Blues activate leading goal scorer Steen from injured reserve
ST. LOUIS — Alexander Steen is ready to return and the St. Louis Blues are hoping their leading goal scorer can provide a spark.
Steen, who has missed the past 11 games with a concussion, was activated from the injured reserve list Friday after the team’s morning skate. It was the third consecutive day and fourth time this week he had skated with his teammates.
"I took it at my own pace and I feel like we’re ready to go tomorrow," Steen said following the team’s optional practice at the Ice Zone.
The Blues went 8-2-1 during Steen’s absence, which allowed the forward to take his time with his return. But now that he’s back, he’ll be asked to return to the form that made him an early MVP candidate.
Steen tallied 24 goals and 38 points in the Blues’ first 35 games. The 24 goals tied his career high and were second in the league behind Alex Ovechkin when he was taken out of the lineup.
"He’s had a great year," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He’s been our best player. He’s in great shape right now. I think we’re going to play him as much as he can handle. And hopefully he can get up to speed right away and play the minutes that he did before and contribute the way he did before, because he was a huge impact player for us."
Steen, who was selected to Sweden’s Olympic team, was averaging a career-best 20:34 of ice time. He was also plus-15 and had scored six game-winning goals. His strong all-around play had helped him earn a three-year, $17.4 million contract extension last month.
Steen was part of a strong first line along with center David Backes (17 goals, 35 points) and right winger T.J. Oshie (11 goals, 40 points). Oshie, who has scored the Blues’ last three goals, recently overtook Steen for the team’s scoring lead.
With Steen, youngster Jaden Schwartz (15 goals, 32 points) was moved to the No. 1 line and played well. Hitchcock said Friday he was unsure where Steen would slot on the lines for Saturday night’s game against visiting Anaheim (36-8-5, 77 points) at Scottrade Center.
"We’ll take a look at the lineup later today and see what we want to do," the coach said.
The Blues (32-9-5, 69 points) will be looking for a spark from Steen following a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday and a sluggish 2-1 win against Phoenix on Tuesday. St. Louis is averaging 3.5 goals per game, which is second in the NHL, but has just four goals in its last three games.
"We just got away from the way we normally play," Steen said of Thursday’s loss. "LA, obviously, played a good game. Last time they were in our building we got the better of them. Obviously, last night they had a good, hard-fought game and got the decision. Tomorrow night we’ve got another team that’s playing really hot right now, and it’s up to us to play the way that we play and dictate the game and play with that solid team game that we’ve been so good at this year."
The Blues announced Friday morning that rookie Dmitrij Jaskin had been assigned to the Chicago Wolves.
The 20-year-old has played in six games with the Blues this season, including two this week while Steen and Maxim Lapierre were both on the IR.
"He’s getting better and better every game," Hitchcock said Friday. "When he comes up and Doug (Armstrong) and his staff decide he’s a full-time player, this coaching staff is going to have no problem playing this guy. I mean this guy’s a good player. He’s learning, he’s getting better every day. Yesterday was a rich game and he had three scoring chances for us again, so that’s six in two games, which is really significant. I think once he’s up to speed and once he’s ready to go, he’s going to be a real help for us."
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