(UPDATE: Dunn will be in the Blues’ Game 4 lineup.)
ST. LOUIS — Vince Dunn is close. That’s the description St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube has used the last few days to describe the 22-year-old defenseman.
Dunn took a Brenden Dillon wrist shot to the mouth in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final and has been out of the lineup since, missing the Blues’ last six games. He’s been out with an “upper-body injury,” and it’s clear there was plenty concern about whether he’d be back on the ice.
There’s no clarity yet on if Dunn will play during the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Even he isn’t sure.
“It’s hard to say right now,” Dunn said. “It’s obviously a whole other level right now in the Finals and when I come back I want to make sure I was the player that I was when I came out.”
While he’s still part of the team on a daily basis as he recovers, being unable to take part in the games has been difficult for Dunn, who recorded seven points in 16 playoff games prior to the injury.
“There’s nothing you can say or hear right now that’s going to make you feel better,” Dunn said. “At the end of the day, you’re not in the lineup and that really sucks. It’s the Stanley Cup Final and that’s something you dream about when you’re a kid. To not be able to play for something like this is very frustrating for me.”
Dunn said the puck to the mouth didn’t cause him to lose any teeth “yet,” but he has a mouth full of wires at the moment and it’s “going to be a long process.”
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
“There’s a lot of things going on with my face right now,” he added. “It’s just not a pretty scene in there.”
The young defenseman is in his second NHL season and averaged 17:32 of ice time during the regular season. He’s good puck moving blue liner, something the Blues have missed through three games against the Boston Bruins.
Dunn tried sporting a face shield during practices but quickly gave up that idea.
“It’s not easy to see with that thing on,” said Dunn, who couldn’t reveal if he had been medically cleared to play. “I just kind of came to the conclusion that if I can just take that thing off, if a puck’s going to hit me, it’s going to hurt. I’d rather just sacrifice my face for better vision out there. … As easy as I can to make it on myself, that’s what I’ve got to do.”
There have been plenty of supportive messages for Dunn from family, friends and fans as he recovers. He gets the questions about his health every day and while it’s difficult to not reply back saying that he’ll be back to playing in the next game, he’s appreciative of the support.
“At the end of the day, it’s nice that a lot of people are worrying and care about you,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of Tweets and messages, some letters. Just to know that the city’s really worried about you … there’s no shortage of help right now for me.”
Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).
MORE BLUES-BRUINS GAME 3:
• Bruins blast Blues, take 2-1 lead in Stanley Cup Final
• Blues special teams continue to be sour note
• Berube keeping the faith in Binnington after rough Game 3
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.