The injury bug was a nemesis of the St. Louis Blues last season, and a big reason why they struggled after a franchise-best 9-1-2 start.
Hoping to avoid such luck, the Blues signed veterans to provide depth for their young core.
They'll surely need it now, as Andy McDonald returned to St. Louis on Friday for further evaluation after the veteran center suffered a head injury at the end of the second period of Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.
McDonald threw a puck towards the Stars' goal at the second-period horn, which ultimately resulted in a scrum with several players involved, including McDonald. He initially was bumped from behind by teammate Nikita Nikitin before teammate David Backes caught McDonald with a shot to the chin while trying to defend McDonald from the Stars' Adam Burish. McDonald then took a shot to the head from the Stars' Vernon Fiddler and was attended to before skating off the ice under his own power.
McDonald missed 24 games last season with a concussion suffered Dec. 4 in Edmonton.
While McDonald returned to play in the third period after going through the NHL protocol on concussions, the team thought it would be best to send him back to St. Louis for further evaluation after McDonald indicated Friday morning he was not feeling right.
"He came in and saw our training staff, saw (Dallas') doctor, talked to our staff and said he was ready to play the third period," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said of McDonald. "So he went out and played the third, and then today he said he just wasn't feeling quite right. So we decided to send him back to St. Louis to see our medical staff."
The Blues, already without Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion symptoms), B.J. Crombeen (fractured shoulder) and David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), are not ruling out a concussion diagnosis for McDonald, but also are not ready to say he has suffered another one.
"We don't want to underreact or overreact to this," Armstrong said. "We want him to get to St. Louis and hopefully we'll have more information for you in the next 48 hours."
"He was dinged a couple of times there," Blues coach Davis Payne said of McDonald. "He went through all the protocol, the doctors checked him out, said he was available to return and Andy felt good to return. He didn't feel as well this morning. Obviously he'll be out."
There is no timetable at this point how much time McDonald will miss. Dallas was the first stop on a four-game trip that continues Saturday in San Jose, followed by games in Anaheim on Sunday and Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"This is one of the things we talked about, this is one of the things we knew we were going to face," Payne said of the injury bug. "Top-line guys or anybody else, guys have to step forward. This is why we have the depth we do."
The Blues aren't planning on calling anyone up from their AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. Chris Porter or Evgeny Grachev, healthy scratches in the first three games of the season, will be inserted into the lineup against the Sharks.