Mike Yeo begins his second Blues camp as head coach Friday without his No. 1 goalie, but says he’s not overly concerned with the back spasms that have sidelined goalie Jake Allen.
“I can tell you I talked to Jake,” Yeo said. “Obviously you want him ready right from Day 1, but I think that we’re playing it safe. Jake’s already starting to feel better. So it’s not like I think that he’s going to miss all of training camp and try to play catch-up from there.
“I’m pretty pleased with the fact that he’s already starting to show improvement, so hopefully he comes around quickly here and gets a good amount of time on the ice.”
Yeo said Allen suffered the injury in St. Louis during an off-ice workout.
“He just went on the ice, came off after, was doing an off-ice workout,” Yeo said. “It’s not uncommon. You get a little bit tired, a little bit fatigued, and obviously that can happen.”
Yeo normally would want Allen to work two or three games in the preseason, but that doesn’t seem possible since the team said Wednesday that Allen would miss 10 to 14 days. If he’s deemed healthy enough to appear in one preseason game, that should be enough to be ready for the regular season, which begins Oct. 4 at home against Winnipeg.
“Right. I think he’ll be just fine,” Yeo said.
In the interim, backups Chad Johnson and Ville Husso should get valuable extra work in the preseason, which begins Tuesday in Dallas.
“Obviously, we had a plan in place but we might have to alter that now,” Yeo said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll get through the first three days of camp and then we’ll start at that.”
Over the past couple of days, the team has announced that forwards Erik Foley and Nikita Soshnikov will miss the start of camp because of concussions, and that goalie Luke Opilka will be sidelined indefinitely because of recurring hip problems.
Foley’s concussion occurred in the Blues’ second game of the NHL prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., against Columbus.
Soshnikov, who missed six games late last season with what the team described as an upper-body injury, apparently experienced concussion symptoms after doing some light skating in St. Louis.
“He came in, and we knew he potentially had this injury,” Yeo said. “Everything was precautionary. It’s not that we’re surprised that he’s out now.”
Among several Blues coming off surgeries, almost all will began camp full-go. In what was a formality, the team activated forward Robby Fabbri from the injured reserve list on Thursday. After his second knee surgery in less than a year, Fabbri has been medically cleared for awhile. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is coming off hip surgery; forward Vladimir Tarasenko is returning from shoulder surgery.
“Robby’s doing great. Bo’s doing great,” Yeo said. “We’ll keep an eye on it, we’ll monitor it, whether it’s Bo, whether it’s Vladi. If we have to limit some stuff we will. But for the most part, they’re full-go.”
The exception is defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who suffered a torn ACL on March 23 against Vancouver and underwent knee surgery.
“Gunny’s the one guy that I would expect that we’ll have to limit for a fair amount of stuff,” Yeo said. “You’ll see him on the ice for practice, but you won’t see him in the scrimmages.”
Splitting a 53-man camp roster into two groups, the Blues have practices at 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Friday at the Ice Zone in Hazelwood.
On Saturday at Enterprise Center, there will be practices by group at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with the groups scrimmaging each other in between those sessions at 10 a.m.
The Friday and Saturday practices are free and open to the public; Saturday’s sessions will give fans a chance to check out the improvements made in the second phase of renovation at Enterprise.
On Thursday, the players underwent their off-ice conditioning tests, a difficult day that was more grueling than usual.
“Probably as hard of testing as I’ve ever been a part of,” Yeo said. “We set the bar, we set the standard, very high this year and the guys (responded).
“Obviously, there’s a couple areas, some individuals — that’s always the case — some areas where they can improve in certain categories. But for the most part the overall commitment from the players is very impressive.”
An offseason that abruptly began with the sting of missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, took a different course in July when general manager Doug Armstrong went on a personnel spree. Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak were added up front, with Chad Johnson coming in as the new backup goalie.
“There’s no doubt this year has a real special feeling to it right now,” Yeo said. “For one, we want to make up for last year and we want to redeem ourselves. And training camp is an opportunity to start fresh and have a new life, a new chance.
“Really pleased with obviously the summer that we had, the acquisitions that we brought in. I think that health is going to be a bigger factor, knock on wood. Obviously it’s always a factor but we had some stuff last year that hopefully we can avoid this year.
“And the guys have come into camp in really good shape. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work now. You don’t make the playoffs because you come in in good shape, but you put yourself in a good position to.”
And one last thing for fans coming to practice Friday and Saturday: don’t get too hung up on the lines. They figure to change, and change a lot, in camp and the preseason.
“That’s right,” Yeo said. “There’s lots of time to see different things. I wouldn’t be penciling anything in right now.”