ST. LOUIS -- Injured players Alexander Steen and Joel Edmundson, both out with upper-body ailments, will not play today when the Blues (12-7-3) host the Dallas Stars (9-8-5) in the second of a five-game homestand.
But both players were on the ice for extensive time this morning, taking contact and skating hard, which implies both are on the verge of returning to full-time duty.
And with that in mind, coach Ken Hitchcock has some tough decisions to make when both are available to play, especially on the blue line, where Robert Bortuzzo seems to have gained the trust of the coaching staff and entrenched himself into the top six.
"Yeah, I will. I'm going to have some really hard decisions," Hitchcock said. "Both (Edmundson) and Steen are going to make it easy for the coach, tough for the players. That's competition. That's what happens. That's what we were hoping (for) at the start of the year that the internal competition would make us better quick. It's approaching that stage right now."
The fact that Edmundson is a left-handed d-man and Bortuzzo, playing the left side for a second straight game with Kevin Shattenkirk tonight, is a righty doesn't affect the decision at all.
"Not one bit. Nope," Hitchcock said. "Not worried about that at all. When you see a guy who plays on the left side like Bortuzzo plays as well as he does, it doesn't matter a bit to me."
Edmundson will miss a 10th straight game tonight after being injured Nov. 6 against Colorado, and Steen will miss his sixth straight game after being injured Nov. 15 against Buffalo.
"All I know right now is he is a participant with us to a certain extent, but he's not a full participant," Hitchcock said of Steen. "He's not able to fully engage, and until he does that, we can't fully evaluate him. He's getting in shape, but he's not able to complete the tasks at practice yet on a full-time basis. So until that time (comes), he's kind of out but getting closer."