began with an early-game hit against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 16 in which the Senators' Zack Smith was given a penalty for an illegal check to the head. The League did not review the play for any possible disciplinary action. Steen took another high hit from Douglas Murray after the whistle during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 19 and a final collision came against the Edmonton Oilers and former teammate David Perron.

Steen left that game after the second period and did not return. He returned to St. Louis afterwards and did not accompany the team to Calgary, then flew to Ann Arbor, Mich. where he visited a concussion specialist Thursday, who determined the concussion symptoms.

"What we wanted to do before we made any announcements, we wanted to give (Steen) some time to rest and then he went and saw a specialist that deals in these injuries on the 26th of December, came back with the report and the report is he is suffering from concussion-like symptoms or a concussion," Armstrong said. "We're going to want to take our time. We're hoping that it's not a long-term thing."

The NHL did review the Smith hit and determined that no disciplinary action would be given.

Steen previously missed 39 games during the 2011-12 season with a concussion. It happened against the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 23, 2011.

"I think we'd be just as careful if it was his first one," Armstrong said. "Any time you deal with a head injury, you want to be cautious and that's what we want to do with Alexander. We're hoping that it's not serious and he can get back here in the near future. Dealing with Alexander before and dealing with David Perron's (concussion in 2010-11), sometimes the initial response is they don't come back as quickly. ... We don't want to overstate or understate the situation."

Steen signed a three-year extension prior to the game against the Canadiens and has been an integral part to the Blues' success not only this year but in recent seasons that has vaulted them at or near the top of the NHL standings.

"He's such a big part of our team," said forward Jaden Schwartz, who has taken Steen's spot on the Blues' top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. "He plays in all situations, he's a big leader so it's definitely tough. You want to make sure when he comes back, he's ready to go. We've got to have guys step up here and play more minutes than probably what they're used to and provide the work ethic that he has. We're going to have to have guys step up, but we're definitely going to miss him."

Added defenseman Jay Bouwmeester: "The year he's having, he's been a big part of our success. We're going to miss his offense and all the things he does on a regular basis. You deal with it. Every team's going  through injuries. It's a long year. Hopefully he's not out for too long. It just provides an opportunity for some other guys and we have good depth. If you want to have a good team, you have to have that. Guys have to fill roles throughout the year. I think we have guys that can."

Armstrong had the chance to talk to Steen Saturday morning and said he's resolved to the fact he needs some time but is in decent spirits.

"Much better, very, very good today. I had a very nice meeting with he and (head athletic trainer) Ray Barile this morning at 9 a.m.," Armstrong said. "I think he's very comfortable with what he heard from the specialist. He's very comfortable with the process of training and just waiting to see how he feels when he gets better. 

"He's in good spirits. Obviously he's disappointed. He's having a storybook year and wants to continue that. But we have a much longer-term view on this injury and on his importance to our team than any one day, any one week or any one month for that matter. He's a big part of our team and we want to make sure that when he's back, he's like he was when he came back last time with force."

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* (UPDATED) at 6:45 p.m. -- Vladimir Sobotka will not play in tonight's game.

The Blues did get some good news on the injury front, as they will get forward Vladimir Sobotka (upper-body injury) back in the lineup Saturday night when the Blues host the division rival Blackhawks (27-7-6). Sobotka has missed the past five games after being injured Dec. 14 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I think getting Sobotka in helps out a lot," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That really eliminates probably the stress on other people that would have been there from an ice time standpoint. You just adjust on the fly and go from there.

"We played without Backes, we played without Steen, we've played without Sobotka, without Schwartz ... you just move ahead. It's a day to day injury (for Steen) so it's not like a three-month injury where you're sitting there, or like a two-month injury like it was with (Jordan) Leopold or (Ryan) Reaves. We'll just move ahead and see how we manage things."

"Once they're cleared to play, they're playing," Hitchcock added. "How much (Sobotka) plays ... I think the biggest challenge for us is that he's really only had one hockey practice, so he's had a couple skates and one hockey practice. We're going to have to pay respect for that and manage that properly. I don't see this as being a big deal."

Sobotka was dealing with a muscle issue.

"It just came out of nowhere," Sobotka said. "I didn't get hit. It just came. I felt pain and after that, I couldn't really move." 

- - -

The Blues recalled Sergey Andronov from Chicago of the American Hockey League under emergency conditions. Andronov, 24, had seven goals and 13 points in 28 games this season for the Wolves.

Hitchcock raved about Andronov, the Blues' third round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, during training camp.

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart

Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Dmitrij Jaskin

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole--Carlo Colaiacovo

Jaroslav Halak will start in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup.

The healthy scratch is Adam Cracknell. Alexander Steen (concussion), Roman Polak (lower body), Vladimir Sobotka (upper body), Ryan Reaves (hand) and Jordan Leopold (hand) are on injured reserve.

- - -

The Blackhawks' probable lineup:

Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg-Michal Handzus-Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Brandon Saad

Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy-Sheldon Brookbank

Antti Raanta is the projected starter in goal; Jason LaBarbera would be the backup.

Scratches include Michael Kostka and Michal Rozsival; goalies Corey Crawford (groin) and Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) are on injured reserve.

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