(HockeySTL)-- It has been 40 days since Vladimir Sobotka has taken the ice with his Blues teammates for a game, but the forward is set to do so again on Thursday night against the Oilers.
Sobotka sustained a leg injury on Jan. 31 against the Carolina Hurricanes when he became tangled up with a Hurricane player and collided with the end boards. The injury kept Sobotka from competing in what would have been his first Winter Olympics with the Czech Republic. He also missed 12 games with the Blues due to the injury.
Sobotka was re-evaluated after the Olympic break and was declared fit to play on Monday by team doctors. However, Sobotka did not play with the Blues in Tuesday’s game, choosing instead to take a few extra days to make sure he was comfortable enough to suit up. He told reporters that nothing was going to keep him from playing in Thursday’s game.
“I've tried to push more after every practice, and I feel good, so I'm going to be playing (Thursday)," Sobotka said.
The center was lining up between Vladimir Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie during Thursday’s pregame skate. Sobotka and Tarasenko had noticeably good chemistry established prior to Sobotka’s injury. However, Sobotka’s ability to play anywhere in the lineup is what makes him such a coveted asset for the Blues.
“He stabilizes anybody he plays with because he manages the ice so well,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Sobotka is the Blues’ best faceoff guy, as well as one of their most versatile players. He is also fourth on the team in hits, despite missing 19 games this season.
The 5-foot-11 forward has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) this season. For the Blues, who have points in six straight games, Sobotka’s return to the lineup is certainly no small addition.
"When you get an elite player like Sobotka back, it's going to help you a lot. It will take him a few shifts to get up to speed, but he's such a good player for us right now," said Hitchcock. "He controls the middle of the ice and he's a really competitive guy. The more the merrier. The more depth we add to our group, the better we feel about it."
As of early Thursday afternoon, the Blues had not officially taken Sobotka off of the injured reserve list. But the move will come prior to game time, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Once Sobotka is removed from IR, the Blues will have 14 forwards on roster.
The club recalled forward Chris Porter following the League-wide roster expansion to give the team more depth down the stretch. He, along with Brenden Morrow, will sit when Sobotka makes his return.
Hitchcock told the media following Thursday’s skate that the team plans to sit Morrow more here and there in the final 17 games so he will be ready for playoff action.
Morrow has played in 59 of the Blues’ 65 games this season. He has ten goals, 21 points.