After missing 51 games with a concussion, St. Louis center Andy McDonald returned to the Blues lineup on Sunday in a 3-0 win over San Jose and, according head coach Ken Hitchcock, it’s a return that could greatly alter the course of St. Louis’ season.
“When you have a player that plays with that puck patience and that type of skill level, I think over time, it wears off on other people,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think more than anything, his patience with the puck and his determination with the puck will have a real positive impact on his linemates and the rest of the team.”
McDonald played 16:13 against the Sharks and assisted on Alex Pietrangelo’s game-winning goal late in the first period. He skated on a new-look third line with Patrik Berglund and Jamie Langenbrunner, finishing with three shots on goal and, perhaps most importantly, his assist was on the power play. The Blues have been anemic with the man advantage this year (they currently rank 26th, scoring at a 14.4 percent clip), but McDonald’s skill and passing ability should improve the unit.
“He’s just another threat [on the power play]. You guys know how dangerous he is,” Pietrangelo said. “He’s been like that his whole career. Tonight’s a prime example. He hasn’t played in four months. I don’t think he missed a beat.”
McDonald’s return also gives St. Louis a huge emotional lift down the stretch drive and into the playoffs. That’s something noted by LW David Perron, who also missed a significant amount of time with a concussion.
“I think it was great to see the ovation the crowd gave him,” Perron said. “He certainly deserved everything he got.
“For a first game, it was a very good game.”