For the second game in succession, the Blues got by without any spare parts Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings, and there’s a chance that could be the case throughout Thanksgiving week.
The team lost forward Jaden Schwartz and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to upper-body injuries in Friday’s 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Both veterans sat out Saturday’s game in San Jose and Monday’s home contest with the Los Angeles Kings.
“I would expect both guys to be out through the weekend, and then we’ll see how they’re doing next (week),” Mike Yeo said after Monday’s morning skate, and about a half a day before he was fired as the team’s coach.
If that’s the case, the duo will miss at least three additional games, because the Blues play Wednesday at Nashville, Friday at home against Nashville and Saturday at home against Winnipeg.
Among other injured Blues, Yeo described winger Alexander Steen (upper body) as day-to-day. Forward Pat Maroon (upper body) remains on injured reserve but is making progress. Monday marked the third game Maroon has missed due to injury.
Maroon skated on his own Monday before the Blues’ morning skate.
“He felt good out there, so he’s coming along,” Yeo said. “I’d say hopeful for the weekend, but we’ll see.”
And what about Robert Bortuzzo? The defenseman has missed 12 consecutive games — and 13 of his last 14 — with a lower-body injury, and for now remains on injured reserve. But he also has done some skating in a non-practice setting and is making progress.
The Blues are ultra-tight against the salary cap, which may explain why they have called up no reserves from San Antonio at this point. According to Capfriendly.com, the team is projected to be only $40,000 below the cap by season’s end. And that may explain why the team is going with only 12 forwards and six defensemen.
“That’s OK,” Yeo said. “We’re happy with the group that we have. It’s always challenging, but every team faces this. Every team has guys that are out of the lineup and you have to step up.
“When we’re approaching a game like (Los Angeles), you’ve got to look at the (Ryan) O’Reillys, the (Vladimir) Tarasenkos, the (Brayden) Schenns, the (Tyler) Bozaks, the (David) Perrons — those veteran guys. Those guys that have experience scoring and contributing, being effective both ends of the ice.”
The absence of veterans Bortuzzo, Gunnarsson, Maroon, Schwartz and Steen — who have a combined 2,542 games of NHL regular-season experience — has opened chances for several youngsters.
“We’ve got guys that are getting the extra opportunity, whether it’s getting into the lineup, whether it’s getting extra ice time,” Yeo said. “Come into the game and don’t just blend in. Make sure you find a way to impact the game, to have a positive effect on the outcome.”
SUNDQVIST & WILSON
The NHL Players Association helped Washington forward Tom Wilson during his appeal of a 20-game league suspension for a blindside hit on Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. Sundqvist, who still bears facial scars from that hit, said the players association did not reach out to him during the process.
“No, they didn’t,” Sundqvist said. “I think they have to go both ways there, kind of. But in this case it feels like they just tried to help Wilson out. So it was a surprise, yeah (not to hear from the NHLPA).”
Sundqvist missed the first eight games of the regular season due to a concussion and shoulder injury resulting from the hit, which occurred in the Blues’ preseason finale.
Last week, an arbitrator reduced Wilson’s suspension to 14 games. The Capitals had already played 16 games by then, but Wilson will still get back six games’ worth of salary.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Sundqvist said.
“They already made the decision, and I can’t walk around all day thinking about that. I got other stuff to think about, like trying to play hockey and trying to do as good as I can here for the Blues.”