DALLAS — There will be no final determination on the extent of Oskar Sundqvist’s foot injury until the Blues return to St. Louis this weekend and he undergoes an MRI and meets with team doctors.
But the Blues know the forward won’t be back anytime soon, and that was reflected in the decision Thursday to place Sundqvist on the injured reserve list and promote forward Austin Poganski from their San Antonio affiliate in the American Hockey League.
The IR designation means Sundqvist must be out a minimum of seven days. But it looks as if it will be much longer.
“It’s gonna be a while probably,” coach Craig Berube said Thursday, following practice at American Airlines Center. “We don’t know for sure. When we get back home and our doctors look at him, MRI and things like that, we’ll know more.”
Asked if the injury will require surgery, Berube said: “I don’t know that for sure. I don’t think it does, but we can’t really determine that until we get an MRI. That really shows what the damage is and what’s gonna be needed.”
For now, Sundqvist is on crutches with his right foot in a walking boot.
The injury occurred in the second period of the Blues’ 4-3 victory Wednesday over Tampa Bay, when Sundqvist and defenseman Luke Schenn of the Lightning were going after the puck in the corner. Sundqvist tried to avoid Schenn, the brother of Blues’ center Brayden Schenn, but appeared to get his leg caught.
Before the injury, Sundqvist had matched his career single-game high with two goals, both scored in the second period.
“It was obviously a big night for scoring two goals, and it’s an unfortunate injury,” Berube said. “That’s the way it is.”
It’s just the latest in an ever-growing list of Blues injuries over the last five weeks:
• Vladimir Tarasenko suffered a shoulder injury Oct. 24, underwent surgery and will be sidelined a minimum of five months. That’s a timeline that takes Tarasenko to the end of March at the earliest.
• Alexander Steen suffered a high ankle sprain Nov. 9 and will be sidelined a minimum of four weeks, which takes him a week into December.
• Sammy Blais suffered a right wrist injury on Nov. 19. He underwent surgery and will be revaluated in 10 weeks, which takes him to the end of January.
• And now Sundqvist.
That’s one-third of the top 12 forwards the Blues opened with this season. There is a loss of goals (Tarasenko) and leadership (Tarasenko and Steen are alternate captains). Plus two of the Blues’ most improved players over the last year or so are Blais and Sundqvist.
Berube said there’s only way to deal with injury epidemic.
“Keep grinding,” he said. “That’s all we can do. It’s unfortunate. They’re not little injuries. They’re big ones.
“We got other guys that gotta step up and just do the job. They’re getting an opportunity. A lot of guys are getting a good opportunity here.”
For Robert Thomas, it’s meant a berth in the high-rent district — the Blues’ top line with Schenn and Jaden Schwartz.
For Zach Sanford, it’s a move back up to the second line with Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron — another great neighborhood — and duty on the Blues’ second power-play unit.
Ivan Barbashev has moved up from the fourth line to a spot on the third line with Tyler Bozak.
Veteran Troy Brouwer has gone from out of a job, to a professional tryout, to the fourth line, and now to the third line after Sundqvist’s injury. All that in the span of 10 days.
And Nathan Walker? The first Australian to play in a National Hockey League game (in 2017 with the Washington Capitals) was promoted Sunday from San Antonio. After being a healthy scratch Monday in Nashville and Wednesday in Tampa Bay, Walker is slated for a spot on the fourth line with Mackenzie MacEachern and Jacob de la Rose on Friday against Dallas.
The Blues are 10-3-3 since Tarasenko’s injury, and are on top of the Western Conference at 15-5-6 for the season with 36 points. So they’ve been able to keep winning despite the injuries.
“It speaks volumes of the depth that this (organization) has,” MacEachern said. “It’s just kind of next man up and everyone kinda seems to be ready and accepts their role.”
But with the Sundqvist injury now piled upon the others, the danger is that the Blues might have reached a tipping point. Will they be able to sustain their high level of play and keep winning? Will general manager Doug Armstrong be forced to make a move that he’d rather not make under more favorable circumstances?
Down in San Antonio, Klim Kostin is not an option in the near-term after suffering what appeared to be a shoulder injury in his first game back with the Rampage after playing four games with the Blues. His status is week-to-week.
The sense is that the Blues want another prized prospect, Jordan Kyrou, to get more seasoning in San Antonio in his return from kneecap surgery.
So opportunity is there for Walker and Brouwer.
“I’m excited to see (Walker),” Berube said. “We really liked him at camp and he’s having a great year in the American Hockey League so far. He’s got a lot of speed and tenacity. It’ll be good for our team.”
As for Brouwer, he was much more noticeable Wednesday against Tampa Bay than in his 2019-20 Blues debut Monday in Nashville.
“I just felt more comfortable (against Tampa),” Brouwer said. “That first game kind of got it out of the way, getting the pace back and just the intensity.
“Got a couple good scoring opportunities. Was given a little bit more of trust from ‘Chief.’ All that kind of stuff makes you more confident as a player to be able to go out there and just play.”