(HockeySTL)-- Paul Stastny will return to the lineup tonight against New Jersey after missing the last eight games with a shoulder injury.
Stastny will be centering Alexander Steen and Joakim Lindstrom on the Blues’ second line, the same spot he held prior to sustaining the injury more than two weeks ago. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock has said for the last week that when Stastny was able to return, he would be back on a line with Steen.
“It was four games,” Stastny said of his time playing with Steen. “So, every game you play together you get more and more comfortable.”
Tonight’s game against New Jersey will be Stastny’s first time in the lineup since Oct. 18. The forward left that game against Arizona less than a minute in after being hit by Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal on a play that Stastny described as a risky one by him.
“I put myself in a vulnerable position,” Stastny said. “I was fully reaching for the puck and he came between me and the puck. Sometimes things like that happen. Usually I don’t do stuff like that so it’s a learning experience.”
The forward needed a sling to support the shoulder for the first couple of days, but has been able to skate for a good chunk of the time he was sidelined. Stastny said the recovery process was considerably smooth.
“Every day it has felt better and better,” Stastny said. “I haven’t had setback from day one until now so it feels good.”
Stastny only recently felt comfortable enough to fully test the shoulder in practice, allowing teammates to deliver hits that would impact the shoulder. It was the unofficial final hurdle for Stastny, who says he won’t be hesitant in tonight’s game or any game down the road.
“Practice is one thing, games are different,” Stastny said. “It’s just a matter of getting timing back. I’ve just got to get my feet back under me and get back to taking the hits.
“I always protect myself. I don’t play a physical game; I try to play a smart game, injury or not. I don’t want to come back and think about it. I just want to play.”
Prior to the injury, Stastny was the Blues’ leading scorer with four points (one goal, three assists). The Blues were 2-1-1 in Stastny’s first four games. Since his injury, the club has gone 6-2 and has reverted to a familiar identity, something the club struggled with in the early goings. Hitchcock is hoping that doesn’t change with Stastny’s skill back in the lineup.
“That depends on the rest of us,” Hitchcock said when asked how much of an impact Stastny will have. “As long as we don’t think it’s going to be points night, like we did earlier, we are going to be fine. We have great structure going right and he’s going to add and be able to help us quite a bit as long as we don’t get that loose affair that was exciting for the fans and the reason I have even less hair.”
With Stastny returning, T.J. Oshie (concussion) is the only Blues player with a lingering injury. When the Blues activated Stastny for tonight's game, they officially placed Oshie on IR.
Oshie was, however, at the rink on Thursday but did not skate. According to Hitchcock, he is not anywhere near being ready to return to the lineup.
"'Osh' showed up today and then left," Hitchcock said. "He came for a visit so that's a good sign. He's out, walking around, there's a sighting. It's a good sign, but he is nowhere near getting close to playing."