Blues center Robert Thomas (right) beats Boston defenseman Torey Krug to the puck in the first period of a game on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at the Enterprise Center. (Colter Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org)
OTTAWA — There was progress Wednesday but still no clear return date for Robert Thomas. The 20-year-old Blues forward took part in a full-team practice for the first time since the season opener, on Oct. 2.
He hasn’t played since, missing the next two games, and coach Craig Berube said Thomas will be sidelined for Thursday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators as well.
“He’s not ready . . . yet,” Berube said following practice Wednesday. “But he was better, so it was good news. And it’s good he’s out there and practicing.”
Thomas underwent wrist surgery in June following the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship run, and played in only one exhibition game. (He was scheduled to play again in the canceled preseason finale in Columbus.)
Then came the season-opening 3-2 overtime loss to the Capitals, in which Thomas played just nine minutes 45 seconds and didn’t play the final 5:01 of the third period or in OT.
Asked Wednesday if he had suffered a setback with the wrist, Thomas cited the company line, calling it an upper-body injury.
“I felt really good going into the opener,” Thomas said. “It’s just unfortunate. I felt good for most of the game.”
But now, he’s about to miss a third game as the Blues continue their four-game road swing that began Monday with a 3-2 victory in Toronto.
“It really (stinks),” he said. “I was really looking forward to Toronto this year. Obviously I didn’t play last year. It’s really disappointing to have to miss the two games and hopefully I can get back in soon.”
Thomas, a Toronto-area native, was a healthy scratch last season against the Maple Leafs when the Blues played there on Oct. 20.
Asked if he had any kind of timetable for his return, Thomas said. “I just say getting a couple full skates under my belt. I can just feel when I’ll be ready; we’ll take that day by day.”
The Blues were in Toronto for two full days and parts of two others, so at least Thomas got to see family and friends.
“That’s always really good,” he said. “Especially with the extra time (in town), I had lots of time for that.”
The Blues didn’t practice Sunday before leaving St. Louis for Toronto. And didn’t practice Tuesday, when they visited the Hockey Hall of Fame Archives and took part in a Stanley Cup ring ceremony at the actual Hockey Hall of Fame. So Wednesday marked the team’s first full-scale practice, excluding a couple of morning skates, since Friday.
“It felt like a little bit of time off, to be honest with you,” Berube said. “But guys worked hard today. It wasn’t clean-clean, but they worked hard.”
Even though the Blues (2-0-1) don’t have a regulation loss, Berube said he’s yet to see their best game.
“No, not yet. Not for 60 minutes,” he said. “It’s good we’re getting points but we still need to improve — a lot of work.”
The Blues practiced at the Maple Leafs’ facility before leaving for Ottawa on the team charter plane early Wednesday afternoon.
The Blues have yet to allow a goal in the third period.
“You had to bring that up, eh?” asked Jordan Binnington, who has been in goal for all three games.
Sammy Blais (two goals, two assists) and David Perron (one goal, two assists) are the only Blues with a point in all three games this season.
The third line of Robby Fabbri, Tyler Bozak and either Thomas or Zach Sanford does not have a point.
The Blues have allowed 30 or more shots on goal in every game and have yet to outshoot an opponent. The closest they have come was against Dallas, when both teams had 30 shots on goal.