ST. LOUIS - Paul Stastny wouldn't make any promises.
The St. Louis Blues center, who has been sidelined with a foot injury sustained March 21 against the Colorado Avalanche, could be available for Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Wild on Saturday (2 p.m.; NBC, KMOX 1120-AM).
Stastny, who was hit by a shot from teammate Vladimir Tarasenko in a 4-2 win against the Avalanche, has skated since this past Saturday but took part in a third practice with teammates on Thursday.
"Yeah, it feels good," Stastny said. "I don't think I was going to go on the ice until I started feeling comfortable. Being off skates and doing different workouts and different exercises and then I got on the ice, for me, it was probably five days ago or six days ago. I felt way better than maybe we expected. I don't really have expectations. I just want to go out there day by day and that's how I've been treating it. The first couple skates, I tried to get the hands back, a little rusty, there was a lot going on. I think I was trying to think too much instead of skate, stick-handle and shoot. Every time I've been on the ice, I've felt more and more comfortable."
Blues coach Mike Yeo has maintained Stastny's status as day-to-day and wouldn't commit to saying his top center is ready to return but has liked what he's seen.
"I think he's moving well, he's progressing," Yeo said of Stastny. "I think what we will say is just let's get him through a real good practice tomorrow and see how that goes.
"I think first thing's first. Let's have a good practice tomorrow and evaluate whether he's going to be a player or not."
A return of Stastny would be a big boost to the Blues' offense, which was shut out 2-0 in Game 4 and has scored just seven goals in four games in the series.
"I just think it's a tight series," Stastny said. "I feel like I've played [Minnesota] a few times in my career and playoffs and no matter what team they have, they have a bunch of two-way hockey players and it's a tight series. Sometimes you just need special teams to kind of get things going. Yesterday was 2-0, but every game's been 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1. You've just got to keep digging at it and keep battling.
"It's different. You're up a goal or two, you tend to sit back. You're down a goal or two, you tend to go forward. That's what happened two games ago and that's what happened yesterday. When a goalie's played in a zone, you want to get in front of him and try to get tips. There's a few yesterday that kind of hit the post and the game before that. If you keep getting those chances, they're going to go in."
The Blues offense is averaging 1.75 goals per game, and just 1.5 goals per game without the empty-net goal they scored in Game 3.
"First off, they're defending very well, we're defending very well," Yeo said of the Wild. "It's tight checking, it's good hockey right now. Certainly looking back and watching the video especially, not nearly enough net presence at their net right now. We're drifting away from their net so we have to do a better job of that. You look at last night, and again, we weren't good enough, but we had probably four opportunities to shoot pucks that could be scoring chances or could lead to secondary opportunities and we're passing up those shots. So we have to do a better job of that as well."
Stastny's return would benefit the top line, which features Vladimir Tarasenko, who doesn't have a goal in the series but has two assists, and Jaden Schwartz. And the call to play will be up to Stastny, who had 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) in 66 regular-season games.
"It's my body, so I think it's my call," Stastny said. "... Every skate's been encouraging. I just go from there. It's been frustrating I think to watch from outside, but I think it's been nice too because the boys are playing well, they're winning games early. I don't think anyone thought at the beginning of the series that this would be a sweep either way. We lose a game, we'll bounce back. Whatever happens, everyone will be ready for Saturday."
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