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McDonald could play soon for Blues, Russell out tonight

by Louie Korac /
ST. LOUIS -- The way St. Louis Blues forward Andy McDonald was flying around the ice Friday at St. Louis Mills is nothing new. This has been a common theme for the past couple weeks.

What makes his impending return from a season-long concussion intriguing is the choice of words the 34-year-old used after the team's workout on Friday.

"I felt really good today and probably I feel like I'm ready to play," said McDonald, who's missed all but three games this season. "... I feel really good. I've been clear on the ice for a while now. I'm real close.

"Today it felt really good. I got to do some more line situations and it felt good. I'm looking forward to getting back in ... whenever that is."

"Whenever that is" is the question of the day that everyone would like to know.

McDonald won't play Saturday when the Blues entertain the Colorado Avalanche. However, there is a strong possibility that McDonald returns to the lineup Sunday night against the Sharks. If he is, he wasn't saying.

"I honestly don't know," McDonald said. "Obviously that's a decision to be made with the training staff, the doctors and obviously the coaching staff will have a say with that. I feel I'm real close. That's all I'm going to say.

"It's certainly not one person's call. Obviously they're listening to me and they want to make a decision that's going to be safe for me and my health. I'm in the same position. I don't want to put myself in a dangerous position. Everyone's going to kind of have a say, find out what's best for me and also what's best for the team. We'll see what it is."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's called McDonald "the best player in practice" on a number of occasions, continues to wait on that knock on his office door.

"It's really up to Andy now," Hitchcock said. "When he's comfortable, I'm sure he's going to come knocking on our door and say, 'I'm ready to go,' but we haven't had that knock yet so he's a fifth-line player.

"With all the guys that were out today, we decided to put him with a line and just have him practice. I wouldn't read anything into it yet. I hope he's feeling good. We haven't really talked to him much. We'll see how he goes in the next few days."

McDonald was skating on the second line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart on Friday. He participated in Saturday's optional workout as well.

"Adding Andy McDonald to your lineup's going to definitely boost your team," Stewart said. "He's a great player offensively. He's one of our big-time leaders. We've definitely been missing him and we can't wait for him to come back.

"You take Andy McDonald and Alex Steen and add them to our lineup and it's better than any trade or acquisition we can make. They're two great players and when they come back in our lineup, we'll be rolling on all cylinders and we'll be scary."

The St. Louis Blues will do some more player juggling when they face the Colorado Avalanche tonight. Defenseman Kris Russell will miss the game with the flu and the team has recalled defenseman Ian Cole to step in and play for Russell.

"We're going to get him a complete day off today and have him ready for tomorrow," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Russell. "Ian Cole is going to come in and play today and we'll see how our roster looks for tomorrow, but we're anticipating giving this full day off, Russ will be alright and be ready for tomorrow."

Defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) is not quite up to speed conditioning-wise yet and is unavailable. The Blues will also go into the weekend without center Jason Arnott (shoulder), winger Matt D'Agostini (concussion symptoms), forward Andy McDonald (concussion) and of course winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), who hasn't played since Dec. 27.

The last time the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche played was on Jan. 7, a 4-0 Blues beatdown in which they outshot the Avs 39-15 in a game that was arguably the Blues' most thorough game from start to finish.

"It's hard to judge it," Hitchcock said. "We played really well and they came off an emotional win in Chicago (the previous night). They had another emotional win last night (in overtime against Carolina in Denver). I think it's whichever team has the energy.

"We've got to guard against that first game back mentality, and they've got to guard against the euphoria of winning with one second or whatever was left in the hockey game. They've got to guard against that. It's two teams coming off of pretty big wins. One coming off the road and one coming in late, so this will be an interesting game to see who grabs momentum."
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