Monday, November 20, 2017

Bouwmeester expected to return Tuesday against Edmonton

Defenseman sidelined since Sept 17 with fractured 
left ankle; Berglund "inching closer" according to Yeo

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Barring any unforeseen circumstances, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is expected to return to the lineup for Blues on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers after missing more than two months with a fractured left ankle.

Bouwmeester, who was injured on Sept. 17 on the third day of training camp during a team scrimmage blocking a shot, has missed the first 21 games for the Blues (15-5-1), who lead the Western Conference with 31 points. He was paired with Colton Parayko during practice on Monday after accompanying the team on its recent three-game western Canada trip.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is expected to return to
the lineup Tuesday after missing 21 games.

"It was good to get on that road trip and skate and practice and get that stuff going," Bouwmeester said. "It's been a long time, especially at the start of the year when you miss training camp and stuff. I'm excited and hopefully just jump in and not interfere with what's going on here.

"Throughout the week, it's gotten a lot better just skating to the point where I've been in a few full practices and you can do everything and it's not holding you back any. It feels good and ready to go. ... You did some progression, you start skating, starting and stopping, that sort of thing and the little battles. It's reacted pretty well all the way along. It's all good."

Blues coach Mike Yeo was more cautious Monday about Bouwmeester's return but is more than happy to insert the 15-year veteran back into the lineup after Bouwmeester was activated off injured-reserve Monday afternoon.

"Obviously, if he's able to go tomorrow, we'll see how he is in the morning, but right now, it's looking that way," Yeo said after practice. "He can do a lot for us. A veteran guy, skating ability, defensive game. I don't expect him to step in and his game to be exactly where it's going to be 5-10 games from now. You have to understand that he's missed a lot of time, but I think the fact that his experience will make the transition. It'll come along quickly. 

"I would expect later on [Monday] we'll take him off the IR, but it's looking pretty good."

With Bouwmeester skating with Parayko on Monday, all signs point to Carl Gunnarsson being on the outside looking in, at least initially, with eight healthy defensemen, which includes seven veterans and rookie Vince Dunn, who's done more than pull his weight and deserves to remain in the lineup.

"He's going to have to keep playing," Yeo said of Dunn. "Obviously we've got eight quality defensemen, not to leave out 'Pross' [Nate Prosser], because I know it's been tough keeping him out. He can do a good job for us, but now we've got six guys that have been playing basically every game of the year for us and we're going to have to take one of them out. I think that that internal pressure and competitiveness ill be good for our group, but guys are going to have to make sure they do their job. We have confidence in all of them.

"... It's a good problem to have. We'll make the decision there in the morning tomorrow. So far, all signs are pointing to [Bouwmeester] playing tomorrow."

Bouwmeester has played in 1,071 regular-season games in the NHL with the Blues, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames. He has 391 points (82 goals, 309 assists) and is in his sixth season with St. Louis.

"He's a player that we've been missing and he's obviously a big part of our team," Parayko said of Bouwmeester. "To have a guy that knows the game so well, been around for so long, skates like that, it's only an added bonus for sure.

"Everything. He plays defense well obviously. He reads the play extremely well. Just moves the puck well. ... He's just steady and that's exactly what we need."

Bouwmeester, who has averaged 24 minutes, 8 seconds of ice time per game through the first 14 seasons of his career including 23:05 in five seasons with the Blues, will most definitely help bolster a penalty kill that has in recent history been in the top 10 in the NHL but has started slow this season tied for 22nd at 78.3 percent.

"Obviously we've missed him in that area," Yeo said, who will not ease Bouwmeester into the lineup.

"No, especially a quality player like 'Bouw' and a veteran and an important piece to our game," Yeo added. "He's a guy who's skating ability, his defensive game ... he does so many little things to win you hockey games. We have to get him back and get him up to speed here quickly."

For a player used to playing 23-24 minutes a night, simulation is one thing, but for Bouwmeester, live game action will take a moment to get used to, even for veterans.

"That's natural," Bouwmeester said. "I've missed the whole year so far, or even if you miss a couple games, there's always little adjustments. I've played long enough. I think you know to try and keep it real simple early and get up to speed. But that's the fun part. That's why everybody plays, to play the games. I'm looking forward to it."

With the Blues off to such a good start, Bouwmeester is anxious to get back at it.

"With the way the season's started, it probably makes it a little bit easier," he said. "The team's been doing real well, but at the same time, you want to be a part of it. It's not much fun when you're not a part of it and you're kind of separated from things. This last road trip was good. You get to go and kind of hang around with the guys. ... We've got a few at home here and hopefully keep the ball rolling."

* NOTES -- Blues center Patrik Berglund continues to make progress in his bid to return to the lineup after off-season surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Patrik Berglund (21) defends against Nashville's Viktor
Arvidsson last season during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Berglund, injured while training in Sweden, was originally projected for a re-evaluation as early as mid-December, or six months, but has been skating for weeks and participated in full on Monday, which included contact drills.

"He's coming along; he's good," Yeo said of Berglund. "I don't expect him to play tomorrow. I haven't gotten an update on him today, but I would say that we're inching closer here."

A projected target is Dec. 1 but could be pushed up depending on how Berglund feels following days of taking contact.

* Parayko finally got a monkey off his back during Saturday's 4-3 overtime win in Vancouver when he scored an even-strength goal. 

It was Parayko's first since his rookie season two years ago, the last coming April 3, 2016 in a 5-1 win at Colorado.

Parayko went 105 games without one.

"It's not really a monkey for me," Parayko said. "It's not really my role to score a lot of goals, but it feels good obviously to get one for the team and to contribute."

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