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Blues welcome Sobotka back into lineup

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues certainly were busy leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline with the additions of goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres. But it's also not often a team can add a versatile player like forward Vladimir Sobotka to its lineup.

Sobotka, who missed 12 games dating to Jan. 31 with a fractured left kneecap, will return to the lineup when the Blues (44-14-7) host the Edmonton Oilers (23-35-8) Thursday.

"I've been cleared by doctors on Monday and I tried to push more every practice," said Sobotka, who has seven goals and 25 points in 46 games. "I feel good so I'm going to be playing tonight.

"It's been a long break for me. It's been probably six weeks right now, and it's been a tough injury for me. I'm excited to be back."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will welcome Sobotka back with open arms.

"He's an 18-minute player," Hitchcock said. "He's arguably had the best season of anybody on the team. When you get an elite player like him back, it's going to help you a lot. We expect him to be helping us. It's going to take him a few shifts to get up to speed, but he's such a good player for us right now. He controls the middle of the ice and he's such a competitive guy.

"The more the merrier. The more depth we add to our group, the better we feel about it. He stabilizes anybody he plays with because he manages the ice so well."

With Sobotka coming off injured reserve, veteran forward Brenden Morrow will sit out the game as a healthy scratch.

"It was easy for us. It's not easy for the players," Hitchcock said of the decision. "We've got a game plan for Brenden. There will be two, maybe three other occasions that Brenden will sit out getting ready for [the] playoffs. So there's a plan there."

The Oilers' visit marks the return of forward David Perron, who played with the Blues for six seasons before being traded this summer to Edmonton for forward Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Perron leads the Oilers with 24 goals and is third on the team with 46 points in 62 games.

"I made sure I was focused on coming to the rink and making sure I went to the right dressing room, met a couple of the guys and stuff like that, so it was pretty cool," said Perron, who was selected in the first round (No. 26) of the 2007 draft.

"I really enjoyed my time here," Perron added. "Always have great memories, obviously. It was nice to go see some of the staff that I got to know over the years. ... I kind of wish it was earlier in the year and we would still be in the race in a way, being a really meaningful game for the team as well and not only for me. That's the way the schedule is."

Here are the projected lineups the Oilers and Blues:


Nail Yakupov - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - David Perron

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Luke Gazdic - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

Mark Fraser - Justin Schultz

Oscar Klefbom - Andrew Ference

Martin Marincin - Jeff Petry

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Philip Larsen, Anton Lander

Injured: Anton Belov (oblique)


Jaden Schwartz - David Backes - Alexander Steen

Vladimir Tarasenko - Vladimir Sobotka - T.J. Oshie

Patrik Berglund - Derek Roy - Steve Ott

Magnus Paajarvi - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Ryan Miller

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Brenden Morrow, Chris Porter

Injured: Jordan Leopold (ankle)

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