Steen to return; Perron not ready; Schenn questionable; Blues set for another
back-to-back, OK with Canes victory skits, just not Friday; plan for Del Zotto
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was another day of skating for three Blues forwards -- and one defenseman -- who haven't been in the lineup.
David Perron and Brayden Schenn, each out with upper-body injuries related to concussions, took part in an optional skate prior to the team boarding a flight for a road game at Carolina on Friday. Also on the ice among the 10 skaters, including goalies Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington, were Alexander Steen, who missed Tuesday's 2-0 win over Nashville because of sickness, and Carl Gunnarsson, who is nursing an upper-body injury.
None of the injured spoke on Thursday, but all appear to be continuing towards a trek towards returning to the lineup.
Steen actually will return to the lineup with the corresponding move of Sammy Blais getting reassigned back to San Antonio of the American Hockey League earlier in the day. Blais was recalled on an emergency basis with Steen being out sick, so he was sent back down.
"Yeah, he's good to go," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said of Steen.
Perron did not make the trip to Carolina, so he will miss his 18th straight game, but Berube was not sure after the skate whether Schenn would make it. The Blues have back-to-back games Friday and Saturday at home against the Dallas Stars.
"Like I said yesterday, they feel good on the ice," Berube said. "They looked good to me, but it's how they feel. They want to feel the right way and I don't blame them. It's important. When they feel like they're ready, they'll let us know."
Berube said he feels like the flu bug that hit the Blues here the last week or so has subsided.
"I believe it has, yeah," he said.
* Playing a formidable opponent -- The Blues (34-23-6, 74 points), who are 13-1-1 their past 15 games going back to Jan. 23, are chasing both Nashville (79 points) and Winnipeg (78 points) in the Central Division while trying to maintain its hold on third place over Minnesota and Colorado (six points behind) and Dallas (seven points back).
They'll run into a hot team in the Hurricanes, who hold the same identical record as the Blues and have won 12 of 16 (12-4-0).
"They're a good team," Berube said of the Hurricanes. "Watching them play, they've got good skill, they play a fast game, they skate. [Sebastian] Aho's a good player. Good leadership with Justin Williams there as the captain of that team. They're playing all around pretty well, pretty good hockey and they're getting some good goaltending at the same time."
As for the goalie plan, this weekend, the best guess is Allen plays against the Hurricanes and Binnington will go against the Stars.
"We'll see," Berube said when asked if Allen starts on Friday. "I've still got to think about that one."
Healthy bodies seem to be rounding into form, and for the first time since Feb. 3-4, the Blues had two days off in between games.
"Yeah, everybody else is good," Berube said. "We wanted to just have an optional today. Rest is important. We'll have a morning skate tomorrow. We've got back-to-back games this weekend. I think with everything that's gone on around here and the schedule, I think it's important to get a day in and rest.
"... We're so used to going every other day and back-to-back. We're going to hit back-to-back starting again here tomorrow. It seem different for sure."
* No need to see victory celebration -- The Hurricanes have been the subject (a lot of good, some bad) of their postgame victory celebrations on home ice, in which they pick a different skit to perform at center ice.
It drew the ire of longtime NHL commentator on CBC Don Cherry, who called the players "a bunch of jerks," which Carolina has thrived off of with t-shirts and introductions upon entering the ice pregame.
A lot of the old-school hockey people think it's disrespectful to the game, but it has connected the fans in the Carolina region to the hockey team.
Berube was asked about it Thursday.
"It's good," he said. "Whatever they've got to do, right? That's their choice of what they want to do. I don't really weigh into it too much."
Blues rookie Robert Thomas said he notices the fans get into it.
"I've only seen a couple of those celebrations," Thomas said. "I haven't seen enough to give my thoughts on it, but it looks like their fans are loving it, so good for them.
"I've seen the bowling one, the baseball one. I want to know who's coming up with those things. They're doing a pretty good job. It's a good way for them to connect with their fan base."
What he doesn't want happening is seeing and hearing about one at the Blues' expense.
"We don't plan on letting them have it," Thomas said. "Hopefully we come out on top so we don't have to see that on Instagram later."
* Plan for Del Zotto -- New Blues defenseman Michael Del Zotto, acquired in a trade deadline move Monday for a 2019 sixth-round pick, skated for a second straight day Thursday.
Del Zotto was acquired as depth, according to general manager Doug Armstrong, with the uncertainty of Gunnarsson's return, but Berube said there is a time when Del Zotto will make his Blues debut.
"We want to get him in," Berube said. "I think it's important to get him in and get him acclimated and keep guys going. We don't want guys sitting out too long. I think it's important that everybody plays at some point."