HAZELWOOD, Mo. — A key piece to one of the hottest lines going at the time is about ready to return to the Blues lineup.
Forward Brayden Schenn, who's missed the past six games with what is believed to be concussion-like symptoms, is expected to return for the Blues when they open a three-game California trip on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Schenn has not played since Feb. 19 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Blues went 2-3-1 without him. He's been a regular skater for most of the past two weeks and deems himself fit to go.
"I'm going on the trip, excited to go and join the guys again," Schenn said. "Obviously no fun sitting out, we all know that. I'm looking forward to helping the team.
"... It sucks sitting out, absolutely it's brutal. There's no fun watching the team grind out, especially this time of year. Looking forward to getting back. I'm looking forward to get back. Injury came at a crappy time obviously. With me, 'O'Ry' and Tarasenko, we were playing well together. Hopefully we can get that back together. ... We're going to do our best to get the chemistry back. It hasn't been that long, it's only been a couple weeks. They've been grinding, they've been working hard. Obviously the bounces haven't come in the last couple games for them."
Blues interim coach Craig Berube has been waiting to hear from Schenn that he feels good after looking good and not holding back in any of the drills.
"He looked good today and feels good, so good chance he'll be in tomorrow," Berube said. "We'll see how he's feeling and playing too. He's been out for a little while. That line was really good before he went down. I think they'll be fine. They work well together, they have good chemistry. I expect them to have that chemistry again."
Schenn was skating with Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, a line that set a blazing trail of points during a franchise-record 11-game winning streak in which it had 45 points (Schenn had 13 with two goals and 11 assists).
"For a while there, we were leading the charge, we were creating," O'Reilly said. "We're obviously a better team with him back in the lineup, but as a group, we have to be better. We have to have a response from the last games. They haven't been great. It's a goof spark for us having him back.
"When we get a guy like that back that impacts the game the way he does, it definitely helps us. We're a better team for it. We have to go and prove it and we have to continue to do things the right way."
The Blues have scored nine actual goals (10 counting a shootout win against Boston on Feb. 23) in the six games Schenn has missed, and O'Reilly, who doesn't have a point the past five games and has just a goal and an assist in six games along with Tarasenko (one goal, two assists) have been impacted the most.
"It's a big help," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "That line was obviously big when they were going, and they were going good too. Whether he plays with them or anybody else, you put guys like that in the lineup, high-end players, it's going to impact you. ... Happy to have him back, that's for sure.
"He's an elite offensive player. We haven't been scoring a whole lot as of late. Any time you add a guy like that in the lineup, it's obviously going to help. He plays the game hard too. I don't think we've played as hard as we need to play as of late and that's not on anybody, that's on all of us. We just have to play hard and he's going to bring some energy back in there on Wednesday. ... He plays harder than people think. He puts up big numbers offensively but he gets in there, he can grind that puck. He's physical, you all have seen that. Impact player in every aspect, that's the way I look at it."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Schenn, who has 39 points (11 goals, 29 assists) in 55 games this season, doesn't want to say his absence was in direct correlation to when the Blues' offensive deficiencies started but it's hard not to point at the two.
"I think it's just been a lot of hockey (last) month," Schenn said. "You're playing a lot of good teams. There's no easy games that month. Obviously put a good string of hockey together there. We won a lot in a row. Sometimes when the wins are coming easy, you've got to find a way to dig in and find ways to win hockey games when it's not coming easy. Right now, we've got a tough road trip coming up here, three good teams and obviously very important for us.
"You have to do what it takes to get yourself back as soon as possible. Whether that's staying in shape or doing the right things off the ice, especially this time of year. You want to come back feeling good. It's been a couple weeks now. Starting in with a back-to-back and looking forward to it."