ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues left wing Paul Kariya will have surgery on his left hip and could miss the rest of the season, the latest hit for a franchise beset by injuries to key players.
The 34-year-old Kariya hasn’t played since Nov. 5 in Anaheim, when his body was wrenched by a hit from behind and he tore muscle fibres near the top of his thigh. He had apparently recovered from the initial injury and skated with the team three days this week, but cut short his workout Friday after only about 10 minutes.
An MRI exam Friday revealed additional damage inside the hip and Kariya and the Blues elected for surgery on Saturday after consulation with several doctors. The decision was announced near the end of the first period of a game against the San Jose Sharks.
Team president John Davidson said there was no timetable for Kariya’s return, and said surgery had not yet been scheduled.
“He knows the sooner he gets it done, the sooner he’s going to be able to play,” Davidson said. “Whether that’s six weeks from now or toward the end of the season or toward the fall, it doesn’t matter.
“Doing it right, rehabbing it properly and getting the right person to do it, that’s more important than saying, ‘Come on, let’s get back in a month.”‘
Davidson said there was no question the injury that’s requiring surgery is related to the hit in Anaheim.
“He was jolted from behind and it twisted his whole body and it tore a muscle,” Davidson said. “It’s healed and there’s still discomfort. So now we’ve looked and there’s more damage than first thought and it’s going to have to be repaired.
“This is all on that same hit from behind.”
The Blues were last in the Western Conference with a 13-18-3 record and 29 points, having lost seven of the previous eight games. They’ve been without several key players for long stretches, beginning with defenceman Erik Johnson’s season-ending knee injury in a pre-training camp golf outing accident. Forward Andy McDonald (broken ankle) and defenceman Eric Brewer (back surgery) and goalie Manny Legace (hip, concussion) also have had extended absences.
“We’re getting used to this,” Davidson said. “We deal with what we have to deal with. We have to play with purpose and intelligence, and we’ll compete, that’s what the mandate is.
“We’ve had some clunkers lately but we’ve played hard most nights and if we play smart we’ll stay in games.”
In the second season of a three-year, US$18-million free agent deal, Kariya has two goals and 13 assists in 11 games. He has 384 goals and 562 assists in 914 regular-season games with Anaheim, Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis.
Kariya’s first season with the Blues was a bit of a disappointment. He had 16 goals and 49 assists to tie for the team lead with 65 points while playing all 82 games, but seldom challenged defences during the franchise’s second-half swoon and totalled one goal in the final 26 games.
Davidson asserted that far from signalling the beginning of the end for Kariya, he would emerge “better than ever” from the surgery. He said Kariya was “very inquisitive” of what type of player he might be after the operation.
“He’ll be better, better than what he’s been,” Davidson said. “Everybody feels if he gets it repaired and does his rehab properly, he’ll be 110 per cent ready to go.”