Steen returns to practice for Blues; Polak nearing a return

News-DemocratJanuary 13, 2014 

— They might be 7-1-1 without talented forward Alexander Steen in the lineup, but no one was happier than the St. Louis Blues on Monday when Steen was back on the ice for practice.

Out with a concussion since Dec. 21, Steen participated in all drills and took turns with Jaden Schwartz skating in his old spot at left wing on the top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie.

"It was good. I think he may have even gotten faster over the past couple weeks somehow," Backes said. "Hopefully he's back in the lineup shortly and when he is, he'll make us even a better team."

There was more good news Monday with the possible return of veteran defenseman Roman Polak. Out with a fractured bone in his ankle for the last 10 games, Polak could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday against Phoenix.

Blues veteran center Maxim Lapierre did not practice and coach Ken Hitchcock said he hasn't been able to resume skating since taking a hit in the Vancouver game.

"When those guys get back into the lineup it gives us more options and more internal competition, which makes us a better team," Backes said.

Steen did not wear the "no-contact" jersey some injured players have worn in the past during workouts. He appeared to handle the workout well.

"Just feeling better so I figured I'd try," said Steen, whose 24 goals and 28 points still lead the team in scoring despite missing the past nine games. "It's just try stuff and analyze, see how you feel. The last few days I've been trying to push myself a little bit harder.

"That's basically where I'm at. I just keep moving forward and taking the positives when they come, not really overanalyzing or getting too down if I feel like there's a negative or something that doesn't feel right."

His 24 goals also tie him for fifth among the league leaders.

Steen had been skating on his own, but progressed to the point where he joined the full team for practice Monday.

"There's no timetable," he reminded reporters. "Up until today too, I've just kind of been going day-by-day. I haven't planned a week in advance or anything like that. I've just gone by how I feel in the morning and especially the nights after I've done stuff.

"Even if you don't see me out there tomorrow it's not like it's the end of the world. It's not like I sat at home and just completely crashed."

Hitchcock tried to downplay the excitement factor, but admitted having Steen back with the team was a big step forward.

"It's day one," Hitchcock said. "It's a good sign, he had good energy and I think the guys were really happy to have him on the ice. I don't think you want to read anything into it, though, until he's declared a player.

"You could go through this for days, you could go through it for weeks. You don't really know, it's kind of how he feels."

This is the second concussion for Steen, who missed 39 games during the 2011-12 season. He recently signed a three-year, $17.4 million contract extension.

"I think the thing I learned from last time is not overanalyzing myself hour to hour," Steen said. "I'm taking it at my own pace and seeing how I feel, that's basically the only way to go about it."

Along with seeing medical specialists, Steen has reached out to former teammates who have dealt with concussions like Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald and Scott Nichol.

"Just use them as walls," Steen said, "really bounce things off of them about how you're feeling and stuff like that, what they've gone through, how they feel afterwards."

Steen enjoyed being back in the mix with his teammates.

"(With) these types of injuries you tend to fall away a little bit from the team and spend time on your own," he said. "That's usually the hardest part about an injury like this. It's tough I think for the players with my type of personality, sitting on your couch not doing much is hard.

"Mentally I think I just feel better when I'm doing something so I try to stay active...long walks and bike rides and stuff like that."

Hitchcock said Polak appears close to rejoining the starting lineup. He was one of eight defensemen at practice Monday, taking turns playing with Ian Cole and Jordan Leopold.

"Hopefully if he continues to feel good then he's going to get clearance tomorrow to be able to play," Hitchcock said of Polak. "He's going to give us a real added boost of energy and physicality that I think we need in our lineup right now."

Polak pronounced himself good to go.

"I'm pretty close, I felt pretty good out there," he said. "This was my second full practice with the team and I feel pretty good. I'm going to do whatever I can to get back in the lineup and we'll see what the coaches say."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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