(HockeySTL)-- The Blues’ first line had a fourth skater join in on the action during Monday’s practice. Leading scorer, Alexander Steen, re-joined the squad for the first time since being diagnosed with a concussion two weeks ago.
The forward skated with Jaden Schwartz, David Backes and T.J. Oshie on the first line during the practice. Steen was the first line’s left-winger, playing with Backes and Oshie, before his injury occurred.
“Just feeling better and thought I’d give it a try, said Steen. “Obviously hanging around the guys again is a big lift in spirits. With these types of injuries you tend to fall away from the team a bit and spend time on your own. That’s usually the hardest part. I’m staying positive and taking steps forward and enjoying my time with the team.”
Steen has not played with the Blues since exiting the club’s game against Edmonton on Dec. 21, nine games ago. A week later, the Blues placed Steen on injured reserve with a concussion, which they believe was caused by a combination of several high hits to the forward.
Monday was not Steen’s first day skating, but it was his first day since the diagnosis in which he participated in a full-fledged practice. Another positive sign was that Steen was sporting a blue practice jersey rather than a red “no-contact” sweater.
“It’s day one,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “He’s been skating on his own and now he joins the team. It’s a good sign, he had good energy and I was really happy to have him on the ice.”
But Hitchcock cautions that Steen isn’t nearly ready to make a return to game action, despite the positive development.
“I don’t think you want to read anything into it until he is declared a player,” he said. “You could go through it for days; you could go through it for weeks. You don’t really know. It’s kind of (up to) how he feels.”
Steen’s injury came as a big blow to a Blues club that was rolling. Steen was, and still is the club’s leading scorer with 38 points (24 goals, 14 assists) and had just been fueled by a three-year contract extension, which he signed two days before his injury occurred. Yet, the Blues didn’t slow down after his injury.
The club has points in eight of the nine games that Steen has been absent from, and had a seven-game win streak, which ended on Saturday. The team’s performance has made recovery an easier process for Steen.
“That obviously is not as stressful as it might be if things weren’t going as well,” Steen said. “The boys are playing outstanding, our goaltending has been tremendous and it has been a lot of fun to watch.”
This isn’t Steen’s first bout with concussions. The winger missed significant time in the 2011-12 season due to concussion-related symptoms. This time, Steen has been trying to stay active, despite being limited in what he can do. Essentially, the choice of activities is up to the forward’s personal preference, but he has to be leery of pushing too hard.
To keep in shape, Steen has been going on runs, walks and bike rides while monitoring his progress. Staying active is something Steen has learned helps him cope and recover, and he’s been pushing harder in the past week.
“It’s tough for the players with my type of personality,” he said. “Sitting on your couch is hard. Mentally, I just feel better and I’m trying to stay active.”
“The thing I learned from last time is not overanalyzing myself hour to hour, letting (media) stress me by questioning me every day. I’m taking it at my own pace and seeing how I feel.”
Steen also looked outside the organization for advice, contacting former Blues Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald and Scott Nichol, who each had their own experiences with concussions throughout their careers.
“Having guys like Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald to lean on (is big),” said Steen. “I’ve also talked a bit with Scotty Nichol, just using those walls to bounce things off of (regarding) how I’m feeling.”
There is no timetable for Steen’s return to action. He is hoping to ramp up his routines and become a more consistent face at practice, but it all depends on how he feels. Certainly being on the ice with the team is a good sign and a step forward, but it’s not the end of the process.
“There’s no timetable,” he said. “I’ll look (Tuesday night) at how I feel and go harder and take a step back and chill a bit. Even if you don’t see me out there (Tuesday), it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like I just sat at home completely crushed. It’s just another day and you are looking at the long-term plan to getting back.”