Gunnarsson could be ready as early as next week -

Gunnarsson could be ready as early as next week

(HockeySTL)-- It was announced last week that defenseman Carl Gunnarsson would not be ready when the puck dropped on the regular season. But it appears the defenseman is inching close to a return, perhaps as soon as next week.

“He’s out there skating again today,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Tuesday. “He looks stronger today. There are some more hurdles he has to go through with the doctors in order to play, but he is certainly closer than further.”

Armstrong ruled Gunnarsson out for the first two games of the season, one on Thursday and the other on Saturday, but said after the weekend the defenseman would be considered day-to-day.

“It’s better,” Gunnarsson said. “It’s getting better. Progress is slow, but it’s getting there.”

Gunnarsson, who had surgery to repair a hip flexor in late April, has been skating since training camp began two weeks ago. Shortly after the team’s camp began, Gunnarsson was participating with the other players, albeit doing so in a no-contact jersey. Shredding that jersey is one of the final hurdles the defenseman must maneuver past before joining the Blues in a game.

“He’s participating more in battle drills, but I’m hoping that he’s cleared to have the same-colored jersey as the rest of the defensemen in the near future,” Armstrong said.

The slow progress is relative, though. In terms of the Blues’ expectations at the beginning of camp, Gunnarsson is slightly behind schedule. However, the recovery time associated with the procedure Gunnarsson underwent is around six months, which would put the defenseman’s estimated return date in October, meaning he is on-track.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Gunnarsson said. “We set a timeline and I’m right around there. I expected when I had the surgery that maybe I could maybe come back for the first couple of games, if not another week or two. This is right around crunch time right now and hopefully we are sticking to that plan.”

While it appears he is close to returning, Gunnarsson is taking it slow and will have to gauge how he feels in the coming days before saying when he will be ready to return.

“It’s tough to say,” Gunnarsson said when discussing how close he felt he was to returning. “I’m still kind of day-to-day. Tuesday was a good one, but I had a bad one a couple of days ago. Overall, it’s getting close and it just feels good to be able to do the battle drills and push it.

 “As long as it’s not too bad, you bounce back and try to push it. It’s something you have to take into consideration when you have a surgery like that. It’s not going to feel 100-percent.”

While Gunnarsson is technically a part of the Blues’ finalized roster, his name won’t officially be listed until he is recovered. This is because Gunnarsson sustained his injury prior to the Blues’ camp, so, currently he is considered a non-roster player.

As a result, the Blues will carry just six defensemen on their NHL roster until Gunnarsson is ready to play, allowing them to save a little money to begin the season.

When Gunnarsson is ready, the expectation is that he will be inserted into the Blues’ lineup immediately. The team does not plan on sending him to the American Hockey League for conditioning.

“We haven’t talked about sending him down,” Armstrong said. “I think we would probably just play him here when he is ready to go.”

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