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Blues captain Eric Brewer makes surprise early return to lineup

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis captain Eric Brewer made a surprise return to the Blues' lineup Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The defenceman had not played since Dec. 11 after having back surgery twice to repair a sciatic nerve that at one point was thought to be career threatening. He also had minor knee surgery last month.

"When I get to a point where I'm wondering why I'm just practising, then I'll play," Brewer said earlier this week. "... We're getting close.

"I feel better. I'm starting to get more of my feet under me."

The 30-year-old Brewer has been skating with the Blues regularly since the team returned from its trip to Sweden on Oct. 5. He missed 58 games a season ago and 68 total, including the first 10 games this season. Brewer was cleared to play by his doctor in Los Angeles.

"It was all up to Brew ... he set today as his target, and the doctors cleared him," Blues president John Davidson said. "He's been able to practice hard for some time now, and he wants to get back in there. It's not going to be easy, but we've got to get him back to speed."

Brewer is in the third year of a four-year, US$17-million contract signed in 2007. He had a goal and five assists in 28 games last season.

"Here's a guy that was worried about his career," Davidson said. "He took the full time to rehab properly and now he's in a position where he feels 100 per cent. A lot of athletes retire because of back injuries. It's not a fun issue. This injury could have been debilitating. But here it is the end of October and he's ready to go. I've got to give him credit."

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