Injured Blues forward Jake Neighbours is getting closer to a return to action, coach Craig Berube said after practice on Tuesday morning.
“Did some contact stuff today and things like that,” Berube said. “He’s looking pretty good. He’s shooting the puck pretty good now, so that’s a good sign.”
Neighbours suffered an upper-body injury on Feb. 19 in Ottawa, when his right shoulder banged into the corner boards awkwardly on his first shift of the game. He wore a sling for the following few days, and the Blues announced on Feb. 20 that Neighbours would be re-evaluated in five weeks.
That timeline would have put Neighbours on track to potentially return on March 27, when only nine games remained in the regular season.
Neighbours traveled with the team on its trip west to San Jose, Los Angeles and Arizona, and has skated with the Blues during practice since. He is currently on injured reserve, but Tuesday’s practice was another step in the right direction.
People are also reading…
“When he’s ready to take full contact and perform, he’ll be ready to go,” Berube said.
With the exodus of forwards at the trade deadline (Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari and Ivan Barbashev were all traded away), Neighbours figured to receive a boost in ice time down the stretch. He is in line to play middle-six minutes, in addition to roles on the power play and even the penalty kill.
Wednesday’s game against Minnesota would be the 11th straight missed game for the 2021 first-round pick.
Toropchenko misses practice
Forward Alexey Toropchenko did not practice on Tuesday due to an upper-body injury, and Berube said “we’ll have to see how he is tomorrow” before determining his status.
Berube said the injury happened during Sunday’s loss to Vegas and that he was being evaluated on Monday: “Something was going on with in the game and it got worse.”
Without Toropchenko available for practice, Josh Leivo filled in for him on the top line with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Toropchenko played the last three games there as the Blues shifted their lines to accommodate Pavel Buchnevich moving to center.
Levio was a healthy scratch against Vegas on Sunday, but played the previous two games against San Jose and Columbus. In addition to Leivo joining Thomas and Kyrou, Logan Brown skated on the fourth line Tuesday morning, with Nathan Walker and Tyler Pitlick. Nikita Alexandrov was an extra skater.
Tuesday was picture day for the Blues as they took their team photo at Enterprise Center.
The photo was very different than the Blues likely anticipated when the season began in October: minus their trade deadline subtractions, and plus additions like Kasperi Kapanen and Jakub Vrana. And maybe some extra hair-styling product?
“Guys looked pretty sharp, I thought,” Berube said. “Probably made sure that they were looking good and put a little more gel in there for sure and slick your hair back a little bit. It looked good. I did the same thing, I just don’t have as much hair.”
Berube said he has a collection of his old team photos when he played in the NHL.
Late start time
Wednesday’s game against Minnesota will start at 8:30 p.m. as part of a doubleheader broadcast on TNT. Colorado at Toronto is the first game, and will start at 6 p.m. Brendan Burke (play by play), Darren Pang (analyst) and Tarik El-Bashir (reporter) will be on the call.
As a result, the Blues pushed back their morning skate by 30 minutes to 11 a.m.
The Blues have three nationally televised games remaining this season: April 2 against Boston on TNT, April 12 against Dallas on TNT and April 13 at Dallas on ESPN.