After a bout with the stomach flu that caused him to miss Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues winger T.J. Oshie returned to the lineup Monday against Vancouver.
“It always (stinks) when you have to miss a game, especially with something that’s just the flu,” Oshie said Monday after the morning skate. “It seems like something you’d be able to battle through, but I had a tough one there and I’m ready to go tonight.”
Oshie, who ranks fifth on the Blues in scoring with 19 goals and 51 points in 66 games, admitted the flu got the best of him.
“I haven’t done anything. I just had my first full meal last night,” he said before being asked how he could find enough energy to play Monday against the Canucks. “Red Bull? It’s not too hard to get up for an NHL game, especially when you sit out and have to watch your team on TV and they lose a game.
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“You want to get out there, I was telling (his wife) Lauren at home (Saturday) I wonder if I could make it in for the third (period)? I’m excited to get out there tonight and get my legs back underneath me.”
Blues winger Alexander Steen was ruled out of the Canucks game because of a lower-body injury suffered Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision during the first period against Columbus.
One lineup change for coach Ken Hitchcock was inserting veteran forward Olli Jokinen, who was expected to join Oshie and David Backes on the top line. Scoreless in his first three games since joining the Blues, Jokinen had three goals and seven points in 57 games before Monday.
“I’m no different than any other guy, everybody wants to play,” said Jokinen, a former first-round pick whose 1,226 games ranks eighth among active players. “We’re a good team here, we’re going to need every player here. If you’re not playing, you’ve got to stay ready and as long as you get a chance to play you’ve got to fill the role.”
Even though their power play ranks fourth in the NHL with a success rate of 22.5 percent, the Blues haven’t been as sharp recently as Hitchcock would like. That includes a woeful 1-for-6 performance Saturday against Columbus despite the return of power-play quarterback defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
“We were somewhere between completely or normally dysfunctional that last game,” Hitchcock said. “We were not in sync, we could have won the game on the power play alone. We scored one goal but man, we were passing to cover people.
“We were standing still. I think we were trying to play way too much with our skill instead of our downhill mentality. We’ve had a heck of a year on the power play by playing downhill and we started to play sideways.”
Now that power play is missing another powerful weapon — and a big shot — with Steen sidelined. He is tied for second on the Blues with eight power-play goals.
“(He will be missed) a lot because he’s the bomb, he’s the guy that shoots the puck,” Hitchcock said. “You’ve got to have that threat, but even in saying that we played too much east-west. We tried to make plays through people and teams watch video, they sat on that and we still tried to force pucks there.”