(HockeySTL)-- When Blues players took the ice Tuesday following an off-day on Monday, they were without Paul Stastny, and it appears that will be the norm for at least the next five days.
“He’s week-to-week,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “We’ll evaluate him on the weekend.”
Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Blues this past offseason, was injured Saturday in Arizona when he was hit awkwardly by Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal during his first shift of the game. The forward left the competition and did not return.
Since Saturday, the club has been tight-lipped regarding the injury, which is shoulder-related, but has not elected to put Stastny on injured reserve. That decision, if it is made, will come after Stastny is evaluated this weekend. It isn’t, however, expected at this point that Stastny will be ready to return early next week.
“I don’t (worry) about that stuff,” said Hitchcock when asked if he thought Stastny would require an IR stint. “If he’s week-to-week, IR is what? Seven days? I think this weekend will be the evaluation to see if he is going to come back right away or take another few days. We’ll see how he’s doing.”
While the injury appears to be relatively significant, it looks as though Stastny may have been lucky to avoid a more serious injury and a lengthier absence. The club will have a better idea of a suitable timetable next week, but will be without Stastny for Thursday’s game against Vancouver and Saturday’s game against Chicago.
“He’s a top player on our team, a top player in the league,” said Blues captain David Backes. “To have a guy like that out, it doesn’t help anybody. Everyone has to shoulder that burden. He’s a great player, but we had success without him last year and we will need to do that for however long he is out.”
The Blues were without Stastny on Sunday against the Ducks and suffered their second regulation loss of the season. In the same game, the club was also without center Jori Lehtera, who was battling the flu.
Lehtera did not rejoin the team on Tuesday but is likely to participate in Wednesday's practice. He is expected to suit up on Thursday.
“He’s been down with the flu for three days,” said Hitchcock. Hopefully he is at practice (Wednesday).”
The Blues saw what their lineup looked like without Stastny and Lehtera, who are two of their top centers, on Sunday and, despite having a rather familiar look, the result wasn’t pretty. The Blues, who have altered their identity to utilize the addition of new skill this offseason, struggled mightily.
“It really blew up three lines,” said Hitchcock. “When you lose a winger, it’s one thing. When you lose a couple of center ice-men, it blows up your lineup. You make the adjustments. I think any coach knows that if you just get a day or two to catch your breath, you regroup and other guys will step up.”
Like it was on Sunday, the Blues plan to play Steve Ott on the top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie in Thursday’s game. Magnus Paajarvi is expected to slot in to the bottom grouping. Barring a change of schemes, that could be the status quo until Stastny is ready to return.
“We will have Magnus practice there on Wednesday and then see during the game,” Hitchcock said. “I would look for him and Magnus to flip at some point in the upcoming games.”
With two days to practice with the new line combinations, Hitchcock is confident his group will look much more cohesive on Thursday.
“Everybody goes through this stuff,” he said. “But having time to practice and putting lines in will give us a chance to regroup.”