HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was the first step in the process of returning to the lineup, and for the red-hot St. Louis Blues it will fortify an already solid lineup when Alexander Steen comes back.
Steen, who has missed nine games with a concussion, was a full participant at practice Monday for the first time since he left the lineup during a Dec. 21 game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Steen, who's tied for fifth in the NHL in goals with 24, still leads the Blues with 38 points. He has stayed active since leaving the lineup with the second concussion of his career (he missed 39 games during the 2011-12 season).
"Good ... better," Steen said when asked about his health. "Obviously hanging around the guys again is a big lift in spirits. With these kinds of injuries you tend to fall away from the team, spend time on your own. That's usually the hardest part of having an injury like this. But I'm staying positive, taking steps forward, and enjoying my time with the team [Monday] and the rest of the week.
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 38
SOG: 117 | +/-: 15
"Just feeling better so I figured I'd try [to practice]. Basically just try stuff and analyze and see how you feel and go from there."
The Blues, who begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, have no definitive plan for Steen's return.
"He's been skating on his own so he joins the team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "As time moves forward we'll see when he's ready to play. It's a good sign. He had good energy. I think the guys were real happy to have him back on the ice.
"I don't think you want to read anything into it though until he's declared a player. You could go through this for days; you could go through this for weeks. You don't really know. It's all kind of how he feels."
Steen wore a contact jersey Monday and took shifts with the Blues' top-line trio of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Jaden Schwartz.
"It was good. I think he may have gotten faster over the past couple of weeks somehow," Backes said of Steen. "Hopefully he's back in the lineup shortly, and when he is he'll make us an even better team. It's great to have him back."
Steen's concussion was the result of a couple hard hits in a short span. First there was a hit by Ottawa Senators center Zack Smith in the first minute of a game Dec. 16. Three days later against the Montreal Canadiens, Steen took a hard hit after the whistle from defenseman Douglas Murray, and then collided with former teammate David Perron in the game against the Oilers. He did not return for the third period.
Steen did not accompany the team to its Dec. 23 game against the Calgary Flames. He came back to St. Louis before going to see a concussion specialist in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Dec. 26. He was allowed to stay active to a certain level.
"It's tough for players with my type of personality to sit on your couch and not doing much," Steen said. "Mentally I just feel better when I'm doing something so I try to stay a little active ... long walks, bike rides and stuff like that. You just go by how you feel.
"The thing I learned from last time is not over-analyzing myself hour to hour, letting you [media] guys stress me by questioning me every day to see if I'm playing or practicing, what are the symptoms. I'm kind of taking it at my own pace and seeing how I feel. It's basically the only way to go about it."
Steen said if he feels better on mornings the day after he pushes the pace, he'll raise the bar even higher and push even harder, but there is no set date for a return to the lineup.
"Just basically do what I feel comfortable with. There's no timetable," Steen said. "Up until [Monday], just kind of been going day by day. I haven't planned a week in advance or anything like that. Just go by how I feel in the mornings and nights, especially the nights after I've done stuff. I'll look [Monday night] at how I feel and maybe we go harder [Tuesday] or just take a step back and chill.
"Even if you don't see me out there [Tuesday] it's not the end of the world. It's not like I sat at home … completely crushed. It's just another day, and you're looking at the all-around and long-term plan to get me back."
The Blues have gone 7-1-1 in Steen's absence, including a seven-game winning streak that was snapped Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.