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Blues' Shattenkirk on track in recovery from surgery

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Kevin Shattenkirk admitted the play was rather innocent.

But on that Feb. 1 day against the Washington Capitals, once the St. Louis Blues defenseman received MRI results, the diagnosis was cut and dry.

Shattenkirk, who has missed the Blues' past 17 games after having abdominal surgery, spoke to reporters for the first time since the injury Tuesday. He resumed skating with defenseman Zbynek Michalek (concussion), and though Shattenkirk's status remains week-to-week, the recovery seems to be progressing.

The Blues have gone 10-6-1 in Shattenkirk's absence.

"They've felt good," Shattenkirk said of the recent skates. "I guess about a week ago now, the scar tissue released and that kind of spooked me a little bit. They say if that happens, just take some time, take a day off, let it rest and it's going to feel better, and it has. The groin is still something that I need to work on and strengthen, and then once that gets back, hopefully I can jump into real team practices and then get my conditioning back and ready for games."

Shattenkirk got tangled up with Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in the first period. Shattenkirk went down immediately and crumpled in the corner before skating off the ice bent over.

"It was a weird play," said Shattenkirk, who tore his right groin and the abdominal off the right and left side of his pubic bone. "I just kind of bumped Ovechkin and fell down. I tried to get up, and as I was sliding, my toes seemed to get caught in the ice and open my leg up as my body was still moving. I just felt a pop and instant pain in my belly and in my groin. I knew right away something was really bad. I've had little tweaks before, but this one felt instantly like something was wrong.

"That's the thing, I didn't really know what to expect, what it could have been. Once they gave the MRI, they showed the MRI and said that it was essentially torn off the bone at both spots on the right side and then on the left side in the ab as well. It was pretty amazing to know that that little play caused so much damage."

The injury left a big void in the Blues defense.

"Yeah, it was very tough to swallow," Shattenkirk said. "I think right away I knew that it was going to be something major. It wasn't like I had to sit around for a little while, wait to see if it got better and then get something done. I kind of had it in my mind the whole time that this was going to be something that needed to be repaired. Once I found out that it was only going to be a six-week, seven-week recovery, and you look at the schedule and you see that you're going to be back in time for the last final stretch and the [Stanley Cup Playoffs], I think that as a player really motivates you and doesn't allow you to really get down on yourself and think about the what-ifs.

"My doctor in [Philadelphia], Dr. [William] Meyers, is someone who is very confident in knowing what the injury is, how to repair it and has been pretty progressive in repairing these things and become the go-to guy in this stuff. When I went there, I just felt comfortable that he knew how to handle it and what to do. He kind of kept me calm and kept me at ease. For that week that I stayed there, I was very active in my rehab. About two hours or so, an hour after surgery, I was upstairs walking and working on it already. So it was crazy."

Shattenkirk said there's no target date for his return but he's getting close.

"Yeah, it feels on track," he said. "We're kind of taking it on a week-to-week basis. This Thursday, I believe, will be five weeks out. It's just going by the protocol and following it. I think as I talk to the doctors, and we kind of see how I'm feeling and what next steps we can take, that's all you can really do. But I'm pushing for the six-week mark and I want to make that mark. But I also want to come back and be 100 percent, and obviously every knows that. I wouldn't be helping the team out coming back any less than that, I think."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has monitored Shattenkirk and Michalek closely. He's encouraged by their progress.

"Yeah, they both had real good days; they both worked like crazy," Hitchcock said. "I would say the next evaluation where you can start asking questions and I'll give you the right answers will be when you see them on the ice with us either in a skate or a pregame skate or whatever, an optional practice. But they're getting really close that way, so it's a good sign."

Michalek skated again Wednesday and said he is excited to join a Stanley Cup Playoff contender. He was traded by the Arizona Coyotes prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

"It's going to be a good group of guys and competition to get into the lineup," Michalek said. "In this room, you have nine defensemen that can play on any given night."

With the additions of Michalek and Robert Bortuzzo, who's been a pleasant surprise, from the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blues feel they've added elements that will go a long way in what they hope to be an extended playoff run. Bortuzzo was acquired in a trade for defenseman Ian Cole.

"We're going to have a multitude of right shots for the first time in this franchise's history," Hitchcock said. "We'll see where it goes."

Hitchcock cautioned about getting too excited about the prospect of having everyone healthy. It will take some time.

"I think you've got to be careful because you might get a guy's name back, but you don't get the players back when you have long-term injuries," Hitchcock said. "You've got to be prepared for that. When Michalek comes back in or when Shattenkirk comes back in, we've got to be careful on our [analysis] right away because it's going to take them some time to get up to speed also. ... We've just got to be prepared to manage the guys properly and make sure that our expectations don't exceed where their actual play is at."

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