Steen set to return for Blues; high-flying Ducks visit on Saturday

News-DemocratJanuary 18, 2014 

St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen will return to the lineup Saturday against Anaheim after missing 11 games with a concussion.

Steen was activated from injured reserve Friday and the Blues reassigned forward Dmitrij Jaskin to the minor-league Chicago Wolves.

The 29-year-old Steen has already tied his career high with 24 goals this season in only 35 games. He also has 38 points, ranking fifth in the NHL in goals and tied for third with six game-winning goals.

Steen is happy to be rejoining teammates that compiled an 8-2-1 record in his absence.

"It's tough I think for the players with my type of personality, sitting on your couch not doing much is hard," Steen said of the down time he experienced while recovering from the concussion.

"I think we're going to play him as much as he can handle," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said in a story on the team's web site. "Hopefully he can get up to speed right away and play the minutes that he did before and contribute the way he did before because he was a huge impact player for us."

Steen is expected to rejoin the top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. Besides being one of the team's most versatile players, Steen also is one of the most used with an average ice time of 20 minutes, 34 seconds.

Residue from Kings loss

After goalie Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Blues for the 16th time in their last 20 meetings Thursday with a 4-1 victory, Hitchcock was not in the best of moods.

"They set the tone early, they were much better than us," Hitchcock said. "It depends on what we do with it, but I'm kind of getting sick of watching it. If we're going to figure this out we're going to have to get more people coming up a lot bigger."

T.J. Oshie, who has three goals in his last two games and seven in his last nine, said the Blues (32-9-5) have to find a way to solve Quick and the Kings.

"It seems like every time we play these guys it's a playoff game," said Oshie, who scored the Blues' lone goal Thursday on a penalty shot. "They play a heavy style of game and we've been struggling with it in the past. If we want to get to where we want to get to at the end of the year, we've got to beat these guys."

Scouting the Ducks

While the Blues had Friday night off, the Anaheim Ducks were losing 4-2 to the Blackhawks in Chicago before heading to St. Louis for Saturday's Western Conference game.

The Ducks had won 18 of their previous 19 games before falling to the Blackhawks. With the loss, Anaheim's record dropped to 36-9-5.

During the 19-game stretch prior to losing at Chicago, the Ducks only loss had been a 3-1 setback at San Jose on Dec. 29. They won blowouts (9-1 Wednesday over Vancouver) and close ones, earning three victories in overtime and another in a shootout.

Anaheim's big offensive weapons have been center Ryan Getzlaf (23 goals, 55 points) and winger Corey Perry (27 goals, 53 points), but there's a lot more balance this season.

The Ducks have eight players with 20 or more points and five with 11 or more goals. Goalie Jonas Hiller (23-4-4, 2.35 goals-against, three shutouts) has been solid all season.

Asked to name the biggest reason for Anaheim's success, Hitchcock said "Just the speed without the puck. It's consistent, it's hard to play against. What really is fun to see, (but) hard to play against, is when you have the puck, all their players look the same.

"They all hunt the puck, they all forecheck, they all play physical, they all have great puck support. They hound you, you get no space, no time."

That speed and forechecking tends to wear on the opposition.

"You've got to be really sharp and if you're lazy or slow on the puck, they jump all over it and create turnovers," Hitchcock said. "They come at you in waves and their offense is a direct reflection of how many turnovers they create.

"It's hard to play against. They're going to be a challenge for everybody for the rest of the year if they keep playing this way."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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