Paul Stastny will return to the lineup tonight at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, where the Blues meet the Sabres for the second time in five days (6 p.m. CT, FSMW, KMOX).
Stastny was injured Oct. 16 when he sustained a broken foot against the Vancouver Canucks and was to be re-evaluated in five weeks.
So, he’s pretty much right on schedule.
“It’s good to be back with the guys,” Stastny said after the morning skate. “There are only so many skates you can do by yourself. That’s what you miss the most, competing with the guys and being part of the wins and losses with them and going through the ups and downs.”
“It feels good,” Stastny added about the injury. “I think it was about pushing more and more every day and not having any setbacks. It kept getting better and better. The doctors checked it out the other day and said it’s good to go.”
Before the injury, Stastny was centering the top line with Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tararsenko. It’s expected he’ll be back there tonight.
“It’ll be a little bit of time before he’s up to speed, but I think that line was an awfully good line before Paul went down, and we’ll see how quickly he can get us up to speed,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I think he’s going to really help us on special teams. He was obviously very good on the power play and equally good killing penalties. When you get a three-dimensional player who can play both ends of special teams and 5-on-5, it’s a good add.”
Injuries have been a story all season for the Blues. But Stastny’s return leaves just Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) on the injured list.
“I just want to play my game, do well out there,” Stastny said of returning tonight. “Just get a couple shifts in early, nothing too long. I’m just trying to get my timing back as quick as I can, and get more and more comfortable as the game goes on.”
THE LAST MEETING
The Blues and Sabres met last Thursday at Scottrade Center, with the Blues taking a 3-2 shootout victory.
In that game, the Blues were perfect on the penalty kill, including two 5-on-3 man advantages, and capitalized twice on the power play.
Steen scored the decided goal in the shootout, while Tarasenko and Kevin Shattenkirk scored in regulation. Jake Allen made 34 saves.
“We found out last week that they’re a good team,” Allen said. “They’re quick, they’re skilled and they’ve got a good goalie. We’ll have a good test tonight, especially in their barn. They’re going to want to come out and give us their best.”
Entering tonight’s game, the Blues have won nine of the last 10 games in Buffalo, including three straight. In the last three games at First Niagara Center, the Blues have outscored the Sabres 10-1, including a 3-0 shutout win last season in which Allen made 23 saves.
Today’s morning skate was optional, so the lines won’t be available until closer to game time.
With that being said, Hitchcock said Scott Gomez would sit out tonight to make room for Stastny’s return. In addition, Robert Bortuzzo will be in the lineup for Joel Edmundson.
Allen will start in goal.
Shattenkirk has collected points in five consecutive games and was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, joining San Jose’s Martin Jones and Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin. “It’s very cool,” Shattenkirk said of the honor. “More importantly, I feel like I’m finally playing hockey like myself again. We’ve been batting, the team’s been doing a really good job to get wins here while we had a lot of injuries. I’m glad I could get back and be part of it and contribute.”
Since 1999, the Blues have won 17 of the last 19 games against the Sabres, outscoring them 66-31 in that span.
Kyle Brodziak, who scored his 100th career goal Saturday vs. Detroit, has four goals and three assists in his last six games against the Sabres.
Alexander Steen has six assists in his last three games against Buffalo.