<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Paul Stastny

After 16-game absence, Stastny back for Blues

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St. Louis will return a key piece to the lineup tonight in Buffalo.

Paul Stastny, who’s been out since mid-October with a broken foot, will play for the first time in 16 games as the Blues look to rebound from a 4-3 OT loss against Detroit on Saturday.

It’s a big addition for St. Louis, to say the least.

The club’s high-priced free agent signing from a year ago, Stastny shot out of the gate this season by scoring five points in his first five games, playing on the club’s top line alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen.

With Stastny out — and Jaden Schwartz, and Patrik Berglund, and Steve Ott — the Blues have been icing patchwork lineups over the last five weeks.

The likes of Jeremy Welsh, Ty Rattie, Magnus Paajarvi and Martin Havlat — who’s no longer with the team — got themselves in the mix. That lineup jugging is a big part of the reason why the Blues are just 2-3-1 in their last six after racing out to an 11-3-1 start.

Ryan Suter’s minutes are through the roof again

Ryan Suter

Ryan Suter‘s ice time is just one of those issues that never goes away.

Every year, the Wild say they’ll make a concerted effort to monitor his minutes and try not to overextend him.

And every year, Suter still ends up playing a ton.

Such is the case this season. Heading into Wednesday night’s game in Vancouver, the 30-year-old blueliner finds himself atop his usual perch of TOI leaders, first among all NHL skaters at 27:39 per night.

Granted, this has something to do with recent sting of massive ice times.

From the Star-Tribune:

Out of necessity lately, Suter has been used a lot, logging 28 minutes or more per game of the recent four-game trip, including 33 minutes, 11 seconds in Dallas and 32:26 in Boston. He once again is leading the league in ice time per game (27:39, still significantly lower than the 29:25 and 29:04 he averaged the past two seasons).

Head coach Mike Yeo and assistant coach Rick Wilson, who rotates the blue-liners during games, have had no choice with Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon sick lately, Marco Scandella away on personal leave and now hurt and Matt Dumba and a few others playing at less than 100 percent.

Yeo has repeatedly said he wants to keep Suter at 25-26 minutes per night. That could be related to the theory that’s been bandied around the last few postseasons — because Suter plays so much during the regular season, he tends to run out of gas in the playoffs.

(Or, in keeping with the fuel analogy, doesn’t have enough gas in the tank to raise his game another level.)

In light of all this, it’ll be interesting to see if GM Chuck Fletcher makes a move to bolster his blueline — specifically Isles d-man Travis Hamonic, who the club has been linked to.

Poll: Does Ryan Suter play too much?

No hearing scheduled for Clifford after Gerbe hit


Kings forward Kyle Clifford doesn’t have a disciplinary hearing scheduled after his big check on Carolina’s Nathan Gerbe on Sunday, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

The hit, which occurred midway through the first period of Carolina’s 4-3 victory, forced Gerbe from the contest. During the intermission, the ‘Canes ruled him out entirely with a lower-body injury.

Following the game, head coach Bill Peters had no update on Gerbe’s condition.

Clifford wasn’t penalized for the hit, but did receive a five-minute fighting major after getting into it with ‘Canes forward Brad Malone.

The Kings are back in action tonight, taking on the Panthers in Florida, while the ‘Canes in Philly. Gerbe didn’t travel with the club, and it’s expected Chris Terry will replace him in the lineup against the Flyers.

Sounds like former first-rounder Armia’s on his way to Winnipeg (Updated)

Devan Dubnyk, Joel Armia

Could Joel Armia’s Winnipeg Jets debut be on the horizon?

Certainly looks that way.

On Monday, Finnish news outlet Iltasanomat reported that Armia, one of the prospects acquired from Buffalo in last season’s Evander Kane trade, has been recalled from AHL Manitoba.

UPDATE: Yup, he’s on his way to the ‘Peg. The club confirmed the transaction on Monday morning, also announcing that goalie Ondrej Pavelec has been placed on IR.

Armia, 22, was taken 16th overall by the Sabres in 2011 and appeared in one game for the club before getting dealt to the Jets.

He’s spent most of his time in North America playing in the AHL — previously with Rochester, now with Manitoba — and, this season, has three goals and seven points in 15 games.

It’s unclear why the Jets are making the move at this time. There are no reported injuries at forward but, in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Arizona, forwards Andrew Copp and Anthony Peluso barely played (neither broke four minutes of TOI).

Related: After Pavelec hurt in Doan collision, Jets recall prized prospect Hellebuyck

Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Tom Wilson, Nazem Kadri

Tom Wilson knows the reputation he’s developed around the NHL.

But he says it’s not accurate.

“I know that in my career I’ve never been a dirty hitter,” Wilson told the Washington Post, in response to a Sportsnet report that teams have complained to the league about his hits. “I’ve always tried to be an honest hitter. I’ve tried to hit clean. I have pride in my physical game. I don’t hit to hurt people.”

Some disagree with that last remark.

Wilson, 21, has a checkered history over his brief NHL career. He avoided suspension for a hit on Brayden Schenn in 2013 and, last playoffs, ended Isles d-man Lubomir Visnovsky’s season with a thunderous check.

The Islanders were livid with Wilson. Kyle Okposo called him an “idiot” while Thomas Hickey said he “went in to hurt our guy.”

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, GMs have voiced concerns about Wilson and want the league to intervene, like they did with Zac Rinaldo after he hit Sean Couturier.

But maybe the meeting won’t be necessary.

Through rumblings and now the Friedman report, Wilson admits he’s heard. He’s well aware of the reputation he’s built and, while he says it’s not accurate, he admits it affects how he plays the game.

“I hear about that stuff,” he said. “It’s tough to kind of go out there and play the fastest game on earth with that in the back of your head.”