Friday, December 2, 2011

Perron set to return to Blues' lineup Saturday

Winger comes back from concussion
against Chicago after missing 97 games


ST. LOUIS -- When dealing with concussion-like injuries, a player knows best when the time is right to return to live action.

That's why David Perron feels like the time is finally right to get back into the Blues' lineup.

Nearly 13 months to the day when Perron suffered a concussion, the Blues' forward will make a triumphant return to the lineup Saturday night against the rival Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
(Getty Images)
David Perron (right) makes his long-awaited return to the Blues' lineup Saturday
night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Perron will have missed 97 games, including Friday's game against the Colorado Avalanche, since taking a mid-ice hit from San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton on Nov. 4, 2010. In that game, Perron, 23, returned from the hit, finished the game and scored a goal in the Blues' 2-0 victory.

He hasn't seen the ice in an NHL game since.

Until now.

"It's been a long road obviously," Perron said via conference call Friday. "I didn't expect it to be that long obviously. I'm really excited to get back to the lineup tomorrow. Everyone has been really kind and helpful.

"I'm just glad to be back to 100 percent healthy now and ready to go. ... I think it'll be the game I'm most excited about, but also nervous. I'm already a little bit nervous about it. After missing 97 games that's what it will do. It'll be really exciting. I think my teammates will be really helpful to me. The key for me is to try and keep it simple and be engaged in the game, not think too much and just play my game basically."

Perron rejoined the Blues in late September and was given clearance for contact a couple weeks ago. There have been no setbacks since.

"It's been a long 13 months. David's been through quite a bit," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said via conference call. "The one thing that never wavered was his passion to get back on the ice. I saw that over the summer and then when he rejoined our team.

"The hard work that he's put in to put himself in the position has been tremendous. We're just excited to have him back on the ice tomorrow night."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said on Thursday that once Perron is ready, he won't be gradually pushed back into the lineup. It'll be all-systems-go.

"I think when he jumps in, there's going to be no reservations," Hitchcock said. "He's 100 percent or he's exactly like (Pittsburgh's) Sid (Crosby) was. Sid had no reservations. It was his time, he was ready and he just did it. That injury is the wrong place to go even if you've got one ounce of reservation.

"(When) he gives us the OK, there's no working him back in. You're in, you play. No different than Crosby or any of these other guys. He's obviously not going to kill penalties. He's not going to be a 20-minute player right off the hop, but when you look this good at practice under these types of circumstances. We've put him in every situation possible, with a lot of traffic and a lot of heat ... he's more than responded. When he gives us the OK, we just turn him loose and let him play."

Perron's teammates are happy to see him finally come back from a long and difficult road.

"I think everyone has been waiting and I think it’s time," Blues forward T.J. Oshie said Thursday before the announcement was made. "We're ready for him to come back, ready for that Perron spark on the ice ... when he has the puck, how hard he works and the plays that he creates that most guys wouldn’t think about creating. It’s exciting. It’s going to be a special day when he comes back."

Added forward Jamie Langenbrunner: "He looks more and more comfortable and looks more involved in practice. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him relatively soon here."

Perron has gradually worked himself in shape, getting his timing down, working on his stick-handling and getting a feel for the puck again. But what's been most important with the physical aspect is the mental part of it ... taking hits and being comfortable with them.

"I think the game is going to be different than practice," Perron said. "I've done as good a job to get ready for (the mental and physical aspects). Now that I'm 100 percent and ready to go, I'll turn that to our head coach. He's the one that is going to be deciding on ice time and all that.

"I've taken quite a bit (of contact). I think one thing in practices it's never going to be the same as it is in games. This is the last step obviously to get in a game. I've felt pretty good over the last two, three weeks. I'm ready to be turning the page obviously."

Perron, who Hitchcock said will get back into a top-six role and likely play with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart on the team's second line, will be joining a Blues team that went into the Colorado game with a 14-8-2 mark, or 8-1-2 since hiring Hitchcock. He's happy to be joining a team playing so well.

"It's going to be awesome. The guys are playing really well," Perron said. "Our goaltending has been really good.

"I'll just get in there, play my game and work as hard as I can and I think for me, it's going to be to keep it simple and just take the excitement of the game and bring two points to the team. Obviously it's going to be a big game for me, but we've got to look at the two points at the end of the night. That's what we want to have for sure."

(Getty Images)
Blues forward David Perron (right) missed 97 games with a concussion. He
makes a triumphant return to the lineup tonight.

Perron played 10 games last season and had five goals and two assists before being shelved. Overall, he has 131 points (53 goals, 78 assists) in 235 games after being drafted by the Blues in the first round (26th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

"We're certainly convinced that he's put the proper work in and he's gone through all the steps necessary to deem himself ready for competition," Armstrong said of Perron. "I think probably the last two weeks, the coaching staff has really worked him after practice. They've done a lot of drills that are game-simulated to stimulate the contact that the body is going to be receiving.

"I'm very comfortable that he's ready to go. What we talked about last July, it's probably our best free-agent signing this year was getting a healthy David Perron. We've waited a little bit into the season, but his talent and his skill-set is not easily replaceable in a lineup."

Added Perron: "Over the last 13 months, I went through all kinds of emotions. It was really fun to get the green light to get back in the game. So many people have helped me throughout the whole thing. My parents are coming in for the game, so it will be fun. I was very excited obviously."

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