Friday, February 26, 2016

Lehtera status uncertain

Center hit in the face with inadvertent puck Thursday, did 
not skate Friday; Pietrangelo could return as early as Saturday

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues will know more Saturday morning who they'll have at their disposal when they begin a three-game trip starting with the Nashville Predators.

Center Jori Lehtera, who became the third player in as many games to leave because of injury in the first period, did not practice Friday after being hit with an inadvertent puck to the face in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Center Jori Lehtera is questionable for Saturday at Nashville.

"Didn't practice today; we'll see tomorrow," said coach Ken Hitchcock, who called Lehtera "sore.

"He's upper-body and we'll get a better evaluation in the morning," Hitchcock added. "Same with (Jaden) Schwartz. Schwartz was maintenance day today. Hopefully, both guys are ready to go. We'll see in the morning."

Schwartz and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo were both given maintenance days.

As for defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, he skated for a third straight day and could return to the lineup at any time now.

Pietrangelo, who sustained a right knee injury when he was hit by Minnesota's Charlie Coyle on Feb. 6, will have the call on when he comes back. He's missed eight games and three weeks, which was the original timeline for when he was to be reevaluated.

"He looks fine," Hitchcock said of Pietrangelo. "Its now kind of the player's call when he thinks he's ready. We'll communicate with him on the flight and see when, if he thinks he's ready for one of the games this weekend or both or whatever. We'll know that first thing in the morning for sure, but I think we'll get a better indication by tonight."

With the Blues (35-19-9) playing Saturday afternoon at Nashville and Sunday afternoon at Carolina, there's no second-guessing whether Pietrangelo can play both games, one or none. 

"Can't think like that. You go in, you've got to go in and stay," Hitchcock said. "This isn't the time of year to be guiding guys through it. If you're in and you declare yourself fit, then you're ready to go and if you're not, you're not. You've got to wait. I don't like to pop guys in and out, back and forth. Especially with a younger player like him, if he says he fit, he's fit; he's ready to go, he gets to play. We want to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. If he's not, then we'll wait until he's good. But once he goes in, he's going to stay in every game."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo could return to 
the lineup as early as Saturday.

Regardless of when Pietrangelo returns, he Blues will get their top minutes man back on the blue line.

"When you get a guy like that back, it makes things easier for all the other defensemen as well," center Paul Stastny said. "Whether he comes back, I'm sure he'll be back one of these next three games. For him, he's such a good skater and you want him to be feeling comfortable and not second-guessing. When he's comfortable and he's not thinking out there, he's at his best. I think he knows that, he's smart about it. I think he'll make the right decision when he's ready." 

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