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Neal and Kostin’s assignments to the injured reserve a test of the Blues’ depth

Sure, they’re both on the fourth line, but every line’s been important this season.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, when you think things are back on track, the track winds up missing a section or two. With the return of Brayden Schenn last Wednesday against the Red Wings, the Blues had everyone healthy for exactly... zero minutes.

What happened?

James Neal tweaked something in practice before the Detroit game. Then, in the second period of Friday’s overtime loss to the Blackhawks, David Perron was hit by Jake McCabe. His head made contact with the glass, and Perron hasn’t been seen since. It’s assumed that, for now, his status is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Klim Kostin also injured something in practice before Friday’s loss, so he sat that game out, as well as Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets.

Those “practice injuries” turned into something more serious. Yesterday, it was announced that James Neal was headed to the injured reserve list, and that fan favorite Dakota Joshua was being recalled from Springfield. Joshua’s been with the Blues for six games this season on a call-up basis, and while he hasn’t contributed with any points, his play has been tempo setting. Joshua is a solid fourth line center, and with more NHL experience, he can only get better.

Yesterday as well, Klim Kostin was sent to the long-term injured reserve. This move brings some temporary cap relief ($863,333 worth, to be exact), which allows the Blues to recall both Joshua and Logan Brown. Brown, son of former Blues’ defenseman Jeff Brown, was acquired from the Ottawa Senators in a deal that sent Zach Sanford north to Canada’s capital.

Brown has not played in a NHL game yet this season, but he did hang around until the end of the postseason. He has been continuing his success with the Thunderbirds, where he’s second in scoring with six goals and 11 assists. He’s no stranger to NHL play, having suited up for 30 games with the Senators, but the Blues are a very different team, and a very different system.

Both Joshua and Brown will be here for a while, depending on the nature of Neal’s injury. If Neal returns before Kostin, the odds are good that it’s Brown who gets returned to Springfield first by virtue of experience level with the Blues and familiarity with the team. The Blues’ biggest challenge here is that they didn’t lose two fourth-liners in the true sense of the word; they lost two of their fourth-liners. Kostin and Neal are better than the average energy line guy, and would probably slot in on other teams on the third line. There’s a gap between the two injured players and the two call ups that may be more significant than if the guys on IR were two traditional fourth liners.

The Blues’ top nine are going to have to pick it up and continue carrying their weight like they did in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Blue Jackets if they want to iron out some bumps in a very inconsistent season.