Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Oshie improving; Steen talks first fight; Paajarvi 
catching coach staff's eyes; Backes back at center

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- T.J. Oshie sat at his locker after another heart-elevating practice.

And the conclusion -- at least at the present time -- was Oshie feels better.

Oshie, who sustained a concussion Oct. 28 against the Dallas Stars, skated for a third day with his teammates without restrictions.

His return to the lineup is not known, but Oshie is on the right track.

"It's great to get back out here and skate with everyone," Oshie said, speaking to the media for the first time since his injury Wednesday. "It's nice not to be miserable for a couple nights in a row. 

"... The last day, day and a half, they've (the headaches have) been gone. We'll see what happens. Every day is kind of cross-your-fingers at night."

Oshie, who crashed into the Stars goalpost in the second period after being shoved by Patrick Eaves, said he was fine to finish the game. It was afterwards when it got dicey.

"I was fine. My ear was bothering me a little during the game," Oshie said. "It was once we got on the plane (for the return flight to St. Louis) when it started hurting pretty bad. Headaches and then it hurt real bad when I got home. I wanted to make sure there wasn't something seriously wrong so I went into the hospital (where Oshie was met by head athletic trainer Ray Barile). 

"I had a couple days sitting in the dark where I couldn't really watch TV, it hurt to be on my phone. I'm feeling better; I'm improving every day. It's a positive step."

Oshie, who had a concussion towards the end of last season after a hit from Mike Rupp of the Minnesota Wild, described his symptoms.

"You sit up from a couch and you feel like you're going to fall down," he said. "TV bothers you; you can't watch football games. Florescent lights seem to bother me quite a bit. 

"On Sunday when I skated by myself, after 20 minutes or so, I had a hard time focusing on the other end of the ice. I told Ray we're done; we're getting off. But I feel good on the ice (now). It's been going well."

Oshie had a bad day on Sunday but was good enough to put in an extensive day on Monday, where he finished with no issues. He participated in drills, he wasn't in full contact but limited himself to some contact. Oshie shot pucks, stick-handled, did almost everything needed to resume a regular, daily regimen of activity.

"I think I just had so much adrenaline (Monday) because I was supposed to come in and skate by myself, which the day before didn't go too well," Oshie said. "I just asked if I could skate with the team and I felt it was OK to go out for the start and I felt great. I think the adrenaline was just pumping from being out there, being out with the guys again. It's been going good ever since.

"The day before, I was out there with Ray for like 15-20 minutes and I had to get off. It wasn't going well, but we pushed it that day and ever since that day, it's been getting better day by day. ... Compared to how I felt on Sunday to now is a lot better. I definitely don't want to rush anything, but as soon as I feel comfortable that I'm not going to do any more damage, I'll be in there."

The next step for Oshie?

"Not have any symptoms," he said. "Once they're all gone, I'll be able to go."

* Steen's fight card -- Media members began to converge around Alexander Steen a day after the Blues' left wing was involved in his first fight in the NHL.

Steen, who got into a scuffle with Buffalo's Tyler Ennis in the second period, was given the treatment from teammates who were jostling him in the locker room after practice.

David Backes and Steve Ott were the biggest culprits prodding at Steen, who is not known as a fighter.

Once the kidding settled, he was asked about the fight.

"Not much. Felt like a routine scrum and it ... escalated," Steen said before joking. "... I don't know if that's something I'll be experimenting with a lot more."

But Steen, who won't be on many fight cards in his near future, said he won't back down from one either if necessary.

"I don't think anything's really changed. It's always been a tight, tight group of guys," Steen said of his teammates. "Sometimes that's just the way it goes in games like that. Tempers flare, things get heated once in a while, but one thing's for certain: the group in here always sticks together."

* Backes in the middle -- Backes, who in recent games was moved to the right wing in light of Oshie's injury and played next to center Paul Stastny, was back at center at practice Wednesday between Patrik Berglund, who had been playing center with the rash of injuries/sickness to hit the Blues in recent weeks, and Magnus Paajarvi.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said was asked if playing Backes and Berglund together something he wanted back again. It went beyond that aspect. 

"I think we miss Backes in the middle of the ice," Hitchcock said. "I think he did a yeoman's job for us, but I think at the end of the day, we need more definition in the middle of the ice. 

"We're better when we play with more definition in the middle of the ice. We need him back there. He's hard to play against. Bergie can take the draws on the left side. Bergie's played well in either position. They're both going to share it, very similar to what Steener did last year and we want to go with this right now."

Berglund, who started on left wing with Backes at the start of the season, catches Hitchcock's attention more these days on the wing.

"He's been versatile," Hitchcock said of Berglund. "His versatility's helped us a lot. He's kind of been the guy that gets swung all over the place. Wherever the need is, that's where he goes and plays. Eventually we're going to put Oshie there and that'll be a good line."

* Paajarvi stepping up -- Paajarvi's ascension to Backes' line at practice is a byproduct of his strong game Tuesday against the Sabres (a 6-1 victory) and his recent practice habits.

Paajarvi, who didn't factor in the scoring Tuesday, is catching the coaching staff's eye.

"I liked his game last night because he played through people," Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "He created turnovers, he won races to pucks, held onto the puck, made plays, but he wasn't chasing people like he was at the start of the year. That's a good sign.

"Paajarvi has to learn to play through people, which he's starting to do. Paajarvi had a great summer. He did everything we wanted during the summer. Now what we're asking is that he translates it into play on the ice. He's starting to play through people in a real positive way  which is making him have a real impact in the game, which is why we pushed him up the lineup. He's starting to do the things that we thought he was capable of. It's a good sign. He's playing through people now rather than to people, and that's a real positive sign."

* Reaves questionable, day to day -- Blues right wing Ryan Reaves, who injured his ankle at practice after being hit by a shot Monday at practice and who missed Tuesday's victory, was absent from practice again Wednesday.

However, there is a chance he can return to the lineup against the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

"He put his boot on today, walked around and he's going to try and skate tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "If he skates tomorrow and gets ready to play, then we'll put him in."

* Goalie plan -- Hitchcock said Jake Allen will get the start against the Predators, who beat the Blues 2-1 on last Saturday, and that Brian Elliott will get the nod when the Washington Capitals visit Scottrade Center this Saturday.

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