Steen, Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, Tarasenko all to make preseason
debuts; Fabbri returns; Allen gets full game; Ferraro gets another shot
ST. LOUIS -- When Alexander Steen went under the knife on June 3, the best-case scenario for the Blues left wing at the time was that he would return to the lineup in early November.
The good news for the Blues is Steen is returning but much sooner than anticipated. He returns to the lineup Tuesday when the Blues play the Washington Capitals at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. (7 p.m.; KMOX 1120-AM or www.kmox.com/listen).
Steen underwent surgery to repair his left shoulder, but as time wore on, and the more he was skating, it became clear that he would certainly be ready for the season-opener on Oct. 12 at the Chicago Blackhawks.
This is even a better-case scenario.
"Basically, I feel like I've been well enough the last little bit to try," said Steen, who made the decision Tuesday to play. "I didn't want to go out there too early. Early in training camp, I kind of had time on my side and didn't want to push it too fast. Yesterday, I just made the decision that I wanted to get out of practice and into some games."
The 32-year-old Steen, who signed a four-year, $23 million contract extension on Sept. 23, was originally injured Feb. 20 at the Arizona Coyotes. He missed 15 games before returning for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and had 10 points in 20 games.
Steen had 17 goals and 35 assists in 67 games.
"I came here and he didn't miss a beat," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of Steen. "He looks pretty good to me. It's obviously how he feels, but it looks like he's up to speed ready to go. It's always good when you get a guy like that back. We didn't really know when he was going to come back, but anytime you get him back earlier than expected, it's great news for him."
It would have been a tough blow for the Blues to start the season without Steen along with left wing Jaden Schwartz, who is expected to miss the month of October with a left elbow injury.
"He's a big-time player, a big-time player in this League and for our team," Pietrangelo said of Steen. "He plays big minutes, plays in all situations. We're going to need him obviously throughout the season."
The decision to sit out the World Cup of Hockey 2016 for Team Sweden proved to be beneficial in the long haul for Steen, who initially tried to push his return back and make an attempt to play in Toronto.
"I think when we looked at it, we were hopefully counting on me returning sometime early November, so this is a positive," Steen said. "I've been happy with the progression. It was intense during the summer and then once we made that World Cup call (not to play), it was easier to kind of tame it back a little bit. But I think I was close to being able to play in that tournament."
Steen would have been comfortable either way, starting right off in the regular season or playing in preseason games, but the fact he's ready now makes the decision to play all the more better.
"No, it didn't really matter to me either way," Steen said. "I wasn't worried about playing a certain number, or even if I got any in. My goal was Game 1 of the season. But talking to 'Stas,' I wanted to get in some games and start working some chemistry, get our (power play) together and things like that. When the shoulder felt the way it did, I felt like I was comfortable playing a couple."
Steen will play right wing on a line with Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri on the left.
"Yeah, I like it a lot," Steen said of the line. "All three guys are really good friends. We're trying to teach 'Fabs' the ropes. No, he's been a great addition to our line. We gel well off the ice, which makes it easy to get good chemistry on the ice, too. So it'll be fun to get going with them tonight."
"... Yeah, I don't mind (playing right wing). You know me, bounce around, I'm used to playing there and some other places."
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Speaking of Pietrangelo, he and Jay Bouwmeester will also make their preseason debuts Wednesday.
Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester were key defensemen that helped Team Canada win the World Cup and played 10 games.
Neither were expected back with the Blues until Tuesday but both called coach Ken Hitchcock Sunday and were back on the ice Monday, and following two practices, are playing in games.
"We're bred to play; we like to play, we'd rather play than anything," Pietrangelo said. "They gave us the option to play or practice. We'd rather play.
"We didn't need much (time to adjust). We played 10 games. Ten games at the highest level. We feel like we're up to speed."
Right wing Vladimir Tarasenko is playing in his first preseason game Wednesday; he represented Team Russia at the World Cup of Hockey, and Fabbri (upper-body injury) will play for the first time since Sept. 26.
Fabbri rejoined the group on Monday after sitting out a week with an undisclosed ailment.
"It feels good to practice with the guys and not just skate with Ray (Barile)," Fabbri said. "It's looking good. ... It's going to be a good game in Kansas City.
"... Just a nagging thing. I wanted to make sure it didn't get any worse. We just wanted to make sure it's 100 percent for the start of the season. It's nothing serious. I just wanted to make sure it was OK."
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As the Blues get down to the final numbers of roster cuts and finalizing their group for the start of the regular season a week from today, Landon Ferraro will get another shot at grabbing one of the few remaining roster spots.
Ferraro, who signed a one-year, two-way contract this past summer, will center the fourth line between Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Reaves.
"Playing's never a bad thing," Ferraro said. "I'm back at center tonight. I'm just trying to show that I can play both center and wing and try to be that guy. ... I've got to start trying to make some plays here at the same time and try and show them I can do more than just kill penalties.
"... It's no different than the start of camp for me. You have to show them that you deserve to be here and that you can be a part of this team and bring something that someone else can't. I feel like I've done a pretty good job, but at the same time, I know I can do more and try to make that decision a little easier for them. You've just got to do what you can to make sure that you're ready to go from the beginning and do as much as you possibly can so when it comes to decision time, it's as easy as it can be for them."
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Tonight's lineup will be as close to the regular season lineup the Blues will roster before the regular season, and with the Blues opening the season playing three games in four nights, including back-to-back games to start the season, they'll use the final two preseason games to get the familiarity down.
"Today and Saturday, you're going to see most of our lineup obviously to get ready for next week," Pietrangelo said. "You start with a back-to-back so we've got to make sure tonight and Saturday we're getting into our 'A' game because before you know it, there's a lot of hockey this year. The schedule's pretty condensed, so we've got to make sure we start off the right way."
Jake Allen will play his first full game in goal.
"I'm looking forward to it," Allen said. "I've felt better and better every day in training camp so far. That was my goal coming into it. Just baby steps, slowly get ready for Oct. 12th. I'm on the right path. It'll be another good challenge tonight to get a full 60 minutes of some bodies and power play and PK. That's really as a goalie, the big change from seeing other shots.
"These last two are going to be good for me to get back into rhythm and play two in a row and sort of treat it like a regular season game, practice, light practice, game and then really focus in on next week. I think they're just another step to being 100 percent ready for next week. It's good too, we're getting our main bodies back in the lineup and get familiar with one another again. ... It's going to be huge for us just to get a feel for one another again, get a feel out there. It's always different, especially in training camp when some guys may not be familiar with the system we play. To get most of our bodies back in the lineup the next couple nights is going to be big for us."
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Tonight's lineup for the Blues (3-2-1) against the Capitals (2-1-1). The Blues lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Capitals in Washington on Monday.
Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen
David Perron-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Scottie Upshall-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin
Magnus Paajarvi-Landon Ferraro-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Petteri Lindbohm-Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup