CALGARY, Alberta — Once the Blues activated Sammy Blais from injured reserve Tuesday afternoon, it came as no surprise that the 23-year-old forward would be in the lineup that night against Calgary.
No, the surprise came when coach Craig Berube disclosed that forward Oskar Sundqvist was out with a lower-body injury. Berube said it was not related to the ankle injury that sidelined Sundqvist for six games in late November and early December.
“Not at all,” Berube said. “Totally different.”
Berube said the injury occurred during the third period against the Canucks.
Sundqvist played just 10 minutes, 42 seconds in Monday’s 3-1 loss in Vancouver, easily his lowest ice time since the ankle injury occurred Nov. 27 against Tampa Bay. But he played as late as the 16:09 mark of the final period — or with less than four minutes to play in the game.
“He’ll be reevaluated (Wednesday), we’ll see where he’s at,” Berube said.
When asked if there was any concern that it would be a long-term injury, Berube said: “We don’t know that yet. It is a concern obviously when we lose him. He’s a good player for us. So it is what it is.”
In 44 games for the Blues this season, Sundqvist has 11 goals, which is tied for fifth on the team (with Tyler Bozak), and nine assists. A versatile player, Sundqvist has played up and down the lineup — from the fourth line to the first line. He is adept at killing penalties and has even seen spot duty on the penalty kill.
With Sundqvist out, Blais was slotted on the fourth line Tuesday against Calgary, playing on a line with Jacob de la Rose and Ivan Barbashev. There were no other lineup changes up front — the three other forward lines were the same as the Blues trotted out in Vancouver.
As for Blais, Calgary marked his first game action since Nov. 19 against Tampa Bay, when he suffered a wrist injury that required surgery. Blais missed the next 28 games. He has been skating with the team for the last few weeks, but Sunday marked his first full practice.
Blais was on a 20-goal pace, with five goals in 20 games, before the injury.
“He’ll bring energy for sure,” Berube said. “He plays an aggressive game. He takes the body. And he’s good with the puck, makes some plays and stuff. He’s been out a long time. So he’s gotta keep it simple, keep the shifts short — that’ll be important for him.”
After playing Monday in Vancouver and flying late night to Calgary, the Blues did not have a morning skate Tuesday. In his pregame remarks 90 minutes before the Blues-Flames puck drop, Berube said there would be no other line changes besides Blais in and Sundqvist out.
But defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who has played the Blues’ last 17 games, was a pregame scratch. And Carl Gunnarsson, who has played only once since Dec. 12, was back in the lineup paired with Justin Faulk.
For all the good things the Blues did Monday night in a losing effort in Vancouver, Berube didn’t think the Blues had enough bodies in front of the Canucks’ net.
“Looking at the tape, we have to get to the net better than we have been,” Berube said. “Need a better static net presence on a lot of our shots. Take the eyes away of the goalie a little bit more than we have been. Find some second and third opportunities around the net.”
Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, who was superb against the Blues, didn’t leave a lot of rebounds. And one reason might have been that the Blues didn’t have a ton of traffic in front of him.
“If you see it, you’re gonna probably stop it, right?” Berube said. “A lot of times, no rebounds. We went over those things (Tuesday) morning.”
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