Welcome back, Paul: Stastny to return to Blues lineup tonight

Paul Stastny should provide an immediate boost to a Blues offense ranked 24th in the league in goals per game.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

ST. LOUIS — Blues center Paul Stastny will make his long-awaited return to the lineup Thursday night after missing virtually nine games with an upper-body injury.

His presence should provide an immediate boost to an offense ranked 24th in the league with just 2.33 goals per game, a number that hasn’t changed since Stastny left the ice 31 seconds into his first shift during a 6-1 win at Arizona. St. Louis’ prized free-agent signing last offseason scored a goal and had three assists in his first four games.

"As long as we don’t think it’s going to be points night like we did earlier, we’re going to be fine," coach Ken Hitchcock says. "We’ve got great structure going right now. He’s going to add, to be able to help us quite a bit."

After two straight losses following the rout of Arizona, the Blues bounced back to win six straight games without Stastny, capped off by a 1-0 win at New Jersey on Tuesday. The Devils will visit St. Louis to close out the season series tonight, and Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk says Stastny should offer help in just about every area.

He’s eager to get back in a game for the first time in almost three weeks, even though the Blues originally called the injury "day-to-day" and didn’t officially place him on the injured reserve until six days later. They activated him Thursday morning and moved T.J. Oshie to injured reserve, where Hitchcock indicated he could stay for some time thanks to a concussion suffered in a 4-3 overtime win at Dallas on Oct. 28.

The Blues left New Jersey with a hard-fought 1-0 win Tuesday night, and Hitchcock expects more of the same Thursday. Jake Allen will make his second consecutive start for the first time this season to allow primary goaltender Brian Elliott to be ready for Saturday’s showdown with Nashville.

While St. Louis welcomed Stastny back, New Jersey got some bad news on its injury front with the loss of points leader Adam Henrique. New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer confirmed Thursday the center suffered a lower-body injury while playing for 19 minutes Tuesday, and he’ll be replaced by American Hockey League call-up Mike Sislo.

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