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Thorburn to join Blues for remainder of season

Chris Thorburn was called up Friday and will remain with the Blues throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

Doug Armstrong wants to see you.

That's what Chris Thorburn was told when he walked into the team's hotel lobby about an hour after the Blues' final preseason game back in September. That's the moment Armstrong informed the 14-year NHL veteran that he wouldn't be on the team's opening night roster and instead would be placed on waivers the next morning.

Thorburn, who was entering the last year of a two-year contract with the Blues, was devastated. In his first season with the Blues, he and his family had made St. Louis their home and loved it there. His son, Bennett - who is autistic - was finally excelling in a school close to home and they couldn't fathom having to move again.

"I'm not going to lie, it was a tough situation," Thorburn told stlouisblues.com. "It was tough on Army's end as far as deciding to send me down and on my end as far as receiving that message."

Thorburn cleared waivers and has since spent almost the entire season with the San Antonio Rampage, where he has played 40 games. His family has remained in St. Louis, and if there were breaks in San Antonio's schedule, Thorburn would fly back to spend some time with them before returning to San Antonio again.

Throughout the season, Thorburn found himself hoping to get called back up to the Blues. The injuries in St. Louis had piled up, but younger players like Sammy Blais, Jordan Kyrou and Mackenzie MacEachern were called up instead.

Because of the long-distance situation with his family, Thorburn admits he's been contemplating how much longer he wants to continue to play. He feels like he's in great shape - his body says he can play longer if he wants to - but he's not certain whether he can continue to be away from his wife and kids for the majority of the year anymore.

On Thursday - with just one game remaining in the regular season - Thorburn finally got the call he had been hoping for.

Now he's back with the Blues.

"Army kept in constant contact and always explained what was going on," Thorburn said. "He went above and beyond for me. And to get that call here at the end of the season, no call is too late, right? I didn't really envision this but I was hoping for it and praying for this to happen, so for it come to fruition is a blessing. It just goes to show there are good people out there, and I have some good people looking after me."

The move to recall Thorburn is possible because the Blues haven't had to use many call ups down the stretch. After the trade deadline, teams are only allowed four recalls (excluding those made under emergency conditions). Because the Blues had recalls to spare, Armstrong decided to bring Thorburn back in time for the team's final regular season game.

Thorburn will also remain with the club throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Obviously the year didn't go the way he had hoped, but he's had a really strong career and he's a high-character person that I know our players will be excited to have around," Armstrong said of Thorburn. "We're glad he can come up and experience the playoffs with us. He's part of our team now, so he will be part of our group. It's up to the coach whether he plays or not, but he's been a really good soldier for us this year in working with our American League guys, and he will be a really positive influence in our room."

Despite spending the season in San Antonio, Thorburn said he's followed the Blues and is thrilled to see the team's ascension in the standings over the last three months.

"It's crazy. I've been paying real close attention, especially early on when things weren't going well when I talked with the guys," Thorburn said. "I was one of the most excited guys in the summer when Army made all those moves to bring in guys like (Ryan) O'Reilly and (Tyler) Bozak. It was just a matter of time before the team got going. When you bring that many new faces into a locker room, it's going to take some time to gel and figure out who they are. Man, since they've figured that out, there was no looking back. These guys are on fire, they're fun to watch and I'm excited to be part of it."

With one game remaining and so much on the line - the Blues could win the Central Division on Saturday and secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs - Thorburn isn't sure whether he will get in the lineup. But the opportunity to potentially play another NHL game… well, it's almost too exciting to put into words.

"It would be great, but I understand the circumstances, too," Thorburn said. "With Dallas right behind us and obviously Winnipeg and Nashville just ahead of us, these are important games. I'm not looking for any handouts. Being here is more than I could have ever asked for. So I'm just going to ride with this and just be the guy that others can lean on. I'll be the guy I've always been throughout my whole career - just a guy to bounce some stuff off of, give some advice when it's needed and be a positive person around the locker room."

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