Concussion has sidelined team's leading
scorer for nine games, making progress
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the Blues took the ice for practice Monday at the Ice Zone, a familiar face stepped on the ice for the first time with his teammates.
It was the first step in the process of returning to the lineup, and for the red-hot Blues, it only will fortify an already solid lineup when Alexander Steen comes back.
Steen, who has missed nine games with a concussion, was a full participant Monday at the team's practice facility for the first time with his teammates since departing the lineup on Dec. 21 against the Edmonton Oilers.
Steen, who's tied for third in the NHL in goals with 24, still leads the Blues in points with 38. He has stayed active since leaving the lineup with the second concussion of his career (he missed 39 games previously during the 2011-12 season).
|(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)|
Alexander Steen returned to the ice with his Blues teammates Monday at
practice. There is no timetable for his return from a concussion.
"Good ... better," Steen said when asked about his health. "Obviously hanging around the guys again is a big lift in spirits. With these kinds of injuries, you tend to fall away from the team, spend time on your own. That's usually the hardest part of having an injury like this. But I'm staying positive, taking steps forward and enjoying my time with the team today and the rest of the week.
"Just feeling better so I figured I'd try [to practice]. Basically just try stuff and analyze and see how you feel and go from there."
The Blues, who begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, have no definitive plan for Steen's return.
"He's been skating on his own so he joins the team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "As time moves forward, we'll see when he's ready to play. It's a good sign. He had good energy. I think the guys were real happy to have him back on the ice.
"I don't think you want to read anything into it though until he's declared a player. You could go through this for days, you could go through this for weeks. You don't really know. It's all kind of how he feels."
Steen wore a contact jersey Monday and skated with the Blues' top line trio of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Jaden Schwartz.
"It was good. I think he may have gotten faster over the past couple of weeks somehow," Backes said of Steen. "Hopefully he's back in the lineup shortly and when he is, he'll make us an even better team. It's great to have him back."
Steen, who only trailed Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in goals when he left the lineup,
"It's tough for players with my type of personality to sit on your couch and not doing much," Steen said. "Mentally I just feel better when I'm doing something so I try to stay a little active ... long walks, bike rides and stuff like that. You just go by how you feel.
"The thing I learned from last time is not over-analysing myself hour to hour, letting you [media] guys stress me by questioning me every day to see if I'm playing or practicing, what are the symptoms. I'm kind of taking it at my own pace and seeing how I feel. It's basically the only way to go about it."
Steen said if he feels better on mornings the day after he pushes the pace, he'll push the envelope even harder, but there is no set timetable.
"Just basically do what I feel comfortable with. There's no timetable," Steen said. "Up until today, just kind of been going day by day. I haven't planned a week in advance or anything like that. Just go by how I feel in the mornings and nights, especially the nights after I've done stuff. I'll look tonight at how I feel and maybe we go harder tomorrow or just take a step back and chill. Even if you don't see me out there tomorrow, it's not the end of the world. It's not like I sat at home and completely crushed. It's just another day and you're looking at the all-around and long-term plan to get me back.
"Last time, it was more prescribed. It's still an injury that we don't know a ton about. From my experiences, you go by a little bit more of what you feel works for you. For me, that's staying active, and when I say active, I haven't really been running 10 kilometers and trying to break my times that I have in the summer. I've tried a few different things. The last few days, I've tried pushing myself a little bit harder. That's basically where I'm at. Just keep moving forward and taking the positives when they come. Not really over-analyzing or getting too down if I feel like there's a negative and it doesn't feel right. Don't over-analyze hour to hour, try to analyze the last week and see if I've progressed or if I've gone backwards."
Steen has been able to lean on former teammates with concussion histories to offer perspective and advice.
"Andy McDonald, Paul Kariya, I've spoken a lot with those two," Steen said. "I've spoken some with Scotty Nichol. Just using them as walls and I bounce things off of them about how you're feeling and stuff like that, what they've gone through, how they feel afterwards and stuff like that."
The Blues have gone 7-1-1, including a seven-game winning streak that was snapped Friday against the Vancouver Canucks, in Steen's absence.