Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Edmundson getting closer to returning to lineup; Soshnikov, 
Gunnarsson resume skating; Blues have extra jump in practice

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The sight of defenseman Joel Edmundson on the ice for the Blues is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

And considering that another veteran defenseman (Jay Bouwmeester) is shut down for the season, Edmundson's presence in the Blues' lineup for some critical games down the stretch trying to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs is of vital importance.

"I feel good," Edmundson said after a second straight full practice with the team. "I'm getting better every day, that's really all you can ask for. I'm putting the time in and the work. It's my second day practicing with the team and it keeps feeling better. I'm hoping sooner rather than later."

Edmundson has missed the past 10 games after sustaining a fractured right forearm blocking a shot off the stick of Nail Yakupov against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 8. 

The Blues (35-26-5) have gone 2-6-2 since Edmundson departed the lineup.

And being two points out of a wildcard spot in the conference with 16 games remaining, the Blues, who begin a three-game California trip at San Jose on Thursday, could use an infusion into the lineup.

But is it worth the risk to get Edmundson in as quickly as possible? Perhaps. But is it for the best? That's another question for another day.

Which is why Edmundson, who has a career-high six goals and matched his career-high in points established also last season with 15 but done so in 56 games (13 fewer than last season) and the team's leading shot blocker, will be vital to the Blues' success down the stretch.

Initially, the prognosis was six weeks from the surgery, but at nearly four weeks since it happened, Edmundson is unlikely to play against the Sharks on Thursday but didn't rule himself out for the remainder of the California swing at Los Angeles Saturday and Anaheim Monday.

"We'll see how I feel," Edmundson said. "I could have a good day and you never know. If one of our 'D' go down, I may have to get in. I'm feeling pretty good on the ice right now, just practice. There's a couple of things I still want to work on before I get back in the game. Just make sure my conditioning's back up there, too. Just make sure I'm 100 percent before I step back on the ice.

"For being three and a half weeks out of surgery, I'm feeling really good. I think I'm a little ahead of schedule. I'll just put the work in in the gym and the trainers, they're taking good care of me. Now it's just to see how long it's gonna heal."

Blues coach Mike Yeo knows that time is running out and there's a decision that has to be made on when to give Edmundson the green light to return.

"You look at it two ways. You look at what's best for him," Yeo said. "We don't want to put him in a bad position and he had a surgery that was a pretty significant injury that we don't want to put him in a bad spot. At the same time, when he's cleared to play, he's cleared to play. We're at a point in our season where it's desperation mode. We can't sit around and try to save somebody for the playoffs because that's not going to be there for us unless we start winning games here.

"He had a good day today. He looks good to me so we'll see how tomorrow goes. I don't have a time frame for you guys right now, but obviously every day he goes out there and plays the way he did today at practice, it moves him closer to coming back in."

Most noticeable is the lack of physical presence when Edmundson is not on the ice. He and Robert Bortuzzo present the most beef on the blue line, and when both were out of the lineup (Bortuzzo has since returned), it put the Blues in vulnerable positions in front of their net.

"It's tough watching," Edmundson said. "You want to be out there helping and contributing. But at the same time, you know all the boys are doing everything they can. It's tough just sitting on the couch and watching. You're getting a little antsy, you want to get out there helping the team out. Hopefully I'll be out there sooner than later.

"You want to be smart about it. Obviously I want to get out there as fast as I can, but at the same time, it's a serious injury so I want to make sure before I step on the ice into a game and make sure I can compete in the battles like I used to. For right now, I'm just working on my shots and we'll ramp it up and get into battle practices and I think I'll be good to go."

Edmundson is a near full participant in practice drills, even taking shots, but the physical aspect will be the real test.

"Getting into intense practices," Edmundson said. "The next step might be getting into battle drills and all that. For right now, I'm trying to get my shot back and getting the wrist loose again.

"The strength isn't there yet, there's still a bit of pain. I can fight through pain, but just the strength. The more shots I take, I feel like the better I'll get. I think over the next week it'll come. ... It's pretty close. I've got the plate in there. The doctor said it's as sturdy as ever so we don't have to worry about that. It's just getting the strength back and making sure the muscle's there and we're all good."

* Soshnikov, Gunnarsson resume practicing -- Forward Nikita Soshnikov and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson were back on the practice ice Tuesday after both missed Monday's session.

Gunnarsson was sick, but Soshnikov, who is dealing with a sore neck stemming from a collision with Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk on Feb. 27. He received six stitches in the bridge of his nose.

"I'm feeling better right now," Soshnikov said. "But I think we've got to take it day by day. I think I hit his pads. 

"I just tried to score a goal and I think some of the guys tripped me and I fell down on his pads but face first. I couldn't do anything. Just happened. It could happen with anyone. ... It was tough to miss game, especially that game (Saturday) against Dallas. Huge game for us. Hopefully I can catch up."

* Pep in the step -- Tuesday's practice served notice that the Blues had some extra juice in their step.

Between the home game against Detroit on Feb. 28 and Thursday's game against the Sharks, the Blues will have played one game in seven days, allowing some teams battling for postseason position to catch up or even pass the Blues.

"I'm kind of happy about that," Yeo said. "That means that they've been having some busy stretches and ours hasn't been so busy. I think we've been able to work on our game here. It's quite clear what we're up against now. Every day, it gets posted up as far as what other teams have remaining in terms of their schedule and what-not, so big picture for me is, let's make sure we stay focused on ourselves. Getting caught up in whether or not someone else wins or loses or who they're playing, that stuff's fine if you're taking care of your own business, but if we're not getting wins, if we're not getting points, that's going to be irrelevant anyway, so let's make sure we have a good practice tomorrow and get ready for a big road trip."

During the down time, the Blues have been utilizing their time trying to salvage some of the deficiencies in their game.

"It was a good practice for us," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "As you guys saw if you watched the whole thing, it was high tempo, a lot of speed and pace. I think that's something we need to get back to. I think when we see that in our game, it's very noticeable and it's a lot of fun to play that style and you have to be upbeat to do that, so it was good." 

The Blues entered Wednesday two points behind L.A. and Colorado in the conference standings.

No comments:

Post a Comment