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Paul Stastny returns to Blues practice

Center remains day to day, status unclear for Game 4 against Wild on Wednesday

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny practiced Tuesday but is questionable for Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, FS-MW, FS-N).

The Blues lead the best-of-7 series 3-0.

It was Stastny's first practice since he injured his foot when hit by teammate Vladimir Tarasenko's shot against the Colorado Avalanche on March 21.

 

[RELATED: Complete Blues vs. Wild series coverage]

 

"Paul is day to day, same as what he was the other day to days," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "I thought he had a good practice. I thought he was skating well, I thought he was involved in every drill and conditioning didn't look like an issue and timing and execution didn't look like it was an issue either."

Asked if Stastny could be available Wednesday, Yeo wouldn't say.

"Well, every day is a new day," he said. "I'm running out of things to say."

Stastny skated in forward Alexander Steen's spot. Steen has a lower-body injury but Yeo said he would be available for Game 4.

Whenever Stastny does return, his faceoff success will be key. He led the Blues with a .557 faceoff winning percentage during the regular season. But in three games against the Wild, the Blues have won 40.1 percent of faceoffs.

"He plays in every situation," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of Stastny. "Obviously he's in that first [power-play unit], big on faceoffs too. Obviously [Vladimir Sobotka] has come in and helped in that department, but Paul's a big guy and takes a lot of big faceoffs in a lot of situations. We're waiting on his return. I don't know the situation either, but we're excited to see him out there with us."

Video: ANA@STL: Stastny cuts across slot, finishes five-hole

Right wing David Perron said, "It's amazing, one of our best players all year ... as far as doing those little things, faceoffs, grabbing guys' sticks, getting guys some more [time] with the puck, the way he passes the puck. It's obviously great for sure.

"Obviously that's one of the bigger parts. On the left side he wins a lot of draws. It would take pressure off other guys too. I think their team is really good, their four centermen. They even have a couple of guys on the wing that can win draws. It's tough on our guys right now but they're doing their best."

The Blues hold a 3-0 series lead for the first time since they swept the Dallas Stars in the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals, and the eighth time in their history. In the previous seven they've swept their opponents five times and won in five games twice.

However, considering they were pushed to seven games twice last season, against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round after holding a 3-1 series lead, and the Stars in the second round after failing to win the series at home in Game 6, the Blues hope to learn their lesson. They looked tired and weary in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks, losing that series in six games.

"They're tough games," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "The teams are kind of fighting to stay in and stay alive and it's an opportunity for us to obviously advance. But it's the same opportunity for them to stay alive and play the best game. It's tough hockey for sure, but that's what makes it so fun is when we can come together as a team and continue to push."

What Yeo wants the Blues to focus on is playing better as the series progresses and not think about looking too far ahead.

"We still have a great deal, a ton of respect, for the team that we're playing against," Yeo said of the Wild. "We know how good of a team they are, we know how close the games have been. We're not trying to think about the next round or anything else right now. What we're trying to make sure we're focusing on is to be at our best [Wednesday] and that's all we can do right now. And obviously if you can do that, then you give yourself the best opportunity."

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