ST. LOUIS – For the first time in seven games, the St. Louis Blues will have Vince Dunn in their lineup as the defenseman will return for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final. That’s an enormously positive development for the Blues, who get a terrific young defenseman who is mobile, can move the puck and help their power play. Even if he has lost some weight and has a bunch of wires in his mouth, he can still help the Blues.
(It seems strange that the one coming out of the Blues lineup to make room for Dunn is Robert Bortuzzo. Dunn shoots left and Bortuzzo right. That means the Blues will have four lefties and only two righties in the lineup for Game 4. Joel Edmundson, who shoots left, has not been good in the Stanley Cup final and would seem to be a more obvious choice. The move makes it pretty clear the Blues aren’t sure how much Dunn will be able to play. Edmundson can log big minutes if needed and Bortuzzo can’t.)
All of this is even better news for Dunn, who sat in his stall at the Enterprise Center last Friday unsure of when he’d be able to play again and devastated that he was powerless to help his teammates. Amid all the excitement of the Cup final returning to St. Louis for the first time in 49 years, Dunn's eyes were glassy with emotion as he poured out his frustrations. It was his first full practice with the team, but the road to his return still looked uncertain.
“I’m really not happy about it,” Dunn said. “It’s something you dream about your whole life and it just gets taken away by something you can’t prevent. It’s not like I wasn’t playing well enough to be in the lineup or shooting myself in the foot. It’s just a very unfortunate bounce.”
The unfortunate bounce of which Dunn spoke occurred in Game 3 of the Western Conference final when he took a Brenden Dillon wrist shot square in the jaw while battling with Sharks winger Melker Karlsson in front of the Blues’ net. It was a rather gruesome-looking injury when it happened and, as it turns out, a pretty serious one. At first, he was out for the rest of the game. But it turned out he missed the remainder of the series against the Sharks, and that stretched into the Stanley Cup final. It took an enormous emotional toll on Dunn.
He’s only 22 years old and it’s easy to say that he’s young and he’ll have plenty more opportunities during his career, but you never really know whether you’re going to get this close to winning a Stanley Cup again. To have to watch his teammates do it was almost unbearable.
“It’s emotionally draining to be getting the same questions from friends and family,” Dunn said. “Everyone is worried about you, which is nice. But at the same time it’s hard to know that you’re not going to be suiting up for that next game. There’s nothing you can really say or hear that is going to make you feel better. At the end of the day, you’re not in the lineup and it sucks. It’s the Stanley Cup final and it’s something you dream about as a kid.”
Dunn will get to finally live that dream when he steps on the ice for Game 4 Monday night. And now he knows he’ll be suiting up for the next game, too. If he can bring to the Blues what he brought prior to his injury, it should help St. Louis, who have struggled on the power play against the Bruins.
“He’s ready to play and he’s 100 percent, so we’re going to get a good player back,” Blues coach Craig Berube told reporters after the morning skate Monday. “It’s going to be intense for him right away, but he’ll get into it and he’ll make good plays with the puck like he always does. I expect the same Vince Dunn you’ve seen.”
As for another young injured defenseman, there was also some encouraging news on Bruins blueliner Matt Grzelcyk, who is out with a suspected concussion after absorbing an Oskar Sundqvist hit in Game 2, one that resulted in a one-game suspension for Sundqvist. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy ruled Grzelcyk out for Game 4, but said a return to the series is possible, perhaps as early as Game 5 when the series shifts back to Boston Thursday night.
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