Monday, October 16, 2017


Steen returns to practice, unknown if he'll play Wednesday yet; 
Schwartz sits out; Bouwmeester still not skating; Blues mix work and fun

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues had a welcomed addition to the practice ice Monday as they prepare for a Central Division battle with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Forward Alexander Steen, who sustained a broken left hand following a slash by the Dallas Stars' Antoine Roussel in the first preseason game and who has missed 13 games because of it, including the first six in the regular season, was a full participant in practice after being cleared.

"Yeah, he looked good," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "He's obviously a big part of our group, a big part of the leadership and then you think about all the intangibles that he brings, special teams, leadership, offensively, defensively, he's a key guy for us, so we're anxious to get us back."

Steen has been skating for at least the past few weeks on his own and with Blues trainers and assistant coaches to keep his cardio fitness level up, but this was his first practice with teammates.

There was some talk of bringing Steen to the ladder part of the four-game trip to Florida but the Blues decided Steen was not ready. And Yeo was not ready to put Steen in the lineup against the Blackhawks either.

"I don't know. I haven't even talked to him as far as how he went through the practice today," Yeo said. "I think that was the first step and now obviously, if hopefully things went well today, then we'll get him in tomorrow's practice.

"... Obviously he as cleared today to be in practice. We're not concerned about him injuring it more and we just have to make sure he's ready physically to get in there. The conditioning, he's been working extremely hard. That's part of it. Timing-wise, making sure that he's ready to go out there, to play at the level that we need him to."

Steen is coming off a season in which he played 76 regular-season games and had 16 goals and 35 assists, but his addition would help solidify the top two lines.

"He'd mean a lot," Yeo said. "Obviously, what it does, number one, is it's going to strengthen you up top, but it also strengthens you lower in the lineup because now all of the sudden, somebody who is ... I don't want to say they were playing above where they should be, but you move him down in the lineup and now all of the sudden, that player is playing against their third d-pair's lines and I think it's going to strengthen the third and fourth lines as well. It's going to do a lot of for us as far as that, but his leadership, he's a huge part of that up front. On the bench, he's a guy that's going to talk. That second period when we start to slip a little bit, have a couple turnovers, it's one thing to have the coaches harp on it, but when a player grabs a hold of everybody and says it, I think that's the best form of leadership and the best way to get things turned around."

Forward Jaden Schwartz was the lone skater not to take part in practice on Monday.

"Just a little food poisoning, so we kept him off the ice today," Yeo said.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who fractured his left ankle during a team scrimmage on Sept. 17 and has missed the start of the regular season too, hasn't hit the ice yet after the Blues initially said he'd be re-evaluated in three weeks, along with Steen.

"He's coming along," Yeo said of Bouwmeester. "He's still obviously not on the ice right now. I would say he;s certainly not ahead of schedule, but he's not behind it schedule right now."

* Good, hard fun at work -- After a scheduled day off Sunday following a trip that took the Blues through four games in six days going 2-2-0, the Blues went through a spirited practice that involved battle drills, plenty of 1-on-1 work, puck possession, quick thinking and lots of skating.

At the end after the two teams (blue and white) played a small-ice game of 3-on-3, participants on both sides fired pucks towards the empty net at the other end of the rink. Who ever scored, didn't have to do full-length sprints. Whoever missed, well, it was go time.

There were plenty of misses, including that of Yeo, who got a rise out of the players after missing.

"That was terrible," Yeo joked. "Do as we say, not as we do.

"A little fun, but also, it was a work day. It's nice when you can confuse them to make them think it's fun when it's actual work. They did a good job today. Obviously practice time, the last week or so, we haven't had a lot of it. To get out there today and after a day off, I think it was important to get the guys moving again, get some conditioning, and it's not just the conditioning of just skating up and down the ice, it's also the conditioning of the battles of having to grind 1-on-1 in the corner and come out with the puck. Those are the things that was good to get the guys working with today."

The Blues were outscored 7-3 in two losses to the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Ligntning.

"Even the two games that we lost were very winnable games for us," Yeo said. "We were in those games. Obviously we grabbed the lead in Florida and lost it quickly, but I think that we beat ourselves in those situations. I think in Tampa we were going really good. The second period we turned a couple of pucks over and we realized that we started chasing the game at that point. In the second period, there was a couple times in both games that we lost, it cost us, and it doesn't take much for us to get off our game a little bit. But that said, I know we're a competitive group right to the end. And what I also know i that when we're on top of our game, we're a dangerous team and a hard team to play against."

There will be four days between games to try and rectify a few things.

"Working better, working for each other, putting more into five-man groups," center Brayden Schenn said. "I think that's the way to generate offense in this league. Everyone needs to be on the same page. We'll have some days here to obviously look at video to look at what we did (Saturday) and (last Thursday) that maybe didn't give us the answers that we were looking for.

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