For injury troubles as bad as the 2015-16 campaign to hit St. Louis Blues again come 2016-17 would have seemed near impossible before the season started. But days before opening night, Jaden Schwartz went down with an elbow injury and just as he's nearing his return, three Blues have been sidelined with day-to-day ailments.
During Saturday’s outing against the New York Rangers, the Blues lost Carl Gunnarsson, Kyle Brodziak and Jori Lehtera to upper-body injuries. All three were ruled out of action after suffering their injuries, but it wasn’t until Monday that Ken Hitchcock confirmed each of the three would miss some time. However, the biggest concern is for Lehtera.
According to NHL.com’s Louie Korac, Gunnarsson and Brodziak have joined the Blues for their Western Canada road trip, which begins tonight against the Vancouver Canucks and sees St. Louis square off against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Lehtera, though, hasn’t made the trip.
"We'll see when [Lehtera] joins us, what period of time," Hitchcock said, according to Korac. "But he's not going to go on the first leg of the trip to Vancouver, so he'll stay away…All three guys are day to day, but we don't think that Lehtera's in a position to play right now.”
Even with Hitchcock calling Lehtera day-to-day, suspicions about the 28-year-old pivot’s health increased Tuesday afternoon when he wasn’t listed as part of the Blues’ roster. While nothing has been made official, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford noted that a player’s absence from the roster list “usually means the player has been placed on injured reserve.”
Losing Lehtera won’t have the impact on the Blues roster that losing, say, Paul Stastny or Alexander Steen might have on the group, but the depth that St. Louis is able to roll out through the middle of the ice is one part of what makes the Blues so lethal in the Central Division and Western Conference.
Over the first two games of the season, Lehtera averaged roughly 18 minutes of ice time, and his spot as a reliable two-way middle-six pivot makes him a key part of the Blues’ roster. Lehtera saw a dip in production during the 2015-16 campaign and posted just nine goals and 34 points in 79 games, but he’s shown the ability to be a consistent 40-point player in St. Louis.
There’s much less concern about Gunnarsson and Brodziak. In the Blues’ first two games of the season, Brodziak played no more than 11 minutes in a game and St. Louis is deep enough to cover an injury on their fourth line, and Gunnarsson had already sat out a game as a healthy scratch and was taking minutes as a seventh defenseman in St. Louis.
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