|Players on mend for Blackhawks, Blues|
ST. LOUIS -- Both the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues could have a key player returning to their lineup when the rivals play for the first time this season on Wednesday night.
The Blues have been without forward Alexander Steen for the first six games as he recovered from a broken left hand sustained in the first preseason game. Coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday that a decision on whether Steen would the Blackhawks would be made after the morning skate on Wednesday.
Forward Nick Schmaltz is expected to play for the Blackhawks after missing the past four games because of an apparent head injury.
Both teams are off to successful starts this season despite missing the injured players. The Blackhawks are 4-1-1, while the Blues are 4-2-0, they St. Louis lost its past two games in Florida.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and Blues coach Mike Yeo are both well aware of what getting Schmaltz and Steen back will mean to their respective teams.
"There's a lot of upside, potentially, with (Schmaltz)," Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And with young players, some guys make big steps. I thought he made a big step for a stretch of games last year after he came up from (AHL) Rockford, and he showed that he could be a top player.
"This year is the year where he's showing us he wants to get to that next level. Being consistent in that area would be a great boost for our team."
Schmaltz will return to his spot centering the line of Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman. While he was out of the lineup, Kane did not have a goal and registered three assists.
"He just brings the speed up the middle," Kane told the Sun-Times about Schmaltz. "The biggest thing with that is the defenseman has to make a decision. If he wants to drop back, he's going to take (Schmaltz) away, and I get some more time and space. If he wants to come at me, then I can make that play to the middle and maybe have an odd-man rush. That's his biggest asset, obviously."
Schmaltz also is expected to help the Blackhawks on the power play, where they have scored on only four of their 27 man-advantage opportunities this season.
If he is able to play, Steen is expected to be on left wing on the Blues' top line with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko. The trickle-down effect should provide more depth on the other lines for the Blues, who have not had a goal scored by anybody on either the third or fourth line in their first six games.
"It's going to strengthen you up top, but it also strengthens you lower in the lineup," Yeo said. "It's going to do a lot of for us as far as that, but his leadership, he's a huge part of that up front. On the bench, he's a guy that's going to talk."
The Wednesday night game will be only the second home contest for the Blues, who play seven of their first nine games on the road.