Add another first for Blues rookie Robert Thomas in his fledgling NHL career: He’ll miss a game to injury for the first time on Saturday.
And it won’t be just one. Thomas was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury Friday and did not accompany the team when it headed out for a four-game trip. Thomas left the game in the first period Thursday when he slid hard into the end boards and hit them with his shoulder. He slowly made his way to the bench and then, after a short time there, headed to the dressing room and was done for the game.
No estimate was given on Thomas’ return; interim coach Craig Berube said he would be out for “a little bit.” Also not making that trip will be another center, Tyler Bozak, who has missed three games with a concussion. He was also placed on injured reserve Friday and is eligible to return Monday. (Players on IR must sit out at least seven days.) Forward Alexander Steen, who was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a left shoulder injury and is supposed to be out until at least Jan. 22, will make the trip.
Thomas’ injury came in the same period where he scored his fifth goal of the season, jamming in a rebound in front of the net. Thomas has 14 points this season, putting him tied for 13th among rookies. His game has picked up when he was moved from center to the wing, though he has been back at center since Bozak got hurt.
“It’s a tough blow for the team, too, because he’s an important player on our team,” Berube said. “He was coming around, he was getting more ice, power-play time, scored a power-play goal. It’s unfortunate that happened.”
The Blues have not called anyone up from San Antonio and have 12 healthy forwards at the moment but have two open spots on the roster after putting Thomas and Bozak on injured reserve. The Rampage played at home Friday night, and with the Blues playing in Dallas on Saturday, it would be easy enough to have someone go from San Antonio to Dallas after the game Saturday morning and then join the team on the rest of the trip.
When Blues forward Sammy Blais was playing street hockey as a kid in Montmagny, Quebec, he would sometimes have to play goalie and when he did, he was pretending to be Carey Price.
Fast forward from that 11-year-old, which was how old Blais was when Price made his NHL debut with Montreal, to Thursday, when Blais, now 22, slipped past a defender and came in alone on one of his childhood heroes and beat him for the goal that made it 4-1 midway through the period and sealed the win for the Blues.
“It was a great feeling,” Blais said. “It was my hometown team when I was a kid. It was nice to get one against Price too. It was a good feeling.”
Blais has played in only 29 games in his NHL career, but three of them have been against Montreal. (The only team he’s seen more is Winnipeg.) The goal Thursday was his second – he scored against Minnesota last season – so that’s one more distinction to it.
“When the game started, you see Price in the net,” Blais said, “so it’s very impressive because I was watching him play when I was a kid. It was a great win last night and having a goal against Montreal is nice.”
Carl Gunnarsson’s assist on Oskar Sundqvist’s short-handed goal was the 100th of Gunnarsson’s NHL career. … With 19 letters in his roster name of Mackenzie MacEachern, the Blues rookie forward is tied for the longest name in franchise history, with Vladimir Chebaturkin and Konstantin Shafronov. Just missing out is Jamie Langenbrunner, who has the franchise’s longest last name but was, alas, given a five-letter first name.