He hasn’t played an NHL game in nearly eight months, and it’s been even longer since he last played at 100 percent.
But after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in late August and following a strict four-month rehabilitation plan, the 27-year-old Vasteras, Sweden native is finally ready to put his recovery behind him.
Berglund will return to the lineup when the Blues meet the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
“It’s going to be really hard to play in the beginning,” Berglund said in an exclusive interview with stlouisblues.com. “It’s been almost eight months since I last played a game, so I’ve got to be smart, have short shifts and all that, and really focus on those types of things so I don’t hurt my team.”
Berglund was originally injured nearly two years ago when an awkward check into the glass initiated the injury in Dallas on April 11, 2014. Berglund missed three games at the time before returning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that season. He played through some pain in 2014-15 as the injury lingered, scoring 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 77 regular season games.
But while training last summer, Berglund re-aggravated the injury and the team made the decision to move forward with surgery.
“I thought he’d be able to continually rehab and strengthen it, but it came up a couple times over the summer, so when he came back here in July, our feeling was let’s just get it fixed once and for all,” Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. “The good news is, it shouldn’t be an issue going forward.”
“I knew right away I was going to be out for a long time,” Berglund said of opting for surgery. “It was tough at the time, but I got through that and started to focus on getting in shape and getting the shoulder back. After awhile, you get used to it and eventually you just look forward.”
Berglund began skating on his own in the fall and eventually joined the team for non-contact practices on Dec. 15. Just after Christmas, he was cleared for all physical contact and insists the shoulder still feels good.
Without Berglund, the Blues have compiled a 23-13-4 record (50 points), which is good for second place in the Central Division. His return should give the club an added boost to remain competitive in the second half of the schedule in the always-tough Western Conference. But on an already deep club, there is a question of where he’ll fit: at his natural center position, or on the wing?
“He’s a guy that hasn’t played in six months, so I don’t think we’re going to thrust him into a role (right away),” Armstrong said. “He’s a top-nine forward, he can play center ice or either wing. He’s a big body and you realize what you miss when you don’t have it. Having that size on our team is something I’m looking forward to having back in our lineup.”
A 2006 first-round pick of the Blues (25th overall), Berglund has played in 513 career games, scoring 118 goals and 129 assists (247 points). He’s excited about the future now that this long-term injury is behind him.
“The goal is to keep playing games and get ready for the playoffs,” Berglund said. “It’s time for us to find a way in the playoffs. That’s going to be the main focus, getting us all ready to compete on a high-level.
“This team is really, really good, and I’m really excited to come in and help.”