CHICAGO — Four games later, and $67,073 poorer, Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo returned to action Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
For someone who was rotating in and out of the lineup with Carl Gunnarsson anyway, jockeying between No. 6 and No. 7 defenseman status, the wait had to be especially frustrating.
“Any time you’re sitting out, you’re just champing at the bit to get back in there,” Bortuzzo said. “The team’s playing some great hockey. We’ve been able to put guys in and out. Just excited to be around the game and teammates and playing.”
When he spoke to the Post-Dispatch last week, Bortuzzo didn’t have a lot to say about his suspension and fine, a result of a cross-check to the lower back of Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson in a Nov. 23 game against the Predators in St. Louis.
Bortuzzo was more forthcoming to a group of reporters Monday at the United Center following the Blues’ morning skate.
“Maybe the cross-check was a little excessive,” Bortuzzo said. “Again, my intention’s never to injure anyone. I accepted the ruling and looking to moving forward.”
Arvidsson suffered the injury on the cross-check that according to the Predators will sideline him four-to-six weeks. Bortuzzo said he has not reached out to Arvidsson since then.
His reputation may be tarnished to a degree by the latest suspension. He was suspended three games last season — two games in the preseason and one to start the regular season — for elbowing Washington’s Michal Kempny in a preseason game.
But it doesn’t sound like Bortuzzo is going to change his physical style of play — one that is on the edge of fair and foul.
“I’m gonna play the game hard,” Bortuzzo said. “I feel like I do a good job of walking the line. I’m not gonna go through all my instances (of past fines or suspension). I’m sure it’s easy to dissect things for other people.
“But the temperature of the game is high at times. Again, I’m not a malicious player. I’m not out here trying to injure people. I stand by that. It’s a game I have to play, is on that edge. I’m proud of the way I play hard without being malicious. That’s not my intent with it.”
For his part, Blues coach Craig Berube thinks Bortuzzo will learn from the latest suspension.
“He knows if you cross-check somebody like that, there’s gonna be some repercussions,” Berube said. “That was a (knee)-jerk reaction. He plays a hard game, but he’s normally not doing stuff like that. He’ll play his game. I think he’ll be fine.”
After missing two games because of an illness, Gunnarsson returned to practice Monday, but was a healthy scratch for Chicago.
Whatever bug or virus Gunnarsson had, he said, “Luckily enough it seemed to be a quick one. I didn’t eat the whole time and lost a lot of fluids, so it takes a little bit to get back but I feel great now though.”
Oskar Sundqvist has accompanied the Blues on this trip. He didn’t skate Monday, but did some work on the stationary bike. He no longer is using crutches and wasn’t in a walking boot.
After losing Vladimir Tarasenko for five months following shoulder surgery in late October, oddsmakers had the Blues at 20/1 to win the Stanley Cup at the start of November. Eleven teams had shorter odds that the Blues.
But after going 10-2-3 in November, the Blues are 14/1 to repeat as Cup champions according to BetOnline. Only Boston (7/1), Washington (9/1) and Colorado (12/1) have shorter odds than St. Louis at the start of December.
Blues prospect Joel Hofer, a fourth-round draft pick in 2018, has been selected to participate in Canada’s National Junior Team selection camp Dec. 9-12 in Oakville, Ontario. The Team Canada roster for the 2020 World Junior championship will be selected at that camp.
A goalie for the Portland (Ore.) Winterhawks, Hofer leads the Western Hockey League with 16 wins and a 1.92 goals-against average. His save percentage is .935.