(HockeySTL)-- Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson appears to be taking big strides in his recovery from a head injury. His return to the lineup, while not imminent, is certainly nearing.
Gunnarsson, who was diagnosed with a concussion ten days ago after being elbowed by Islanders’ Anders Lee, skated with teammates during Tuesday’s optional skate. Following the practice, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters that Gunnarsson has been given clearance concussion-wise, but still needs to regain his conditioning level.
"He's cleared head-wise and now it's conditioning-wise," Hitchcock told reporters. "How he conditions after today, and then gets through tomorrow's practice will determine when he's ready to play, but he's cleared from a head standpoint.”
The defenseman won’t be in the lineup against Los Angeles Tuesday but will accompany the team on its upcoming three-game road trip.
Before missing the last three games, Gunnarsson had one goal, five points in 20 games. The defenseman missed the first seven games of the season while he was rehabbing an offseason hip surgery. The team wants to make sure he doesn’t re-aggravate the injury while pushing to return to game shape.
“He’s not cleared from a fitness standpoint because of the injury he had,” Hitchcock said. “We're not prepared to put him in full until we feel like his hip has loosened up to where he's ready to go and we don't have any repercussions there."
Gunnarsson has skated by himself a few times in the past week, but as of Monday, Hitchcock had said no progress was being made, which made Tuesday’s announcement a bit of a surprise.
“None,” the coach said Monday when asked about Gunnarsson’s progressions. “He’s out.”
Once Gunnarsson is ready, the Blues will likely return Petteri Lindbohm to the Chicago Wolves.