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Healthy Andy McDonald ready to roll for Blues

by Louie Korac

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Andy McDonald knows the score.

Andy McDonald
Andy McDonald
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 22
SOG: 64 | +/-: 4
The St. Louis Blues forward understands the biological clock doesn't tick forever, and Father Time catches up with everyone.

For McDonald, who turned 35 on Aug. 25, it's only natural to have those after-hockey thoughts and think about how much more gas is left in the tank, especially with the life span of a hockey player.

But as McDonald enters his 12th NHL season -- his fourth full season in St. Louis -- he feels like Father Time will have to wait a while longer for him to hang up his skates.

If McDonald is as refreshed and energized as he was while the Blues were skating informally at their practice facility this week, there are quite a few more miles remaining in those speedy skates.

"Physically, I feel 25 again and I'm really looking forward to this year," McDonald said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I feel better this year than I did last year. I think you play so many years with injuries and things going on, you don't realize what good health is. I feel great. I had a really good offseason. I'm healthy."

McDonald, who has 468 points in 648 career games, also was healthy going into 2011-12, a season in which the Blues had one of the best performances in franchise history, going 49-22-11 and finishing second in the Western Conference with 109 points. However, McDonald's season was derailed when he suffered another concussion, in the third game of the season in Dallas. That was Oct. 13; he wouldn't see NHL action again until Feb. 12, missing 51 games.

It was the sixth concussion of McDonald's career, and he admitted that during the recovery process there were times where he didn't know if he would play again. With a wife and two young children to think about, his long-term future was a consideration.


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But McDonald went through the treatments, the rest and followed concussion protocol, vowing to return. He played an abbreviated 25-game schedule last season and finished with 22 points. He then scorched the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with four goals and four assists in five games before the Blues lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

But the return to action was a different feel for McDonald, considering it wasn't the customary offseason program that builds up a player for the ruggedness of an 82-game season.

"Physically, I probably wasn't where I wanted to be because you really take advantage to having the offseason to get your strength," McDonald said. "When you go through a concussion, there's a good portion of the time where you're not doing anything, you're not training. To come back in and try to play and not kind of have that summer to train and get ready made it a little bit tougher. But I was probably just a little bit lighter and probably strength-wise, I could have been a little bit stronger.

"I was so happy to be back playing and I was pretty happy about my health at that point. I feel like I'm in better shape this time around. I will have my conditioning back, I will have my strength back. I'm a lot better off now."

McDonald, who is experimenting with wearing a new helmet -- one he hopes will help protect from another concussion -- could play the upcoming season on a line with Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, the team's first-round pick in 2010. It has the potential to be one of the more lethal third lines in the League.

McDonald, who's entering the final season of a four-year, $18.8 million contract and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2013, is eager and anxious to play a full 82-game season -- something that's happened twice in his NHL career. Plus, McDonald would love to prolong his career here, perhaps even finish it in St. Louis.

"I feel better now mentally than I did last year," McDonald said. "I had some lingering things from years with concussions.

"I don't think I realized what 100 percent was until last season, being able to come back and get the treatments and go through all that and to get to a point where I really felt confident that I was 100 percent. That's why I'm so upbeat about this season. I've had a great summer and I'm really looking forward to playing a full year with this kind of health."

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