By Brad Lee
For the second time in this tumultuous 2008-09 season, the St. Louis Blues defied prevailing logic and decided against forfeiting the rest of their games. For some reason, they're not ready to give in even though it seems every break (literally) is going against the Blues. First it was Erik Johnson shredding his knee playing golf. Now this.
The team reported Monday that center Andy McDonald has a broken bone in his ankle and that it's possible he has other damage to the joint. They have no idea when he might be able to return from the injury. The Blues set an arbitrary timetable of eight weeks. Minimum. McDonald was skating hard into the corner and lost an edge. He fell Sunday awkwardly into the boards, skate first late in the opening period of a 3-2 shutout loss to Montreal. His left foot jammed against the boards, bending back towards his shin, said team president John Davidson. An MRI was performed to see the extent of the injury. Surgery is unlikely, according to the team.
During the weekly podcast on the Blues Web site hosted by Chris Kerber, the radio voice of the Blues, Davidson described the impact of McDonald's injury on the team and the sense that they can't escape the injury bug as an organization.
"He was playing extremely well. When we went into the season we felt pretty excited with the fact that we had three lines that could score goals. And we knew every now and again that we would have some trouble keeping the puck out of our own net as we continue to grow our franchise in all areas. But now with Kariya and Oshie and Andy McDonald, it just keeps going on and on here. We've got to find a way to stop this."
During the interview, Davidson mentioned calling up players from Peoria. He didn't mention the likelihood of a possible trade or signing a veteran free agent still looking for a job a month into the season.
"It's frustrating in that we're playing hard. Even last night we were playing one of the better teams in the league in Montreal. Then you lose McDonald, you don't have a group of players that already injured. And we had at least three players that were playing pretty banged up and really put forth a pretty good effort. It's tough," Davidson said on the Bluescast. "I hope somebody upstairs puts a smile on their face and changes our luck."
One effect of McDonald's injury was a mish-mash of forward line combinations after the first period. I started to wonder if newcomers Cam Paddock and Steve Regier were having to introduce themselves to their line mates as the hopped over the dasher boards. "Hi, I'm Steve. I'll be your winger for the next 40 seconds."
When the Blues take the ice Friday night, there's little chance the David Perron, Lee Stempniak,
Erik Patrik Berglund line will be split up. Over the last two weeks, they've been the most effective line for the team. There is a strong chance Brad Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and the hopefully-healed Paul Kariya will be reunited on a line. At the beginning of last season, the BTK line was a killer combination sparking the Blues to a strong first half of the season. The only downside would be Tkachuk playing center full-time, a more strenuous position requiring more skating and effort defensively.
When coach Andy Murray spoke to Kerber on the Bluescast, he was sympathetic to McDonald's plight, but obviously doesn't want anyone on the team to feel sorry for themselves.
"We didn't really discuss Andy's injury. He's no longer available to us. Great guy, great player but he's not part of the equation now. It's up to the guys who are here," Murray said. "No question he's been our best player from day one of training camp, even if you look at preseason scoring and regular season contributions he was making. But it was more than that. It was also his work ethic. But again, he's not available so we've got to have other guys step up."
The Blues have almost a full week to get back up to speed before Anaheim comes calling on Friday. It will be the debut of the new third jersey for the Blues. The McDonald injury clouds the near and long-term future of this team. I'll talk more about that later this week.