Before heading off for the airport and a three-game, weeklong trip to western Canada, the Blues held a rare Sunday practice that included some rearranged lines and some new faces.
Jay Bouwmeester and Patrik Berglund both took part in the session, and both will accompany the team on the trip. Part of that is practical; with the team being gone for a week, if they stayed at home they would be skating on their own, and part of it is because both players are apparently getting close to returning.
Coach Mike Yeo said that while neither would play on the trip, which starts in Calgary, then goes to Edmonton and Vancouver, Berglund’s status would be re-assessed when the team got home, and he wouldn’t commit to anything beyond saying he wouldn’t play on this trip. That sounds an awful lot like he could be ready ahead of his originally projected December return.
As for Bouwmeester, he’s further away, but this was the first time he’s skated with his teammates in a practice since taking a puck to his ankle in a scrimmage three days into camp. He took part in some drills, but when the team began doing contact-heavy battle drills, he went off by himself, shooting on one of the goalies. (Berglund, meanwhile, took part in the drills.) Bouwmeester still has a ways to go, but this is the first sign of a light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s a progression,” Bouwmeester said. “I practiced today. Ideally, if we had ice (separate from the practice), I wouldn’t have practiced. I would have been skating on my own or with other guys. There’s steps you have to take. Morning skates, certain things you can’t do. Hopefully the way things are going, that’s progressing, that will turn pretty quick and I’ll get back out.”
Bouwmeester acknowledged that with the way the team has been playing, there’s not a rush for him to get back out on the ice.
“We’re in a position here, the team’s doing so good, there’s no pressure to force anything,” he said.
More immediately, Yeo did some line rearranging, including breaking up the successful Schenn-Schwartz-Tarasenko line. Beau Bennett was inserted in Tarasenko’s spot, with Tarasenko joining Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny. That dropped Vladimir Sobotka down to the third line, with Oskar Sundqvist and Dmitrij Jaskin, which pushed Magnus Paajarvi to the fourth line.
“Just trying to spark something,” Yeo said. “We’ll think more about it tomorrow. We wanted to give it a look here in practice. It felt like the last couple games things were getting a little stale and so we’ll see what we come up tomorrow.”