St. Louis’ top-line center Paul Stastny has missed the past two games with an undisclosed lower-body injury, and the news got much worse Wednesday as the Blues announced Stastny will miss at least the next five weeks with a broken right foot.
Stastny’s injury occurred late in the second period of the Blues’ Friday tilt against the Vancouver Canucks. Following a turnover in the St. Louis zone, the puck was worked back to Canucks defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who ripped a shot from the blueline that caught Stastny on the right foot:
After the block, Stastny skated to the Blues bench and did not return to the ice until the third period. However, Stastny’s single third-period shift lasted a mere one second. It was announced Saturday that Stastny would not remain with the Blues for the remainder of their six-game road trip and would return to St. Louis, but losing the 29-year-old center for five weeks is a huge blow to the Blues’ offense.
Through the first five games of the season, the trio of Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen had been easily the Blues’ hottest line and combined for 18 total points through five games. But with Stastny now sidelined for what could be at least 15 games, the Blues will need to find a new first-line pivot to play between their two top-scoring wingers.
Over the past two games, with Stastny out of the lineup, Jori Lehtera has stepped up to assume the role as first-line center and he has performed admirably in the role. Lehtera is the most obvious replacement for Stastny, too, because both are naturally gifted playmakers who can set up Tarasenko and Steen with regularity. Stastny’s injury could be a huge chance for Lehtera to prove he can be a first-line pivot for the Blues.
In 2014-15, both Lehtera and Stastny put up similar numbers, with the former racking up 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games as a rookie. Stastny, who inked a four-year, $28-million deal as the Blues big free agent signing in July 2014, managed 16 goals and 46 points in 74 contests while playing almost 1:30 more per game than Lehtera. The sophomore Lehtera should be able to handle the workload admirably until Stastny returns.
One cause for concern, however, is that the Blues aren’t putting a specific timetable on when that return will be. At present, the Blues have only said Stastny will be reevaluated after five weeks, not that he could return to the lineup. If Stastny is kept on the sidelines for more than 15 games,the Blues have to worry about what the long-term effect will be on the depth of their roster.
Stastny’s injury isn’t the first big loss the Blues have had to deal with this season. Already the club is without wingers Patrik Berglund and Robby Fabbri, which has opened up opportunities for veterans Scott Gomez and Scottie Upshall to slide into the lineup.