Lapierre to return to lineup tonight at Florida

MIAMI — For center Maxim Lapierre, the long wait is over. He returns to the Blues’ lineup tonight.

“This was a long five-game suspension,” says Lapierre, who hasn’t played since Oct. 15, when his hit from behind on San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle led to the NHL’s disciplinary action. “It’s tough watching your
teammates play while also dealing with another player being injured.”

The layoff of more than two weeks is a result of the Blues’ light opening-month schedule. The injury is the one to Boyle, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher. Boyle has been participating in practice and is expected to return to the Sharks’ lineup soon. Lapierre says he reached out to Boyle on a few occasions and the two have communicated back and forth.

For his part, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is looking forward to getting Lapierre back in the lineup. “He brings a winning energy,” Hitchcock says.

Lapierre is a good player who adds faceoff and penalty-killing depth. The hope is that he will bring the Blues the energy Hitchcock covets without dialing back as a result of his suspension. As right wing Chris Stewart knows from experience — he was suspended for three games for a similar hit two years ago — it can be a challenge when you first return from suspension. Stewart says it’s only natural to think twice before making a hit.

Bouwmeester Returns to South Florida

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was drafted third overall by the Florida Panthers in 2002 and played six seasons with the franchise. He came out of the Western Hockey League as one of the most highly touted D-men ever. He’s one of the few 16-year-olds ever to make Team Canada’s World Junior roster. He put up some decent offensive numbers with Florida, scoring 12 or more goals three different times. That set the bar pretty high when he was traded to Calgary before the 2009-2010 season. But in four seasons in Calgary his high for goals was six.

The Blues obtained Bouwmeester from Calgary in April.

Bouwmeester, 30, has thrived with the Blues. Joining a winning team that is already established has allowed him to settle in, and he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career. He has yet to be a minus in any of the Blues’ first 10 games while continuing to log big minutes. He has eight assists (no goals yet).

The Blues still are discovering areas of his game they may not have appreciated before his arrival.

“He’s got real underrated vision at the offensive blue line,” Hitchcock says.

Stewart says Bouwmeester is the safest player’s he’s ever seen, calling him a one-man breakout.

Bouwmeester has a decent chance to be named to the Canadian Olympic roster for the upcoming games. This would mark the second time Bouwmeester has represented his native country in the Olympics (2006 was the other).

Obvious news on Steen

Speaking of the Olympics, it comes as no surprise that Alexander Steen, who is off to the best start of his career, will be in Sochi, Russia, representing his native country. Swedish officials let the cat out of the bag earlier this week. Teammate Patrik Berglund will likely join Steen on Team Sweden.

More news that shouldn’t leave you dumbfounded: The NHL named Steen its First Star of the Month for October. Steen, 29, leads the NHL with 11 goals, is tied for second with four power-play goals and is tied for fourth with 16 points.

Blues Clues!

Vladimir Sobotka has now taken enough faceoffs to qualify as the NHL leader, winning 70.6% of his draws.

The Blues have a perfect penalty-killing percentage on the road this season.

T.J. Oshie has recorded assists in five straight games and seven of his last eight. He has six points in his last five games, including his goal against Nashville last Saturday.

The Blues recalled forward Chris Porter from Chicago of the American Hockey League, but he will not play tonight. With the injuries to Magnus Paajarvi and Brenden Morrow, Porter gives the Blues depth up front. When in the lineup he will play on the fourth line.

Stewart’s mother- and father-in-law are on the trip to South Florida. Stewart purchased the package at an auction and gave it to them. They are from Toronto.

Congrats to Webster Groves native Scott Mayfield, a defenseman who scored his first professional goal Wednesday. Mayfield plays for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League after the New York Islanders drafted him in the second round in 2011. He played his midget hockey with the St. Louis AAA Blues before leaving for the USHL and the University of Denver.

You can follow Andy Strickland on Twitter at @andystrickland or
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